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bobjengr   6/15/2012 5:51:43 PM

I retired from GE—Appliance Division and I can state categorically that right to left program scheduling was instrumental in squelching a great deal of creativity.  It's really tough to be creative on demand and most of the "good work" was accomplished after hours when management went home.   Another very real situation existed when a creative solution was found but current tooling had to be factored into the decision thereby negating the "fix".  I know there are very real monetary constraints to any manufacturing issue, creative or otherwise, but sometimes the best solution is not always the most trouble-free solution.     Thinking out of the box can be disruptive and heart-stopping if you are an accountant.  Many times, I repeat many times, we do it that way because we've done it that way. 

Sylvie Barak
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Re: NO
Sylvie Barak   6/15/2012 2:03:02 PM
Well, actually, Edison was more of a plagiarizer of other people's hard work.... plenty of those around ;)

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Creativity Can Be Taught
RickNY   6/15/2012 1:57:13 PM
While a number of comments point out some general characteristics about creativity, the idea of it being taught is possible.  I do agree that not everyone may have the capacity, or desire, to be creative.  Some people are just too limited in their internal thought processes, or just too timid, to go outside the narrow "accepted" line of "correct answers."  Thankfully, this is a small minority.  Most of us do have the ability to be creative, and come up with unique thoughts/solutions when given the chance.  It is true that too many of our institutions, educational systems, jobs, social behavior... tend to discourage truly creative thinking. 

When correctly done, creativity can be taught.  Perhaps teaching it may be slightly exaggerated.  It is more likely that it is already there, lying dormant, but can be encouraged when given the right circumstances and tools.  There are programs that do promote creative thinking on the part of school-age children.  One successful program is Destination Imagination.  This is generally referred to as a Creative Problem Solving program.  It involves over 100,000 children each year to come up with creative solutions to various Challenges.  When one is familiar with the program, it becomes clear that the participants do learn to be more creative.  They tend to be more open to take on different tasks/jobs that are typically beyond one's normal comfort zone, and looking for "outside the box" solutions. 

Creativity taught or encouraged?  Basically it is the same thing. 

Musashi Rings
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Re: Creativity Can Be Taught
Musashi Rings   6/14/2012 4:58:18 PM
mrdon, I agree on the usefulness of the association tools you use.  The use of these tools really help those who are creatively-challenged and are fantastic in the hands of those who have high levels of creativity.  You are a teacher with the right idea for fostering creativity in your students and an entrepreneur with the right mind set for serving your engineering customers.

Jerry dycus
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Re: Creativity
Jerry dycus   6/14/2012 4:23:07 PM

 It can't be taught but can be encouraged or stiffled.  Sadly most creativiy is beaten out of people. Ever notice the really creative people don't do well in school?

I think I was lucky in that moving 5 x's in a yr made me fail 9th grade ending my schooling. This kept it from being beaten out of me, not like they could in my case but most are not strong enough to go against the flow.

Yet since then I've done things that according to engineers can't be done like 3D rounded bilged boat hull from 2 flat  sheets.   And designing, building  32' boats that go 25mph under power or sail.   Others are cost effective wind and tidal generators that still after 30 yrs haven't been beat.

I drive my EV's at 20% of the price of a similar ICE using 1900-1960's tech others passed by simply by designing out their bad points and enhancing their good ones.

Unless you actually do creative things it doesn't mean much. Too many can't draw outside the lines because they are afraid to be different.

Creative people are those who are not afraid to fail, in fact we expect it or we are not trying hard enough. Most new things take at least 3 versions to get right, failing is a normal process we creative types expect.

You might have noticed that I go  to the beat of a different drummer from my other posts.

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Re: Creativity Can Be Taught
mrdon   6/14/2012 3:19:16 PM
Musashi I agree. Creativity can be taught and yes by making connections or associations creative and innovative solutions can be derived. The Mindmap is the tool I use to assist in the generation of making connections or associations. Freemind is an excellent mindmapping software tool to assist in making connections. I use  Freemind software  whenever I'm creating lab experiments and project assignments for my students or developing products and gadgets for my technical books and engineering customers. By using Freemind software creative elements are generated based on the attribute connections/associations for the device/product I'm working on. I've included a link for Freemind below. 


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apresher   6/14/2012 2:35:01 PM
One of the keys to this discussion seems to not just the ability for people to be creative, but also the need to combine creativity with practicality. judgement and other constraints to achieve, in the case of products, true innovation.  Creativity by itself isn't the only goal.

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Re: Creativity
SparkyWatt   6/14/2012 2:22:07 PM
I don't think that creativity needs to be taught.  Most children have bags of it, there are very few that don't.  I don't think that you can teach those few to be creative, they just don't have the mental makeup.  However, the majority don't need to be taught.

So why are so few adults creative?

Well, it is probably because we have been taught that the flights of fancy needed for creativity are childish, mature people don't do that.  We have also been taught that we must perform instantly on cue.  Creativity doesn't work that way.  Even the idea of "creativity on cue" which was mentioned as desireable opposes this truth.

Creative people think of a problem from all angles, they put their enthusiasm and love into it, they spend time on it.  And after a time, the ideas begin popping.  The issue is that they must believe in their ability to solve the problem, they must believe in the importance of the problem, and they must believe in their freedom to devote time to it.

Whether they are technically great has very little to do with it.  They only need to be able to see farther than the problem.

This applies to Art as well.  The "problem" is how to express the desired idea or feeling.

We get our creativity beaten out of us through incessant demands for instant results.  The resulting stress and lack of time blocks the creative process.

There is an old story of a young manager visiting an engineering department.  He sees an old engineer with his feet on his desk, staring out the window.  Scandalized he talks to the engineering manager.  "Don't you know he is just sitting around wasting his time?"  "Shh!" answered the engineering manager.  "Last time he looked like that he came up with an idea that netted us $100 million!"

Musashi Rings
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Creativity Can Be Taught
Musashi Rings   6/14/2012 1:05:37 PM

Yes, creativity can be taught just as it can be untaught in current schools. Everyone has ideas every day but they are seldom harnessed.

As  young Rockwell engineer over fifty years ago, I came up with a novel pump design by looking for a specific reciprocating/rotary motion and realizing that it existed in a universal joint. Creativity is often a matter of seeing unobvious connections to come up with a novel result. 

When I became a Deere patent attorney over fourty years ago, I started asking inventors how they came up with their ideas.  Often, they said that they thought about a problem from many different ways and saw connections between various structures, equations, circuits, software, or other technologies so the solution became evident. 

Over thirty years ago, Fluke Instrument needed to increase its patent portfolio.  At that time, customer focus groups were being used for product improvement and new product development had just started.  I asked engineers to meet in focus groups to come up with patentable ideas.  This met with moderate success but the engineers in the same product line often had the same ideas. 

Over twenty years ago, AMD faced Intel and needed a drastically increased patent portfolio to remain competitive.  This time, I tried group meetings with engineers from different product and process areas to brainstorm for ideas related to specific areas.  After some experimentation, it was discovered that two day meetings of inventors previously having patents directing their attention to a specific area would exhibit the greatest creativity.  The invention disclosures went from less than a hundred a year to multiple thousands per year resulting in the patent filings going from 80 to 1,200 per year.

Over my years with my own patent law firm, I have continued to ask questions based on my knowledge of many different technologies and inventors have been able to greatly improve their inventions once they thought of the connection of their ideas with other technologies. 

Creativity comes in at least six different forms and the above is just one of the forms.  However, it does show that creativity can be taught...and more importantly learned.

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RaceTruck   6/14/2012 11:37:23 AM
creativity is a talent/gift/capability that many engineers have.  I don't think creativity can be taught.  BUT ! there are strategies and techniques, that can be taught, that focus the creative effort and encourage the identification and development of creative ideas.  

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