10 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity

Creativity. It seems such a simple thing when you look at the definition of it — the state or quality of being creative. Right? It should be as easy to tap into as your multiplication tables.

But some days it just isn't happening and you feel as creative as a stump. The muse of inspiration has taken a vacation, and left you high and dry. Sometimes to free that muse and unleash your shackled creativity, you have to focus your entire being on something outside of yourself.

Here are 10 suggestions to step away from and ignore your uninspired self to reconnect with your creative self and enable your muse to re-surface.
  1. Exercise. It doesn't matter if  you run, walk, swim, dance, do yoga, play tennis, or hike; just do it.
  2. Meditate.
  3. Visit an art museum.
  4. Journal.
  5. Learn something new — how to knit, speak another language, throw a pot, write code, paint, draw, make paper airplanes or origami.
  6. Play with a baby — puppy, kitten, human — and watch the absolute joy of unselfconscious and innocent existence.
  7. Get outside. Walk by the ocean, a lake, a creek, or a river. Walk a trail or visit a garden. Plant some flowers or herbs, deadhead some roses, pull weeds or mow the lawn.
  8. Laugh! Tell a joke, listen to a joke, watch a funny video or movie, listen to a comic.
  9. Make something. Bake a cake, build a birdhouse, build a house of cards or a tent fort in your living room.
  10. Watch this curated collection of 10 TED Talks for a burst of inspiration.
What ways have you found to let your creative muse out of the bottle and re-ignite your creativity when you're stuck for inspiration?

 Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

From Handbags to Traffic Navigation: Harnessing the Power of Crowdsourcing

The belief that two heads are better than one is an ancient one. As far back as the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible, in fact. In 1546, a variation of this saying was found in English writer John Heywood's collection of proverbs: A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue. (phrases.org.uk)

Today, instead of a phrase, you're hearing the word "Crowdsourcing". A different word with a different definition, but ultimately driving toward the same goal as the ancient proverbs: Harnessing the power of multiple minds to creatively solve problems.

Note: I'm not including crowdfunding in this post, as I covered it in a three-part series I wrote last year. While it is arguably a type of crowdsourcing, crowdfunding harnesses the finances of the crowd to bring a new idea to life vs creating and expanding upon the ideas themselves.

A recent article in Smartplanet, How the crowd is making fashion design more efficient, got me thinking about just how widespread creative problem solving via crowdsourcing has become.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The article takes a look at a New York company, Stitch Collective, launched in 2012 to produce crowdsourced handbags. To create a new handbag, Stitch Collective seeks submissions from fashion schools and design networks. New designers worldwide send in their ideas, then based on which designs are most feasible to produce, Stitch Collective chooses finalists, and its community of accessory enthusiasts vote on their favorite.

The advantages of crowdsourcing? Even in fashion, one of the more difficult industries for an emerging designer to break into, as the Smartplanet article states, "...a rising new class of fashion businesses that, instead of handing down mysteriously conceived designs from on high, is turning to the crowd to decide what to make, and how much of it."

There are a multitude of crowdsourcing sites creating business solutions, such as web design, graphics, microwork, and microtasks. A few notable crowdsourcing sites include:
  • gengo: An online translation service that uses a network of more than 7,500 pre-screened and rated translators to provide high-quality translations in 33 languages. (TechCrunch)
  • InnoCentive: Crowdsourced solutions to business, social, policy, scientific, and technical challenges from 300,000 diverse and creative thinkers and problem solvers from nearly 200 countries.
  • PatientsLikeMe: A data-sharing platform, where patients can share and learn from real-world, outcome-based health data.
  • waze: A community-based traffic and navigation app where 30 million drivers share real-time traffic and road info, either passively or actively. Gamification and social networking are included.
    Update: Google is looking to buy waze. hmmm. (Mashable 0524/13)
I'll point out here that I'm not endorsing these crowdsourcing companies — they're all for-profit companies who demonstrate the variety of crowdsourcing solutions available.

After the flattening of the world and normalization of globalization, it's easy now (thank you, hindsight) to see just how inevitable and incredibly creative the concept of crowdsourcing really is. What better way to harness the expertise and experience of people both in our communities and around the world to creatively solve problems?

A Marketer's Dream: Content That Goes Viral (a.k.a. Meme)

I'm sure that you've seen an item or two shared in your social channels recently that was meaningful to you or made you laugh out loud.

A friend posted this quotation on her Facebook wall, and it was a classic "duh moment" for me. "This is it! This is what I've been working toward the last few years!" I've internalized it and try to live it, but had never thought to articulate it as a philosophy of living. And because it's meaningful to me, I've shared it with my social networks.

(I always knew Roald Dahl was a genius, but this quotation confirms it.)

By virtue of being a piece of content shared and re-shared over the Internet, this quotation can be considered an Internet meme. Social networks are not only amazingly well suited for sharing these viral Internet memes easily and quickly, but have contributed to the meme explosion.

Note: Meme rhymes with team.

So a little back story here, if you don't know what a meme is:

The "meme" word was first introduced by evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, in 1976. "Meme" comes from the Greek word "mimema" (meaning "something imitated", American Heritage Dictionary). Dawkins described memes as a being a form of cultural propagation, a way for people to transmit social memories and cultural ideas to each other. Not unlike the way that DNA and life will spread from location to location, a meme idea will also travel from mind to mind. (about.com)

If you're a social soul, you most likely see multiple memes every day flowing through your feeds like a river, gaining speed and strength before they suddenly sputter to a halt once they reach critical mass and lose shock value. A meme can be almost anything: a quotation (such as the Roald Dahl one above) a photo, video or animated GIF, an animal or person — real or fictional, or even just a symbol or a word. You can tell just how viral a meme is by how many versions you see.

Here are a few of the more viral memes that have made the social rounds.

Tardis the grumpy cat is a great example of an animal meme.

Gymnast McKayla Maroney's "not impressed" face was photoshopped onto thousands of photos, and was so well known that even President Obama jumped into the fun.

The multitude of "Gangnam style parodies created and posted on YouTube last year demonstrate just how fast and furiously viral memes can go.

Most marketers can only dream of having their content go viral like so many memes do every day. Unfortunately for them (and me), there's no single "formula" for what makes a meme go viral, but memes do seem to have some of these characteristics in common:
  • They're usually humorous. The humor can be sarcastic, slapstick, dry, witty, rude, juvenile....
  • They are something that resonates with people — they can identify with or relate the meme to their own experience or life.
  • They can be modified with a basic graphics program.
  • Whatever chord they strike in viewers makes the viewers want to share with their social networks.
There have been a few marketing campaigns that have gone viral. Arguably the most viral one is the Old Spice "Smell like a man man" campaign videos, which have had almost 100 million views on YouTube.

Do you have a favorite meme? Why is it your favorite?

Tardis the grumpy cat
McKayla Maroney and President Obama

Social Is About Connecting: Person to Person

You've heard it all, right? The detrimental effect social networking has on our world, including, but not limited to:
  • The steep decline in conversational skills. 
  • An increase in teens who don't know how to talk to adults.
  • People who no longer belong to their local communities; not volunteering, not mowing their lawns, not helping little old ladies across the street....
  • People who no longer care about personal grooming or bathing; staying in their homes and never coming out; only connecting virtually.
  • The end of civilization as we know it.
It's all hooey, to use a polite term. Civilization is not going to end because of social networking. Even telecommuting employees like me come out of our houses, often quite frequently — you're just not seeing us commuting on the freeway in the car next to you. I've not noticed a decline in conversational skills, except for perhaps a reduction in the meaningless "small talk" that isn't exactly scintillating to begin with. And teenagers? Please, when have the majority of them ever wanted to talk to adults? Did you? They have no trouble talking with their peers, and eventually they'll be adults and have to talk to the rest of us.

I'm sure you've seen this quotation, often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

My experience with social is that it is creating an immensely exciting new form of communication enabling the discussion of ideas, all kinds of ideas, with like-minded people, regardless of location. Since you're no longer limited by proximity to communicate only with your neighbors, your office mates, or your immediate social circle, the connections you can make are almost unlimited. I think about the people in my virtual social circles, and they include:
  • Classmates, colleagues and friends I've not seen for a while or had entirely lost touch with before reconnecting on a social network.
  • The friends and family of my friends and family. 
  • This one is cheating a bit as an example because I do work for a large multinational corporation, but I collaborate daily with colleagues from all over the US and the world with our internal social tools. Today, for instance, just a few of the interactions I had were with colleagues from New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, Florida, North Carolina, The Netherlands, Italy, Mexico, and India.
  • People from all over the world who share my interests in philanthropy, social activism, books, design, technology, social networking, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, art, accessibility, writing, blogging, all things digital and my other 999 interests.
Does all of this virtual communication prevent me from being active in my community? Not in the slightest. In fact, I think it makes it easier to get involved by exposing me to new ideas.

So the next time someone tells you social networking is changing our world for the worst, you know what to say. :-)

How Social Networking Is Helping TED Change the World

I've recently joined the TEDxSanJoseCA team as a volunteer to manage social media, starting with the Facebook page. I'm excited and honored to be involved with this organization because I believe so much in the value TED brings to the world.

(I blogged just a year ago about attending my first TEDx event, The Power of TED — Pay It Forward.)

TED is a nonprofit that started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, and Design.

The TED mission is quite simple: Spreading ideas.
We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other. 

And thanks to the popularity of social networking for sharing these amazing ideas and the ease and power of communicating via video, TED has taken the world by storm with the TED website, annual TED conference, TED Active, TEDGlobal, TEDx, TED Talks, TED Fellows, TED Prize, TEDEd, TEDIndia, TEDWomen, TED Salons, TED@, TED Open Translation Project, TED Books, and TEDYouth. (I'm sure I missed a few, but you get the idea...)

To give you an idea of the reach of TED, this TED Talk from 2006, "Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity" is the most viewed at almost 16 million views. Many other talks have 7, 8, 9, or 10 million views.

I am committed to my local volunteer work, but I was also searching for a broader community with which to connect and learn, and TED with its current library of 1400 talks and local TEDx events, meets that need.  There is so much truth in this quotation:

Social networking makes it possible and actually quite easy to connect both locally and around the world with kindred souls who are on this mission of changing attitudes, lives, and ultimately the world. You can join TED communities on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+,  LinkedIn and tumblr.

Because making the world a better place has become a core value of mine, becoming involved with TED via my local TEDx organization and surrounding myself with dreamers, doers, believers, and thinkers is where I need to be, and social networking is the conduit enabling me to do that, daily.