creative thinking (1)

 

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’
‘I dare say you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”  Lewis Carroll

What improvements need to occur to strengthen current programs and attract students to our college?  What new programs do we need to create, especially given that many of the programs in our division are at or above maximum capacity?  What is the best way to do the thinking that will answer these questions?  Do you have some ideas that seem impossible?

There were several interesting articles in the media recently.  One was entitled, “McDonald’s new menu item hints at new strategy” by Dan Moskowitz.  He said, “McDonald’s is slowly moving toward becoming a coffee shop. This might sound ludicrous to those who grew up while eating burgers and fries at McDonald’s, but any company that wants to succeed will implement initiatives that match industry trends or find itself dying a slow and painful death.” This almost seems like an impossible thought, but with current health trends, the author said the future is not in burgers and fries; of course, McDonalds will always sell hamburgers and fries.  There also are many conversations across the county about the future of colleges/universities.  What changes will we need to make to our curriculum (our menu) and what programs do we need to develop to meet the needs of our future students and the needs of society?

I used the Lewis Carroll quote and the McDonald’s article to make the point about the importance of having a creative vision to ensure a strong future.  I have discussed the type of thinking in previous blogs that will help provide answers.   I remind you of Tim Hurson’s (2007) concept of “reproductive thinking” and “productive thinking” from my 2011 blog entitled, “A Penny for Your Thoughts”:

Reproductive thinking is seen when a question is asked and the conditioned response answers are given.  These are answers that may have been used in the past, ones that people grab onto quickly because they are comfortable or familiar (they worked in the past).  Unfortunately, while the problem may seemingly be “solved,” the familiar solution leads to the end of thinking and better approaches are never discovered.

Productive thinking comes after all of the conditioned response answers are given.  Tim writes about breaking deep-thinking sessions into thirds when seeking solutions to problems.  The first third usually contains reproductive thinking, the second third might have some good ideas in it, but the final third is where you find the gold.  Creative, out-of-the-box thinking only comes after reproductive thinking is out of the way.  Tim once said, “The questions from which you learn the most are the ones you don’t know the answers to.”

Tim Hurson also advocates using a process for proposing ideas, even if they seem impossible, without making any positive or negative judgments about them as they are being proposed; judgments shut down creative thinking.  Critical thinking about what gets proposed comes later.  Tim sent me his newest book last week that will be published this July.  He and his co-author, Tim Dunne, addressed the process of developing ideas by saying, “…don’t take the first right answer.  Wait until you’ve been able to generate lots of answers and then decide which one[s] might be the most useful” (p. 13).  I think it would be fascinating for everyone in various programs in our Division and for groups in the college to go through this process.

The answers to our future around program improvement and around the development of new programs and services are within everyone who works at and attends our college.  Margaret Wheatley said, “We need each other’s best thinking and most courageous experiments if we are to create a future worth wanting” (p. 99).  She also said, “…we can’t design anything that works without the involvement of all those it affects” (p. 110).   Some of our best thinking and answers have already been revealed in action plans that accompany the new Campus Plan, but there is more gold to be mined.  What questions did we not ask in when developing the Campus Plan and action plans that need answers?

Be assured, some things will not change drastically in the future.  Another interesting article I read recently was entitled, “Future economy: Many will lose jobs to computers” by John Shinal.  He said:

The jobs that will persist in the future include those that either take advantage of uniquely-human traits – such as manual dexterity, creativity and emotional intelligence – or that improve the lives of other humans directly in a face-to-face setting.

For example, dentists, nutritionists, athletic trainers, podiatrists, elementary school teachers and occupational, recreational and mental health therapists all have a less than 1 percent chance of being replaced by computer software, say Frey and Osborne (2013; click here for the paper; see the appendix).

We clearly have many professions within our Division that capitalize on improving people’s lives in face-to-face settings.  It seems imperative that we be the best at what we do in preparing students for helping professions; thus, there is always room for improvement.  The better we do our jobs, the better our graduates will be at providing service to others; our mission of preparing students for academic, professional and personal success will be achieved.

It is important to think creatively and to understand the most productive process for getting results from creative thinking.  It also is important to understand those things that will not change due to the necessity of face-to-face interactions, but can still be improved.  As we do this work together, the power of positive relationships cannot be underestimated in the overall context of creating a powerful, positive future.  In the spirit of Margaret Wheatley, as we look to the future, I know it is the strength of our relationships and the number, variety, and strength of our connections that will create a motivating and meaningful present.

Bonus: Click here to watch Tim Hurson’s Ted Talk entitled, “The shock of the possible

Shared Values Highlighted in this blog: Broad-mindedness and Creativity

Carroll, L. (1865). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. London: MacMillan Publishing Co.

Frey, C.B. & Osborne, M. (2013). The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization?  Oxford, UK: Academic Publication.

Hurson, T. (2007). Think Better: An innovator’s guide to productive thinking. New York: McGraw Hill.

Hurson, T., & Donne, T. (July 2014). Never be closing: How to sell better without screwing your clients, your colleagues, or yourself. Taylor Fleming Portfolio/Penguin Group USA.

Image (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2014 from:  http://smart-decisions.net/articles/things-you-didnt-know-about-yourself-12-facts-about-your-creativity

Moskowitz, D. (2014, March 21). McDonald’s new menu item hints at new strategy. USA Today. Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/03/21/mcdonalds-new-menu-item/6705499/

Shinal, J. (2014, March 21). Future economy: Many will lose jobs to computers. USA Today. Retrieved from: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/2014/03/21/software-tech-economy-work/6707457/

Wheatley, M.J. (2005). Finding our way: Leadership for and uncertain time. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.