Right Brain Workouts

by Peter Lloyd

Comedic Contagion

Oct-10-12

So I’m listening to Car Talk one Saturday on my NPR radio station. Click and Clack are laughing out car and life advice as usual. This time, however, I notice something. It has to do with the caller. She’s funny, too. It’s always been that way, I recall. Could Car Talk callers be beneficiaries of comedic contagion?

The Good, the Bad, and the Dropouts

Sep-12-12

Much is made of the fact that great contemporary creative leaders such as Steve Jobs did not finish college. But then neither did Charles Manson or Starpoint Central High School’s “most promising computer programmer,” Timothy McVeigh. And if you think about the people you know, chances are those you would consider successful probably hold degrees. For every dropout success story, I’m sure you can find many more dropouts limited by their unfinished education.

The Creative Thinking Planet

Jun-20-12

What will Earth do when it realizes it’s a creative creature? Now that most of us are connected electronically, our brains have become part of a world brain. The Internet and social media tools like Twitter and Facebook now behave like dendrites that connect my thoughts to you and yours to me. We are like neurons in a vast, connected collection of a few billion other neurons. Not quite as well organized and synchronized as a human brain yet, but we’re getting there.

Creative Destruction

May-16-12

The term comes to us from Karl Marx by way of Joseph Schumpeter, who argues that innovation in the capitalistic economic cycle results from the accumulation and annihilation of wealth. Call it boom and bust or creative destruction. Free-market advocates, strange Marxist bedfellows, indeed, use the term to justify the temporary pain of things like downsizing to improve the efficiency an organization.

Fifty Headlines

Mar-28-12

Quantity is the big brother of creativity. We can argue about the mother—whether she be necessity, inadequacy, laziness, or some other mother. But Quantity definitely belongs in the family. And a hard-working, get-the-job-done brother he is. Quantity doesn’t always please with his presence, but wade through his garbage, and you’ll always find gold.

Franca Leeson: Creative Meditation

Mar-07-12

Franca Leeson just happens to be one of the most creative people I know. In addition to teaching meditation, Franca is a consulting partner at ThinkX Intellectual Capital and one of the organizers of the Mindcamp Creativity Weekend in Geneva Park, near Toronto. So when I learned that she teaches meditation as a creativity technique, I was determined to find out more.

Creative Miss Pelling

Jan-11-12

Andrew Jackson and Mark Twain have both been credited with saying something along the lines of, “I have no respect for a man who can spell a word only one way.” I have to agree. But that’s not the problem. Most of us can spell a word any number of ways. The challenge is to do so creatively.

Creative Dishonesty

Jan-04-12

In a working paper titled, The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can be More Dishonest, a pair of Harvard Business School researchers propose the glaringly obvious proposition that, possibly, “creative thinking may also have a hidden cost in the form of increased dishonesty.” All together now... Well, duh!

Columbo: The Opposite of Everything

Jun-21-11

Try to find a better case for breaking with convention than Columbo, one of television’s most successful detective series. In Columbo: Master Problem Solver I drew problem-solving lessons from the Columbo character. But as many creative lessons reveal themselves in the the program’s defiance of every detective-story convention.

Columbo: Master Problem Solver

Jun-15-11

Anyone watching TV in the 70s could not help seeing at least a few episodes of Columbo. Having just viewed a few seasons on Netflix—frumpy clothes, bad hair, and all—I’m reminded: What an outstanding problem solver was the lieutenant! And not just the character. The creators of the program also had to use all their creative resources to protect what would become a television classic from those masters of mediocrity, television executives.

Creative Stereotypes

Jun-01-11

An Erdös 1 mathematician declared to me, “I can’t do arithmetic.” This from a man with a left-brained list of publications on lattices, arithmetic mean ideals, trace extensions, and infinite dimensional Schur-Horn theorem and majorization theory. How does this compute? Well, he also informed me, “I think of myself an artist.”

Classical Crowdsourcing BC

May-25-11

When Alex Trebek says, “He wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey,” your response, of course, should be, “Who is Homer?” Nevertheless classical scholars still argue over the identity and even the existence of the legendary poet. A plausible and timely conjecture even suggests that the epics may have been crowdsourced.

164 Answers to One Question

Jan-26-11

One of the secrets to successful creative problem solving is asking the right questions. How much more important becomes creative questioning when grappling with the world’s biggest problems. They call for the biggest possible questions.

How to Cross Pollinate

Nov-03-10

In an earlier Right Brain Workout, I gave examples of how cross pollination works from The Backyard Astronomer to The Cheerios Effect. Here are some practices and resources you can use to cross pollinate.

John Cleese on Creativity

Sep-08-10

The brilliant creator, co-star, and co-author of Fawlty Towers and the front-and-center member of the Monty Python team appears in a video titled John Cleese WCF speaking to a Flemish audience about creativity. From his talk I‘ve gleaned three recommendations, plus an explanation of why bad leaders discourage creativity.

Accidentally on Purpose

Jun-23-10

Inventors, artists, scientists, and other creative people often set out to do one thing or to solve one problem only to end up solving or discovering the unexpected. The famous example of Christopher Columbus setting out to find a westward route to the Far East only to stumble upon the New World still reigns as the most striking, I think, even if it has become a cliché.

Rocks in My Head

Jun-10-10

Author Paul Lockhart speaks to me where I live. He's written a book titled A Mathematician's Lament. I only read about the book in an article, "Rock Groups" by Steven Strogatz. But I've had rocks in my head ever since. That is, I've been thinking about numbers in a fascinating new way.

Drawing on Yourself

Mar-27-09

How would you like to take a trip, deep into the uncharted wilds of your unconscious? May I suggest you invite along someone like Christina Wehling. She's a sculptor and an art therapist. With her help, your trip becomes a process of creative self-discovery.

I believe that the principal guide in our lives has to be our inner guide. That we all have within us the capacity to be our own best friend or our own worst enemy. And that nature speaks to us through this unconscious that we have, through our inner person. It isn't coming from outside, it's coming from inside.
With Christina as your guide, you'll soak up a treasure of rich, visual images. And upon your return, begin drawing vivid pictures from recent memory.

Discovering Columbus

Mar-20-09

Was Christopher Columbus a bold adventurer, expanding human horizons? Or more like a venture imperialist, who happily threw open the doors to an orgy of genocide?

Discovering America

Mar-18-09

To make a real honest mistake, you have to go in earnest after one thing and be open to whatever you actually find. Like Christopher Columbus. He set out to find a new route to the Indies. And he failed. But he made do with a new world, even though today's flat-Earthers would eventually mock him.

Funeral Fashion

Mar-13-09

A woman in Fort Worth, Texas, makes funeral fashions. Dresses and suits made in case you come to your final resting place with nothing to wear.

Creative Monopolies

Mar-11-09

Why in the world is the word creative monopolized by one department of the typical advertising agency. The creative department it's called. As if all the other departments are un-creative.

Testing the Waters

Mar-06-09

If you've already read about Robert McCoy, in the previous Right Brain Workout, then you know he's the professional skeptic and founder of the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices. He listed a number of worthless products on the market today. Products that would never last without a lot of people faithfully dialing flashing 800 numbers.

Imagination Gone Mad

Mar-04-09

There's a museum in Minneapolis dedicated to good ideas gone bad. It's called the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices. It's founder, Robert McCoy, a professional skeptic, has collected 150 examples of medical devices that do absolutely nothing. Let's take a quick tour with McCoy as our guide.

What Dummy Taught Baseball

Feb-16-09

Why wouldn't the Cincinnati Reds pick up William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy from the Boston Beaneaters in 1894? He couldn't hear and he didn't speak, but he was a great ball player. His last play with the Boston team clinched them the pennant. A spectacular outfield grab in thick, San Francisco fog.

Problems

Feb-13-09

When I was about nine years old I thought that if the world would just make me their dictator, I would kill all the bad guys. But even back then I realized that in order to carry out my plan, I would need a lot of bad guys.

Random Answers

Feb-11-09

In the Turing Test humans face off with a few computer terminals. The human subjects type a line which appears on the terminal, and in a matter of seconds a reply appears. They continue, back and forth, just as if they were conversing.

Rewards

Feb-06-09

There's no shortage of experts willing to tell you, for a fee, what it is that will make your employees generate more and better ideas. Be careful. It's a lot easier than you think. I say, if you just listen to your people and start putting their ideas into practice, you'll do just fine.

Even More Idea Sources

Feb-02-09

Last week in "More Idea Sources," I posted the comments of five writers who told us how they get their ideas. Clear to me was how similar their path followed the ways of Socrates, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Goethe, Mozart, Poe, Amy Lowell, Dostoyevsky, and Walter Lantz that I published last November.

I'm Not Creative

Jan-21-09

Anyone who's ever said, "I'm not creative," please read carefully. Yes, you are. And I can prove it.

Inadequacy, the Slave Driver of Invention

Jan-19-09

In his seminal book on the nature of creativity The Act of Creation, polymath Arthur Koestler coined the word bisociation to describe what we less eloquently call a combination or connection of ideas. Koestler would say, "bisociation—an association between two or more previously unconnected elements."

Dead Teachers

Jan-16-09

In 1990, Scott Anderson was an Indiana elementary school teacher just plain fed up with the bone-headed bureaucracy, administrative apathy, and the contempt for creativity he felt was frustrating his attempts to teach.

Creative Accounting

Jan-14-09

In 1532 Francisco Pizarro came before the court of the Inca, seemingly in peace, but set on conquest. He noticed that certain members of the Incan court wore knotted ropes around their waists. Assuming these ropes were rosaries, he ordered his men to ambush the men who wore them.

Success: A Wall of Context

Jan-05-09

This is the last in a series of Right Brain Workouts devoted to escaping the Four Cages of Context, the principal impediments to greater creativity, innovation, invention, problem solving, and human progress. Today we'll escape the cage of Success.

Success is 99-percent failure.

scrawkcaB

Dec-31-08

Don Winkler says, "The dumber the question, the more people laugh at you, the more likely it will lead to a breakthrough." And he should know. Don does lots of things backwards, not necessarily on purpose. He has a dyslexic brain.

Order: A Cage of Context

Dec-29-08

This is the third in a series of Right Brain Workouts devoted to escaping the Four Cages of Context, the principal impediments to greater creativity, innovation, invention, problem solving, and human progress. Today we'll escape the cage of Order.

The line it is drawn/The curse it is cast

Imaginary Friends

Dec-26-08

This is the story of two monsters, Dafi (below, left) and Haneen (below, right), who have discovered that they share at least one thing in common—love for their favorite foods. "Hummus! Falafel!" they squeal with delight.

How Am I Doing?

Dec-24-08

You've seen the signs on the backs of semis. "How am I driving? Call 1 800 EAT DIRT." Or something to that effect. Those signs are inspired by a cruder version with a real 800-number. How do you feel about being asked to be a snitch?

Affinity: A Cage of Context

Dec-22-08

This is the second in a series of Right Brain Workouts devoted to escaping the Four Cages of Context, the principal impediments to greater creativity, innovation, invention, problem solving, and human progress. Today we'll escape the cage of Affinity.

It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed.

Innovative Singles

Dec-19-08

I asked a group of single, middle-aged adults to write a personal ad about themselves. Then we talked about creativity, after which I asked them to write another personal ad. Here's what happened:

Knowledge: A Cage of Context

Dec-15-08

This is the first in a series of Right Brain Workouts devoted to escaping the Four Cages of Context, the principal impediments to greater creativity, innovation, invention, problem solving, and human progress. Today we'll escape the cage of Knowledge.

I had no fixed idea derived from long-established practice

Rebellion

Nov-28-08

How do you feel about this statement? "A little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical."

Hippocrates

Nov-14-08

It seems the Hippocratic Oath has become an endangered species. No "save the oath" groups rising to its defense, though. How in the world did it last this long? I wonder.

Taking Pictures

Nov-12-08

Dick Summer helps people motivate themselves. He's a man so full of ambitions, abilities, and ideas, that, when you talk with him, you have to listen.

Face on the Egg

Nov-07-08

In "Life Is a Highway: Study Confirms Cars Have Personality," Innovations Report summarizes research that concludes, "many people see human facial features in the front end of automobiles."

Order

Oct-31-08

The Mexican writer, Carlos Fuentes, has attributed the success of capitalism over Soviet socialism to the West's "constant self-criticism."

Supreme Originality

Oct-22-08

The Supreme Court in a unanimous decision some time ago ruled that there is not a lick of creativity in the white pages of the phone book. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor went so far as to say they are "devoid of even the slightest trace of creativity."

Why Not Hip Hop?

Oct-20-08

We would never expect America's C-Span to win awards for the creativity or innovation of their television productions. That's not what they're after. But it wouldn't take much for C-Span to liven up its sleepier moments and at the same time attract, perhaps, a wider audience.

Staying Invention-Ready

Oct-13-08

The inventors of Breathe Right adhesive strips were much better designers than the designer of the nose. It was George Carlin, if I remember correctly, who observed that the nose, a runny, open orifice is situated right above the mouth.

Watering Hole

Sep-10-08

Animals off all sorts gather at what we call their "watering holes." Humans in offices do the same around the water cooler or coffee maker.

Big Kid Innovation

Aug-27-08

Mozart was not a stodgy prodigy. His childhood travels often brought him to the tavern, where he would head for the spittoon and amuse the locals with spitting games.

Foreigners

Aug-22-08

The great German conductor, Michael Gielen, wrote a letter to his season subscribers that offers very helpful advice to those of us who are turned off by modern music, or for that matter, anything foreign.

The Wright Stuff

Aug-20-08

Every important innovation travels in uncharted territory. To propel your new idea through uncharted territory, you always have to make and break the rules. To get comfortable with rule-breaking, it helps to develop a good deal of creative arrogance.

WYSIWYG

Aug-15-08

Any innovator who wants to break new ground should never hesitate to question authority. This is not a call to rebellion but a call to common sense--authorities are so often wrong. And if they happen to be right, they're usually way behind.

Deadlines

Aug-13-08

According to an old article in Discover magazine, Russian scientist and intrepid innovator Andrei Linde has set his creative sights on nothing less than understanding what life is. His method is to study the boundaries of the irrational with the tools of rationality.

Old Creative Advice

Jul-06-08

In a letter to a friend suffering from "lack of creative power," Friedrich Schiller writes, "it hinders the creative work of the mind--if intellect examines too closely the ideas already pouring in... at the gates."

Invention from Adversity

Jul-02-08

As a child, Jerry McLaughlin sampled the fruit of the paw-paw tree, sometimes called the Indiana banana. It made him sick. But cancer patients may one day thank Jerry, because many years later, as a chemist looking for plants that might kill cancer cells, he remembered the paw-paw.

Dumbth Rule No. 9

Apr-22-08

Steve Allen has written a book I call a must-read for everyone interested in strengthening their creative-thinking muscles. It was published in 1989 as Dumbth: And 81 Ways to Make Americans Smarter and in 1998 as Dumbth: The Lost Art of Thinking with 101 Ways to Reason Better & Improve Your Mind.

Sloth

Mar-24-08

This is the seventh and last in a series of Right Brain Workouts devoted to the Seven Creative Juices. Using the Seven Deadly Sins as my starting point, I've audaciously re-positioned them as the natural forces that drive creativity, innovation, invention, the arts, and human progress. Today we meet Sloth.

Anger

Mar-17-08

This is the sixth in a series of Right Brain Workouts devoted to the Seven Creative Juices. Using the Seven Deadly Sins as my starting point, I've audaciously re-positioned them as the natural forces that drive creativity, innovation, invention, the arts, and human progress. Today we meet Anger.

Idiot

Mar-12-08

Any idiot can kill a great creative idea. All it takes is the ability to recognize that the new idea is different. Like rejecting the Model T because it doesn't have a feed bag. Or poo-pooing any innovation just because it's different. We've been known to justify our distaste for the different with the ultimate authority.

Envy

Mar-10-08

This is the fifth in a series of Right Brain Workouts devoted to the Seven Creative Juices. Using the Seven Deadly Sins as my starting point, I've audaciously re-positioned them as the natural forces that drive creativity, innovation, invention, the arts, and human progress. Today we meet Envy.

Nitpickers

Mar-05-08

Don't you just love nitpickers? The horseflies of life's hike through the woods. And they think they're so helpful. You've just put a precious part of your life into a piece of creative work, when along come the bright-eyed, ever so helpful nitpickers, who actually think they can make it better in minute or two!

Lust

Mar-03-08

This is the fourth in a series of Right Brain Workouts devoted to the Seven Creative Juices. Using the Seven Deadly Sins as my starting point, I've audaciously re-positioned them as the natural forces that drive creativity, innovation, invention, the arts, and human progress. Today we meet Lust.

Greed

Feb-25-08

This is the third in a series of Right Brain Workouts devoted to the Seven Creative Juices. Using the Seven Deadly Sins as my starting point, I've audaciously re-positioned them as the natural forces that drive creativity, innovation, invention, the arts, and human progress. Today we meet Greed.

Gluttony

Feb-18-08

This is the second in a series of Right Brain Workouts devoted to the Seven Creative Juices. Using the Seven Deadly Sins as my starting point, I've audaciously re-positioned them as the natural forces that drive creativity, innovation, invention, the arts, and human progress. Today we meet Gluttony.

Pride

Feb-11-08

This is the first installment of a series of Right Brain Workouts devoted to the Seven Creative Juices. Using the Seven Deadly Sins as my starting point, I've audaciously re-positioned them as the natural forces that drive creativity, innovation, invention, the arts, and human progress. Today we meet Pride.

Slicing Pi

Feb-08-08

We all know pi--the transcendental number you get when you divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter. This most monumental and incredibly ennobling invention came to us from the Greeks. But the idea (that the ratio of the circumference of a circle and its diameter comes out to a little more than 3) goes back even further--to the innovative geometers of ancient Egypt, Babylonia, India, and again, those creative Greeks.

Frozen Smoke

Feb-01-08

John Poco of Lawrence Livermore Labs in Livermore, California, works with the lightest solid material ever made--silica aerogel. About as heavy as the air over San Francisco on a foggy day, the substance has been nicknamed "frozen smoke," because that's what it looks like. Poco and his Livermore scientists have reduced the density of aerogel and improved its composition and clarity.

Innovative Animals

Jan-28-08

What would you call the familiar, plastic packaging device that holds your six-pack together? Koko the gorilla speaks with the help of a word board--a tool that lets her point to icons that represent words. It's said that she used her word board to describe the six-pack holder as "bottle necklace."

Darwin Does It Again

Jan-25-08

About 20 minutes into their December 2005 Charlie Rose television interview, Edward O. Wilson and James D. Watson agreed that "Charles Darwin was the most important person who ever lived on Earth." Watson explained to Charlie that "Darwin was the first person, using observation and experience, to really put man in his place in the world."

Earth Name

Jan-23-08

Maybe we'd all have a little more respect for our planet if it had a nobler name. Something other than Earth anyway. The word comes from roots that mean "base." Even today, earthy implies low or common. And why not? What's more common than earth?

A Girl's Touch

Jan-12-08

At age 11, Emily Rosa staged a rather simple science project which ended up in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. In doing so, she became the youngest person to land a research paper published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. Not bad for a fourth-grader. How did such a young girl make such a big splash?

What Do I Know?

Jan-12-08

An article published at the end of 2007 in the New York Times, "Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike" by Janet Rae-Dupree, reminded me of what a knucklehead I've become. And not just me but all of us who think we know anything.