Archives For Creativity and Innovation

talking teddy ruxpin art intstallation

This 2012 art installation came up in conversation earlier today, when Henry told me about the day he visited Axman Surplus in Saint Paul and passed on the opportunity to buy 100 Teddy Ruxpin innards, including working mouth and cassette player. He should kick himself every day for passing up on that opportunity.

Thanks to the interconnectivity provided by the internet people have never before been better able to express their emotions to the world community. Everyday hundreds of thousands of people use a myriad of blogs and other online outlets to discuss how they are feeling on an endless array of topics ranging from superficial thoughts on the quality ones ‘hair day’ to extremely intimate considerations of love, betrayal or even whether or not they should end their lives. Literally every subtle increment on the scale of the human emotional condition is expressed but sadly due to the tremendous scale of information available many of these expressions are buried within a sea of noise. With T,E.D. my aim is to give a literal voice and physical presence to a portion of this content as it is expressed in real-time…

TED is a large, wall-based installation consisting of an array of 80 Teddy Ruxpin dolls that speak emotional content gathered from the web via synthetic speech with animated mouths. The speaking of the emotional content is accompanied by one of twenty-four musical vignettes that have been paired to the emotional content being spoken. Each vignette, representing one of twenty-four subtle variants of human emotion, have been composed in such a way that the beginnings and ends of the short pieces will seamlessly dogleg in any possible configuration and stream endlessly as a unified whole.

The installation is allowed to drift about freely through the emotional landscape being driven only by those who are contributing content to the piece whether unwittingly or consciously. As such the overall presentation of the piece can vary greatly based on external conditions such as seasons, world events and even time of day. The piece is essentially taking the instantaneous emotional pulse of the internet and this collective pulse, like a human pulse, varies over time.

[via MAKE]


The Truth About Google X: An Exclusive Look Behind The Secretive Lab's Closed Doors | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

Generally speaking, there are three criteria that X projects share.

All must address a problem that affects millions–or better yet, billions–of people.

All must utilize a radical solution that has at least a component that resembles science fiction.

And all must tap technologies that are now (or very nearly) obtainable.

via The Truth About Google X: An Exclusive Look Behind The Secretive Lab’s Closed Doors | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.


Back in June 2012, the New York Times published The Busyness Trap, an op-ed by Tim Kreider.

Nearly two years later I still refer to it, and because of that piece, in 2013 I committed to saying “YES” to anyone who asked me to coffee or lunch. No excuses. No “let me get back to you.” Just YES. It was a fantastic experiment, and I learned a lot.

Chiefly, I learned that I wasn’t as busy and self-important as I perceived myself to be. It’s all about priorities and not letting the act of being busy become an idol. In fact, as Kreider notes, pulling back from the notion of busyness is critical to creative thinking, brain rest and ultimately, innovation.

This new piece from Hannah Rosin in Slate, Stop Bragging About How Busy You Are, picks up where Kreider left off. And I love the concept of “contaminated time.” Stealing that, for sure.

The art of busyness is to convey genuine alarm at the pace of your life and a helpless resignation, as if someone else is setting the clock, and yet simultaneously make it clear that you are completely on top of your game. These are not exactly humble brags. They are more like fretful brags, and they are increasingly becoming the idiom of our age. In her new book, “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time,” Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte calls this cultural epidemic the “overwhelm,” and it will be immediately recognizable to most working adults.”

Always behind and always late, with one more thing and one more thing and one more thing to do before rushing out the door. Muting the phone during a conference call so no one can hear soccer practice drills in the background, stepping over mounds of unfolded laundry, waking up in a 2 a.m. panic to run over the to-do list, and then summing up your life to your friends — in the two seconds you dedicate to seeing your friends — as “crazy all the time” while they nod in agreement.

To be deep in the overwhelm requires not just doing too many things in one 24-hour period but doing so many different kinds of things that they all blend into each other and a day has no sense of distinct phases. Researchers call it “contaminated time,” and apparently women are more susceptible to it than men, because they have a harder time shutting down the tape that runs in their heads about what needs to get done that day.

The only relief from the time pressure comes from cordoning off genuine stretches of free or leisure time, creating a sense of what Schulte calls “time serenity” or “flow.” But over the years, timeuse diaries show that women have become terrible at that, squeezing out any free time and instead, as Schulte puts is, resorting to “crappy bits of leisure time confetti.”

So if the time squeeze is so miserable, why do people brag about it? This is the curious thing about this particular disease — and the first clue to recovery.

“It’s very popular, the feeling that there are too many things going on, that people can’t get in control of their lives and the like,” Robinson says. “But when we look at peoples’ diaries there just doesn’t seem to be the evidence to back it up … It’s a paradox. When you tell people they have thirty or forty hours of free time every week, they don’t want to believe it.”

Busyness is a virtue, so people are terrified of hearing they may have empty time, as Time Kreider wrote in “The ‘Busy’ Trap.” It’s the equivalent of being told that you’re redundant or obsolete.

And here’s Tim Kreider’s take from The Busy Trap

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: “Busy!” “So busy.” “Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: “That’s a good problem to have,” or “Better than the opposite.

It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this; it’s something we collectively force one another to do.

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve “encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.”

Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day…

Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.

The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done…

What’s your take? How do you stay out of The Busy Trap?

If you dig Brian Eno’s concept of Scenius, you’ll surely appreciate Google’s approach to innovation in 2014 by tapping into many minds from a like-minded community and fostering creativity by matching “thinkers” with the “doers.”

Last summer it was widely reported Google was shifting away from the 20 percent time approach, but it appears they are instead embedding people working on fundamental research into the core business… which “makes it possible for Google to encourage creative contributions from workers who would typically be far removed from any kind of research and development.”

“There doesn’t need to be a protective shell around our researchers where they think great thoughts,” says [Alfred Spector] Spector.

“It’s a collaborative activity across the organization; talent is distributed everywhere.”

via Alfred Spector, How Google Does Fundamental Research Without a Separate Research Lab | MIT Technology Review.

What is your organization doing to foster innovation, creativity and collaboration across its scenius?


During Austin Kleone’s keynote at South by Southwest yesterday, he brought up the concept of Scenius, and it really got us talking after the presentation.

If you think about the world’s great geniuses (e.g., Einstein, DaVinci, Beethoven), many emerged from connected cultures, likeminded thinkers and an uplifting environment that helped them perfect/hone/achieve such great success.

It led me to look up this interview with Eno about the concept of Scenius.

MORE DARK THAN SHARK: Brian, could you reiterate your word “scenius” and perhaps tell us how, in times to come, we might evaluate that seed you’re trying to plant?

BRIAN ENO: So he’s asking about the word “scenius” – and I’ll expand a little bit on that word.

So, as I told you, I was an art student and, like all art students, I was encouraged to believe that there were a few great figures like Picasso and Kandinsky, Rembrandt and Giotto and so on who sort-of appeared out of nowhere and produced artistic revolution.

As I looked at art more and more, I discovered that that wasn’t really a true picture. What really happened was that there was sometimes very fertile scenes involving lots and lots of people – some of them artists, some of them collectors, some of them curators, thinkers, theorists, people who were fashionable and knew what the hip things were – all sorts of people who created a kind of ecology of talent. And out of that ecology arose some wonderful work.

The period that I was particularly interested in, ’round about the Russian revolution, shows this extremely well. So I thought that originally those few individuals who’d survived in history – in the sort-of “Great Man” theory of history – they were called “geniuses”. But what I thought was interesting was the fact that they all came out of a scene that was very fertile and very intelligent. So I came up with this word “scenius” – and scenius is the intelligence of a whole… operation or group of people. And I think that’s a more useful way to think about culture, actually. I think that – let’s forget the idea of “genius” for a little while, let’s think about the whole ecology of ideas that give rise to good new thoughts and good new work.

via Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK.

“Telling people how to be creative is easy — it is only being creative that is difficult.”

[via 99u]

Also, this:

Twelve Innovation Lessons for 2014

15 types of innovation (illustrated by car / mobility examples) for inspiring your innovation challenges

Is Your Innovation Problem Really a Strategy Problem?


(via GoKart Labs)