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Get Smart — Like Einstein!

Dear Readers,

I promised that our next post was to be on ideas on how to foster the creative collaboration that is foundational to innovation in organizations.  I also had some other posts lined up for some logical progression.

However, my time will be very limited for the next several weeks because a U.S. government training project for our returning military personnel is calling upon my creative skills.  Imagine that!  😉 — Did I mention that I design and deliver training programs?

In the meantime, I will share a couple of articles that I find of interest that tie directly into what we're exploring together in this forum, which, in simple mathematical formulation can be summarized as:

   Curiosity Creativity
x Good Management (Respect + Support)
= GENIUS!  

(Yes, I actually made that up on the spot, and math isn't even my strong suit.  😉 )

Look for themes below that tie back to previous posts.  Again, it can all tie back to our earlier posts on the 2010 IBM CEO report on best practices for organizations that want to thrive and key points we reviewed from How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci:

  • Einstein never squelched the innate curiosity that we all were born with.  He just loved to learn and explore; that was his primary drive.
  • He didn't grow up in a family who's main preoccupation in life was looking good and fitting in.  Modus operandi such as that does not generally foster original thinking.  Integrity does.
  • He wasn't afraid to experiment and (gasp!) fail as a means of learning what didn't work, so he could ultimately uncover what did.
  • He used "whole brain thinking" with the music; let his mind wander with daydreaming and unrelated things while his subconscious continued to problem solve; he was suspicious of the convergent "single answer" thinking encouraged in many of our schools and organizations; and, I like this one, he believed we could learn about the spiritual realities (or, for those who prefer, God) by paying attention to the world around us.  — A very worthwhile pursuit.

Namaste!  EnJOY!

 

How Einstein Got So Smart – 10 Learning Hacks
Einstein Got So SmartHow would you feel if many people thought you were the smartest person in history? How might your life be different if you actually were that intelligent? Although we often think of Albert Einstein as one of the smartest people ever, we don’t investigate what it was that made him so. People who speak highly of him often attribute his genius to some mysterious gift. They don’t believe his smarts came from a certain attitude about learning. I believe you can recreate some of his habits to get smarter and find more rewarding work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Einstein…the Failure?

Before you get the list of Einstein’s learning habits, consider some interesting facts about his early life. These things set the stage for appreciating his educational philosophy a little more.

  • Although he worked in engineering, Einstein’s father failed at several business ventures and had to depend on relatives for support.
  • When Einstein’s father asked his son’s headmaster what profession the boy should adopt, he said, “It doesn’t matter; he’ll never make a success of anything.”
  • He failed his first admissions examination to the Swiss scientific school he wanted to attend.
  • Some family friends told Einstein’s parents, “That young man will never amount to anything because he can’t remember anything.”
  • After graduating from the university, Einstein was denied a low-level teaching position there. (Other friends in his graduating class did get teaching positions.)
  • Many scientists and professors stonewalled his requests to work for them.
  • Einstein struggled for a few years to even find decent employment and finally got work as a third-class government patent examiner.

These things represent just a taste of the irony about his early life. Looking back – in light of his eventually recognized genius – these facts even seem humorous.

10 Things Einstein Did to Get So Smart

From what I can find, no one has compiled details about how Einstein actually studied. I doubt that his true genius was even observable to the eye anyhow. The real accomplishments went on inside his mind. I suspect his brain looked no different than ours; and genetically, nothing seemed remarkable. So, to benefit from his example, we need to look as much at his character and philosophy about learning.

1) He daydreamed and contemplated
Who has the right to say what is absentmindedness and what is pure genius? What others labeled as forgetful or even spacey, Einstein knew to be some of his most insightful, creative brainstorming sessions.

2) He Rubbed Shoulders with the Best and Brightest
Especially after his reputation became known, Einstein sought out the instruction and mentorship of the smartest people in his field, like Max Planck. If he didn’t get to know these people personally, he studied their writing and research.

3) Einstein Cross-Trained
He learned to play the violin well and loved the mathematical structure of music. He used music as a “psychological safety valve” throughout his life.

4) He Trusted His Own Curiosity
One legendary story says that his father gave him a compass when he was five years old. After lengthy observation, Einstein figured out that some outside force was acting on the needle to keep it pointed in the same direction.

5) He Maintained a Deep Suspicion of Educational Authority
Too many teachers, even in our day, feel you should believe what they say because, “I said so.” While they claim that “thinking for yourself” is part of the curriculum, their own biases and the school system’s structure discourage independent thought.

6) Einstein Nourished a “Radical Inquiring Attitude”
A Chinese proverb reads, “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.” True learning requires exploring assumptions and other facts that many take for granted.

7) Einstein Designed His Own Curriculum
He had friends at the university take notes in class for him while he was away reading his preferred “extracurricular” books or journals on physics and mathematics.

8) He Relied on Faith to Learn
Einstein’s faith was that by inquiry and discipline you could learn things about invisible objects or phenomena. His “God” was not arbitrary and conformed to natural, discoverable laws.

9) He Avoided Preoccupation with Trivial Things in Life
How much time would Einstein spend on YouTube or Facebook if he were around today? His mind reverted consistently to “exploring and understanding the physical world.” What do you think about when you have nothing else to think about? Einstein’s discoveries didn’t come easily; they came from discipline!

10) Einstein Was an Autodicact. 
As one biographer (Ronald W. Clark) wrote, he “found his real education elsewhere, in his own time.” Schooling provided the basic building blocks of language and concepts, but Einstein’s initiative took his learning far beyond the limits of academics.

Einstein's Learning Hacks - Free Infographic
Get this high resolution graphic (pdf) on Einstein’s Learning Hacks – for free!

Read more: http://www.betterlearningbetterearning.com/posts/success-stories/84-einstein-learning-hacks.html#ixzz1UgyQkAwp

 

  Whoa tornado While doing research for a training program I delivered last week on structures and processes needed for organizations to shift their cultures so they become conducive to creative thinking and innovation, I came across a sobering 2010 report compiled by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).  Although 51% of the global leaders polled in the IBM CEO study said they didn't believe their organizations were prepared to succeed in the increasingly complex global environment (second blog post), this BCG report summarized below makes the IBM study look like a Hollywood romance by comparison.

As I wrote in the launch of this blog, my interest in and commitment to this topic comes from a deeply-held conviction that our imminent economic future as a nation depends on U.S. organizations getting on board the innovation train, quickly. Certainly for me, the BCG study strongly reinforces that perspective. In addition to the business case, when it comes to our myriad environmental and social problems, as Albert Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." 
(The report is cited by permission of The Boston Consulting Group.  Click on the link below to see the full report.)

"Innovation 2010: A Return to Prominence–And the Emergence of a New World Order":       

Working in partnership with BusinessWeek and its Market Advisory Board, The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) conducted a survey for the seventh year in a row, gathering input data from 1,590 executives from around the world representing a range of markets and industries. 

This most recent 2010 report postulates that as a result of the U.S. and other mature economies' general lack of commitment to and investment in innovation, "a new world order in innovation is taking hold, one in which rapidly developing economies (RDEs), led by China, India, and Brazil, will increasingly assume more prominent positions, while the United States and other mature economies continue to play major roles but gradually become less dominant."  (p4)

Apple and Google were ranked by international executive respondents as the two most innovative companies, with Apple once again as the hands-down winner (a rank it has held in this survey since 2005). Yet, more than half of those who participated in this survey expect that U.S. will lose its standing as the leader in innovation within the next five years.  

These predictions are similar to the warning flags waved by Thomas L. Friedman in his book, The World is Flat. Among the precipitous trends, Friedman points to:

  • America having recently slipped from 1st to 4th place in the number of patent applications.
  • The increasing dearth of math and science students training in U.S. universities just as our nation’s top scientists prepare to retire.
  • Tightened U.S. immigration policies that have caused a significant drop in foreign math and Tsunami Wave students attending American universities and who now have considerable job opportunities in others countries that are investing more heavily in innovation.
    • And funding cuts to the National Institutes of Science.  

If these trends remain, then it only goes to follow that American business will lose even more of their global market shares with our nation losing considerable economic strength. 

Implications for Leaders: 
BGC attributes the low level of U.S. investment in innovation to companies “hedging their bets about the economy” with incremental improvements versus “moving aggressively to discover, invent, and capitalize on new growth areas.” The report ends by offering the following recommendations to business managers in the established economies who have yet to “fully come to grips with” the consequences of not making innovation strategic priorities.

1.    Becoming better at innovation is probably the single most important thing that you can do this year.   (p20)

Why?  Although you survived the Great Recession – so did your competitors.  Like you, they too largely "mastered the cost, productivity, and operational excellence playbook." However, many of them, upon realizing they had survived, saw innovation as a top strategic priority and started investing heavily in it around the middle of 2009. If you are not one of those companies – you are about a year behind (when this report came out, mid 2010).  

 2.    If you don’t get better at innovation, your boss (or board) will eventually either stop spending money on it – or find someone who can improve things. 

“Part of the issue may be that most companies can’t even define what they really mean by innovation, let alone measure it. And while there is no right or wrong definition, you do need a definition that everyone agrees on and that aligns with your company’s strategy.” – Get a clear, shared definition.  (p21)

 3.    Top management is really going to have to get its head in the game this year. 

“In every highly innovative company we know, the CEO truly has innovation near the very center of his or her radar screen. Indeed, the difference between a company whose CEO and leadership team have an “all in” mentality regarding innovation and one whose leadership supports innovation merely at an abstract level is unmistakable – and so is it’s impact on culture and results. 

 If you think your company can win at innovation without your being truly committed, you are wrong and will be increasingly exposed.  Too many companies are being led by fully committed and engaged leadership teams that have linked innovation to the company’s business strategy, put in place the needed measurement systems, and are investing to see the results.”   (p21)

4.    Your company cannot afford to cut back on its innovation investments in the BIC countries and other RDEs. 

If you thought competition was tough in the past, just wait. …As can be seen from our list of the most innovative companies, the “BIC*-plus” world has arrived on the innovation front and is quickly moving into the mainstream.  *(BIC stands for Brazil, India, and China.)

‘To deal with this new reality, you need to increase your investments in these countries, not decrease them. …Lower your investments in these countries at your own risk.”  (p21)

 The report concludes:
“Keeping pace, let alone flourishing in this environment will demand a two-pronged attack.  Your company needs to be actively innovating both in and for the slower-growth, mature economies, which remain very large and profitable.  Simultaneously, you need to be ever more focused – no matter how focused you think you already are – on the much faster-growing developing economies, especially China, India, and Brazil, with their promise of large markets and newly innovative competitors.  Striking the right balance here will obviously be highly challenging. But the potential competitive rewards of hitting the mark are vast – as is the downside of coming up short. Indeed, skillful leadership in innovation has never been at such a premium.”   (p21)

  
Wake up call Dramatic natural disaster photos aside, I hope I've won over a few more believers that we need to rally and inspire others and send wake-up calls around our organizations that the time is upon us to do whatever is needed to engage the other half of our brains. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Blaine et al

Join us for the first part of our podcast interview with the very talented actress and playwright, Jennifer Blaine, and one of her many alter-egos, the delightful Dr. Amir, as the three of us discuss ways to tap into one's creative imagination.  

A resident of Philadelphia, Jennifer has opened for George Carlin and performed with Chris Rock and Joe Piscopo.  According to The Philadelphia Daily News, "Not even 'Sybil' can compete with Blaine's cast of characters.  Her comic genius [compares to that of] Lily Tomlin and Tracey Ullman."

Some of the tools recommended by Jennifer and Dr. Amir:

Jennifer Blaine headshot

  1. Repeat "hmmmm," as in "I wonder…" as a means of helping the synapses between the "right" and "left" hemispheres of the brain to connect.
  2. Consciously breath deeply and steadily, as with meditation, and contemplate or take in the thought: "What is it that I want to create or express?"  Then, without pressure, wait silently and patiently for the answers to emerge.
  3. See yourself as a creative being.  If we only tell ourselves and others that we are not very creative, that only serves to shut the doors to what might otherwise emerge. 
  4. Look for and appreciate creativity and beauty around you and within.  What we focus on becomes more apparent and abundant.
  5. Especially when you are feeling stuck, move your arms, legs, and neck around in a playful,
    loose way with "Creative Joint Play," either with or without music.  This exercise moves energy around your body while helping your mind to loosen up, allowing ideas to emerge. 

Jennifer Blaine & Dr. Amir – Part I
 

 

Stay tuned for the conclusion of this interview in the next blog post!
Cheers!

 

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