Category Archives: UNL / Creativity and Expertise

Recognized Creativity, like Domain Knowledge or Motivation, should be a target for improvement in all learners

One of the chief avowed objectives of modern education is the encouragement of creativity, originality, inventiveness, ingenuity, innovation, new ideas, novel solutions, and fresh approaches to all problems, all directed toward “socially useful” ends.

John Stanley, The Riddle of Creativity, 1956

Csikszentmihalyi (1996) describes three meanings of “creativity.” The first of these, “brilliance,” is the capacity to be an engaging and interesting person. The second of these, “personality creativity,” refers to the ability to think and respond in novel ways. The third of these, “creativity without qualification,” relies on the social context of the field and a domain. Unfortunately, all forms of creativity described by Csikzentmihalyi contain problems that make them difficult for understanding how creativity varies in the population These forms of creativity has since been joined by what may be called recognized creativity, a form of creativity that may exist in all learners and varies in the population. Such a definition of recognized creativity allows for an consistent method for measuring creativity and presents a way of building creativity in all learners.

Csikszentmihalyi describes the first use of the term creativity to reference persons who express unusual thoughts, who are interesting and stimulating – in short, people who appear to be unusually bright” (p. 25). Thus, an individual whose conversational ability attracts a measurable crowd at a cocktail party might be creative in this use of the term. However, Csikszentmihalyi writes that “Unless they also contribute something of permanent significance, I refer to people of this sort as brilliant rather than creative..” Likewise, in this use, a professor’s brilliance may vary in terms of the number of students taking her seminar, but this is not a reflection of a professor’s creativity.

The second use of creativity described by Csikzentmihalyi references persons “who experience the world in novel and original ways” (p. 25). Using the term “personally creative,” Csikzentmihalyi associates this use with divergent thinking.” Personal creativity is under an individual’s control, and may be improved through changing one’s habits. His suggestions for becoming more personally creative “Produce as many ideas as possible” (p. 368), “Have as many different ideas as possible” (p. 369), and “Try to produce unlikely ideas” (p. 369) evoke the Torrance nearly half-century work on creativity (Torrance, 2001).

Csikszentmihalyi’s third use, and the one he dedicates most of his book to, “designates individuals who, like Leonardo, Edison, Picasso, or Einstein, have changed our culture in some important aspect” (p. 26-27). Csikszentmihalyi refers to these individuals are “the creative ones without qualification” (p. 26), and also to this form of creativity as “creativity with a capital C” (p. 27). This unqualified creativity occurs in the interrelation of three parts: the domain or “the set of symbols and procedures” (p. 27), the field or “all individuals who act as gatekeeprs to the domain” (p. 28) and the individual. Unqualified individuals belongs to a few individuals, so those who do not change our culture in some important aspect are by definition not unqualifiedly creative.

All of the uses of the term “creativity” identified by Csikszentmihalyi possess advantages as well as flaws. The concept of unqualified creativity is powerful because it emphasizes the role of the domain, the field, and the person all determining an individual’s creativity. However, most people do not possess unqualified creativity, and thus it cannot be steadily improved among most people as can other subjects studied by educational psychologists. Likewise, divergent thinking is easily measurably and may help contribute to unqualified creativity. However, the measure is a predictor, not a measure, of an individual’s success with the field of a domain, so does not have the external validity of unqualified creativity. Finally, individual brilliance likewise may involve neither changing our culture in some important aspect, nor experiencing the world in novel ways, but still meet with success against a field of a domain: say, a tenure committee that uses students in a seminar as a measure of an assistant professor’s ability to contribute to the their domain as an educator.

Fortunately, another method of describing creativity solves these problems. The works in this new way of studying creativity often do not distinguish this style of creativity than others, but I will refer to it as “recognized creativity.” This concept has been defined by Pucker and colleagues (in press) as “the interplay between ability and process by which an individual or group produces an outcome or product that is both novel and useful and defined within some social context” (as cited by Plucker & Beghetto, ), the generation of novel and useful outcomes in a domain (Tierney & Farmer, 2002), and “the generation of novel or original ideas that are useful for relevant,” (Choi, 2004, p.188). This definition encompasses what is met by all three forms of creativity identified by Csikszentmihalyi. Brilliant people are those that are able to produce conversation that is novel and useful for a party, while the “big-C creative” are able to do so on a scale that changes our culture. Individual creativity remains a predictor of recognized creativity, an important factor in person’s contribution to the domain-field-person interaction that decides whether someone is creative or not.

An advantage of defining recognized creativity as the contribution of useful products to the field of a domain is that it allows for a consistent way of measuring recognized creativity. Once a researcher has defined a domain, a field, then all that is left is operationalizing a measurement of a field’s acceptance of an individual. Consider recognized creativity among researchers, for example. In that case, one defines the domain as a academic specialty, such as psychology, the field as the researcher’s peers, and then operationalize the field of the domain’s acceptance of a researcher by the number of journal articles accepted, or the number of citations these articles have received. For the domain of blogging, likewise, one may define the field as other bloggers, and the measure creativity as the product of the number of links an individual’s blog receives and the average recognized creativity of those blogs.

Perhaps the first reference to a “general factor of creativity” appeared half a century ago (Stanley, 1956, p. 79). Torrance’s research career on divergent thinking, and Csikszentmihalyi’s concern for improving the ability to generate new ideas, are part of this tradition. A general factor of creativity is no doubt an important predictor of creative success in life, just as the general factor of intelligence is no doubt an important predictor of general success in life. However, as educational psychologists, it is our to make the education of learners of all abilities successful. Thus, with respect to education and memory, we study general ability, but focus on changing domain knowledge and motivation. Likewise, with respect to creativity, personal creativity is important in so far as it predicts the generation of new and useful outcomes for some social context. Increased recognized creativity, no less than increased domain knowledge or motivation, is a worthwhile outcome for educational psychologists to study. I hope they do so soon.

Bibliography

Choi, J.N. (2004). Individual and contextual predictors of creative performance: The mediating role of psychological processes. Creativity Research Journal, 16(2 & 3), 187-199.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Plucker, J.A., & Beghetto, R.A. (2004). Why creativity is domain general, why it looks domain specific, and why the distinction does not matter. In R. J. Sternberg, E. L. Grigorenko, Eds., Creativity: From potential to realization. Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association.

Plucker, J.A., Beghetto, R.A., & Dow, G.T. (2006) Why isn’t creativity more important to educational psychologists? Potential, pitfalls, and future directions in creativity research. Educational Psychologist, 39(2), 83-96.

Stanley, J.C. (1956). The riddle of creativity. Peabody Journal of Education, 34(2), 79-81.

Tierney, P. & Farmer, S.M.. (2002). Creative self-efficacy: Its potential antecedents and relationship to creative performance. Academy of Management Journal, 45(6), 1137-1148.”

Torrance, E.P. (2001). Manifesto: A guide for developing a creative career. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Survey closed (Now for some words on Creativity and the OODA loop)

Thanks to all who participated in the recent study on creativity and blogging.

The pseudo-experiment was part of my larger study of the OODA loop applied to education, in this case to creativity.

I have only started to analyze the data. Before I launched this survey, I assumed that affective “gut” attitudes would be a better predictor than cognitive “thoughtful” attitudes, with respect to blogging. I also assumed that behaviors that signify purposeful practice on blogging would be directly related to recognition as a blogger, as measured through Technorati rank. Both these findings appear to be supported by the data.

As part of my dissertation proposal, I will suggest a second, larger test (using a different sample pool), to provide further support.

Over the next few days and weeks, I will post more description and analysis of the data. Eventually what I write here will find its way into my dissertation proposal (hopefully!). But for now,

Thank you.

You made this possible.

Coming Anarchy 11, Conclusion

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

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As we have shown in the results and discussion section above, the eight commonalities noted among our subjects do seem to center around our three general themes. Evidence of bloggers being “creative persons” can be drawn from the first four factors presented: how they identified themselves with their domain, how they dealt with limitations and failures, their obsession with blogging, and the sacrifices they were willing to make. Also, evidence of bloggers being “creative collaborators” can be drawn from the next two factors presented: a combination of humility and pride, and the impact of geography on their work. Finally, evidence of bloggers having “creative domains” can be drawn from the last two factors presented: recognition for their work, and their ability to “find a gap” in the world of blogging and fill it.

By doing our research project we were able to find that identity, meaning how you see yourself, doesn’t necessarily matter in the quest to become a creative, talented, and expert blogger. However, personal characteristics and qualities do make a difference, as well as, the fact that blogging is a creative domain. So what does all of this mean to people who are striving to be creative? First, the bottom line is to not get hung up on everything that comes along. Everyone fails, it’s how you frame that failure that determines whether you really learn from your mistakes. Second, you have to work hard, very, very hard. All of the subjects in our study worked extremely hard, became obsessed, and sacrificed many things to get to where they are today. Finally, you can’t just work hard with a scattershot approach to doing things. All of the subjects in our study were very focused and goal-oriented. They knew where they wanted to go when they put their energy into something. So you can’t just work hard without a plan, you have to work hard at some thing.

One of the limitations of our study was the fact that we only chose subjects one of us already knew, because he knew they would be able to be help us complete our study in the allotted time frame. Future researchers may want to employ a more rigorous selection process when choosing subjects for a “deeper” study. Another limitation was that the sample size for our study was limited to three subjects. Future researchers may want to try to increase the number of subjects studied in order to obtain a “broader” study. With regards to the identity research, future researchers may want to take a look at alternate explanations for incoherency of identities in this study. Perhaps future researchers need to use other methods and tools, besides self-reporting, to determine identity.


Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion

Coming Anarchy 10, The Gap

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

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Finding a Gap

“You cannot transform a domain unless you first thoroughly understand how it works (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”
As stated in the section above, in order to continue the important work of a particular domain one must be able to find the areas which need attention and further exploration. However as we learned in class, in order to do this you must first know everything you can about the current domain in which you hope to make a contribution. This is probably why it takes so long to become recognized as an expert in a field, as well as the general applicability of the 10-year rule of thumb. Once you have mastered the domain, you are then ready to make the necessary changes to it. However, you need to be able to see where those changes need to be made, and how you can contribute to your domain. As it was put so eloquently by someone in class, “you must first master the domain, and then set it aside.”

Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):

Without being asked a direct question about how they find a gap in the domain to fill, the following answers were given within the context of answering other, unrelated questions:
Chirol: “Any blogger can read an activist site or CNN on the West Bank, but when I visited there for example and provided not only unique pictures but also on the ground input, that’s quality…”
Curzon: “We’d like to add someone else who can cover every corner of the globe from a non-partisan realistic point of view, but have a focus of expertise in a particular region, either India, Africa, or Latin America. In addition, we’d like this person be a native English speaker, but also speak at least one foreign language; have extensive travel experience; time lived overbroad; at [a] minimum a mild appreciation of Robert D. Kaplan’s work; and several months of blogging experience. We have yet to find that person, but we’re still looking.”
Younghusband: “Try making a website in the 21st century that is supposed to communicate Victorian era colonialism.”

Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):

Each subject emphasized a personal accomplishment as leading to something that improves the domain with minimal prompting. Such statements require knowledge of the domain and areas where the domain is lacking. Specifics ranged from travel (Chirol), to philosophy (Curzon), to communication design (Younghusband).

Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):

“A musician must learn the musical tradition, the notation system, the way instruments are played before she can think of writing a new song; before an inventor can improve on airplane design he has to learn physics, aerodynamics, and why birds don’t fall out of the sky (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”
“[Individuals must decide] whether to invest in the perfection of domain practices or attempt to overthrow them (Gardner, 1997).”

Nagging Questions (Regulate):

Where is the boundary between mimicking the experts in a field and determining where they are lacking and then moving into those uncharted territories? Might creative people develop an “explicit theory of the domain” before one of themselves? Therefore, should future researchers look there first?


Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion

Coming Anarchy 9, Recognition

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

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Recognition

“[In order to be recognized as creative or an expert in your field, you must express your idea] in terms that are understandable to others, it must pass muster with the experts in the field, and finally it must be included in the cultural domain to which it belongs (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”
We feel that the factors of recognition in the domain and of finding a gap in the domain (which we will discuss in the next section), seem to be at opposite extremes on the continuum of judging in a domain. For example, to be recognized as an expert or creative person in your field, you first must impress the current group of experts in the field (the “judges”), who will then reward you with proper recognition if your contribution is seen as valuable. However, to continue to contribute to your chosen domain, eventually you must be able to critically evaluate the work of what other experts in the field have done and find a gap in the domain that can be filled by your contributions (i.e. you are now “judging” the contributions of others). It is quite amazing how similar these two factors are, and yet different at the same time.

Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):

When asked the question, “Have you ever been recognized for any your work on the blog?” the following answers were elicited:
Chirol: “Not personally no. However, awards are mostly just a popularity contest and don’t reflect the quality of what you do… A few years ago, I could have never imagined that I’d be able to share my ideas with some of the brightest minds of today. For example, I’ve written a number of posts dealing with PNM Theory and the author of the two books on it, Thomas Barnett, has linked to my posts a number of times also adding information.”
Curzon: “2-4,000 readers a day… We’ve shown up on MSNBC and C-SPAN once each. Slate.com linked to us twice, Instapundit once…”
When asked the question, “Has it [the graphic design] ever been recognized by peers or other media?” the following answer was elicited:
Younghusband: “It [the graphic design] has been nominated for a few things [awards]. We haven’t won, but the competition was pretty stiff. I was really happy with that, plus we get all kinds of positive comments.”

Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):

Similar to identity and failure, each subject noted different parts of recognition. Recognitions range from entirely expert-based (Chirol), to expert and audience based (Curzon), to mostly audience based (Younghusband). It is interesting that none of them volunteered each other as a source of recognition, as one would think that the opinions of other experts in your field would be highly valued to an individual trying to make their contribution to that domain.

Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):

“When demand rose for abstract expressionist paintings of a certain vintage, Sharpinsky’s work suddenly became valued; it was not the works that had changed, but rather the requirements of the broader society (Gardner, 1997).”
“The greatness of a work is not intrinsic to it, and is independent of the creator, except in a case where an individual tailors a work to satisfy some audience. To become great, a work must be judged positively by those within the field (Weisberg, 1993).”

Nagging Questions (Regulate):

Does the source of recognition change as one becomes more creative, expert, and talented? Does judgment become exclusively internal, or more tuned to either experts or the audience? How does this relate to implicit and explicit theories of self? Perhaps creative people develop an explicit theory of themselves later on in life, so our sample pool’s youth may be throwing off our results?


Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion

Coming Anarchy 8, Geography

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

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Geography

“There is a lively sense of activity that draws talented individuals to the center of the culture, arrays them in cooperation but also in competition, and supports the most evidently talented (Gardner, 1997).”
In class, we talked about how creative people seem to flock to the institutions or areas where their skills are appreciated and can be improved upon. This is probably why there is such a great concentration of chess players in New York, and why certain universities seem to draw only the best faculty in a particular area together. It is this need for constant contact with mentors and others who can help improve your skills in the domain you are interested in (e.g. highly skilled opponents for chess players) that seems to drive this phenomenon. However, as we will show below, technology is rapidly changing people’s availability to be in constant contact with others in their domain, without necessarily being geographically located together.

Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):

Without being asked a direct question about how geography affected them, the following answers were given within the context of answering other, unrelated questions:
Chirol: “Though I’m from a medium-sized city, I’ve still found it hard to find good company… I rarely have anyone to turn to. Thus the Internet has become my primary means of doing so.”
Curzon: “The Internet makes this far easier in today’s world. I can login from Tokyo and blog about anything from security affairs in South Korea to Nigeria’s oil wealth and receive feedback from people all over the world who have similar interests.”
Younghusband: “I go to a military college. All my school mates are involved in politics and the military.”

Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):

The ability to be around other creative people is very important, but technology is changing the definition and feeling of what “around” means. Only one of the subjects considers himself physically near to other experts in similar domains (Younghusband). However, all feel that they are extremely connected to others when they are working on the Internet.

Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):

“The great centers of learning and commerce have always acted as magnets for ambitious individuals who wanted to leave their mark on the culture (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”
“[Michael Pressley stated that:] When I went to Minnesota I spent a couple of years with John Flavell and then I spent time at Wisconsin with Joel Levin. My first job at Cal State Fullerton, I became good friends with Art Graser. Then I went to Western Ontario with Allan Pavio… (Kiewra, et al. Conversations with three highly productive educational psychologists).”

Nagging Questions (Regulate):

Two of the subjects said that earlier geographic deprivations led them to their field (i.e. the fact that they were deprived of a common language or access to other highly intelligent people led them to the Internet and blogging). Does this mean that being in a “creative” place early would make people more complacent, and thus less creative? Is this (meaning coming from isolated places) the flip side of a finding from Developing Talent in Young People, which found that talented youth moved towards creative places?


Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion

Coming Anarchy 7, Humility

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

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Humility and Pride

“Some individuals stress humility, others self-assurance, but in actuality all of the people we interviewed seemed to have a good dose of both (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”
We thought that this dichotomy was especially interesting as it pertained to the people we studied in class. Many of the people were very humble, which one might not expect given their enormous success and obvious superiority. Yet, you still got the sense that they knew they were the best, and they enjoyed all of the recognition and attention they were getting. It is just amazing that creative people are able to harness the benefits of both humility and pride in the proper setting. In society today, it seems that many people only exhibit one of these traits most all of the time, whether or not it is appropriate. For example, the huge egos (pride) of professional athletes that forget they are playing only as part a team and should therefore maybe be a little more humble about their contribution.

Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):

When asked the question, “How would you describe yourself to yourself?” the following answers were elicited:
Chirol: “[I’m] someone who perhaps doesn’t understand perhaps a great deal, which is why I read so much. For Example, one thing I seem to be lacking is an ability to be offended. … Thus, I check the news every morning, afternoons if I’m home and always in the evening. I’m the person you don’t want to say “Did you hear that…” to, because I already read it and will know more about it than you.”
Curzon: “On the outside, I’m extroverted and arrogant. On the inside, I’m ambitious. I am good at making friends with people regardless of their age; I find it hard to focus on details — I’m a big-picture guy…”
Younghusband: “I think I am the worst of the 3 on our site… [The graphic design], it is 100% because of me.”

Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):

It is amazing how both extremes of the dichotomy came out in such a short interview. “Moderate” comments were not so notable (i.e. no one came out and said, “I am average”). Humility and pride is the area where the answers between subjects were the most similar. Any future attempts to determine how identity and creativity interact may want to start from here first.

Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):

“Creative individuals are remarkably humble and proud at the same time (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”
“No matter how modest these individuals are, they know that in comparison with others they have accomplished a great deal (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”

Nagging Questions (Regulate):

Perhaps because of the prominence of “flow” in creativity, might creative people be less likely to have an “explicit theory of self” because their metacognition is weaker? Might the fact that on occasion our subjects were very humble be the reason why more of them didn’t feel that their work in the domain identified them?


Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion

Coming Anarchy 6, Sacrifices

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

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Sacrifices

“It is not uncommon for such extraordinary individuals to be personally unhappy, to undergo breakdowns, to feel suicidal, and to become estranged from close associates, who in turn may feel that their lives have been ruined (Gardner, 1997).”
As mentioned in the obsession part above, many times great sacrifices were needed in order to achieve the great feats that many creative and successful people achieved. Sometimes they were acutely aware of the personal sacrifices, but somehow thought that they were worth it to push their domain forward. At other times, it seemed that some of the people we studied in class were oblivious to the sacrifices their families (and other children, in the case of the chess study) were making to support their passion.

Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):

When asked the question, “Do you find you have to sacrifice something else to continue your work on your blog?” the following answers were elicited:
Chirol: “Sometimes ‘real things’ suffer because I’ve spent too much time researching or writing”
Younghusband: “Yes of course school work… wife time… exercise.”
When asked the question, “What sort of things do you give up to blog?” the following answer was elicited:
Curzon: “Time with my loved ones; drinking with friends; work; study; exercise.”

Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):

Again we see that great work in a domain requires one to minimize time with loved ones and friends. You might even stretch your imagination a little, and wonder if working in certain domains, such as weblogging, might even require physical risk (e.g., less exercise could lead to poor physical health). Again, we see a basic similarity, with real differences. Two subjects (Curzon and Younghusband) gave unequivocal answers, while the other (Chirol) qualified his. It just goes to show us that creative people are not clones of each other.

Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):

“The extraordinary amount of time we put toward this one activity takes him out of a lot of fun and games. The kid gives up an enormous amount to dedicate himself to the sport the way he does (Kiewra, et al. Developing young chess masters: A collective case study).”
“The openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering and pain. Being alone at the forefront of a discipline also makes you exposed and vulnerable. Eminence invites criticism and often vicious attacks (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”

Nagging Questions (Regulate):

To what extent may self-reporting of things suffering be a function of heightened sensitivity of creative people? Which makes one wonder if perhaps self-reporting is a flawed mechanism for determining identity (contra Moshman), and it is up to psychologists to infer an “implicit theory of self?” In addition, the seemingly strong relationship between obsession and sacrificing comes to mind again. Do people sacrifice the things they love to do because they are obsessed with their domain, or do people obsess over their domain because they realize how much they how sacrificed in the past?


Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion

Coming Anarchy 4, Failure

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

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Limitations and Failure

“Every day each individual encounters some experiences that go well and some that don’t (Gardner, 1997).”
During our many class discussions and readings from the literature in this course, we kept coming upon this recurring notion that even the most creative and expert people which we studied failed at many points in their lives. However, what set them apart from “ordinary” people was this idea that they were able to frame their failure appropriately and learn from their mistakes (i.e. leverage it for future benefits). It wasn’t necessarily detrimental to their lives or professions, if they could just find some good or a lesson to be learned from it. In effect, we learned that it wasn’t that successful people failed less than us normal folks (in fact it was usually quite the opposite), but that they were able to learn something from everything that happened, instead of getting down on themselves or depressed about their abilities.

Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):

When asked the question, “What do you do when you fail?” the following answers were elicited:
Chirol: “Missing something blatant is downright embarrassing and naturally happens sometimes, however not seeing a connection between two events can also be helpful. While it may bruise my ego a little, I can ask myself why I’ve missed it? Not my area? Not enough time spent researching the topic? Not paying attention? With that, I can learn from my mistake and help to increase my perspective so to say. I try to use my mistakes to develop a kind of method to use when looking at things. Steps I can go through or questions I can ask myself to help ensure I don’t miss something.”
Curzon: “Learn from the experience. There’s nothing wrong with failing — that’s how you learn. A life without failures would be a pretty boring one.”
Younghusband: “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):

We hear again and again that failure is inevitable. However, failure does not imply personal worthlessness. It is interesting that their opinions range from interrogating failure (Chirol), to brushing it off (Curzon), to embracing it (Younghusband). So beneath the general agreement that failure is going to happen, there are substantial differences as to how you should deal with it (i.e. how you should frame the failure to be able to leverage it in the future).

Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):

“[Creative people have the] capacity to identify one’s deviance and to convert it into a competitive advantage … the capacity to construe experiences in a way that is positive, in a way that allows one to draw apt lessons and … proceed with one’s life (Gardner, 1997).”
“No matter how hard most psychologists work, they will not attain the eminence of a Herbert Simon. Most physicists will not become Einstein (Ericsson, 1996).”’

Nagging Questions (Regulate):

Are the different approaches to failure – the different ways it is embraced – further proof that there is no specific creative identity, or is the “essential” similarity good enough? Is there perhaps a specific class of creative identities?


Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion

Coming Anarchy 5, Obsession

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

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Obsession

“If he didn’t have to go to school and you would deliver his meals to his room, he would stay in there all day (Kiewra, et al. Developing young chess masters: A collective case study).”
This quote is a perfect way to describe how we learned highly creative, talented, and expert individuals felt about their domain. They were enthralled with it. They were consumed by it. It was an overriding sense of wanting to have your hands into it at all times. In a way this obsession was a good thing, because it helped to keep them motivated (usually, way past the point that most ordinary people would have stopped). However, this obsession was also a downside. Many times the obsession with their domain required enormous amounts of personal sacrifice and time alone.

Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):

When asked the question, “In general, how much time do you spend online purposefully, and how much not on purpose?” the following answer was elicited:
Chirol: “Most of my time is spent consuming information. I rarely download music and never movies. I also don’t play games or visit chat rooms and the like.”
When asked the questions, “Is it difficult or easy for you to take a break from writing?” and “Does your blogging take away from other things you would like to do?” the following answer was elicited:
Curzon: “Very difficult. Not writing is, to wit, like keeping the lid on a boiling pot of water… I know some people in Japan who acknowledge that smoking is bad for them, but defend their habit by saying the stress they’d suffer if they didn’t smoke makes it worth it. The same is true for me and blogging.”
When asked the questions, “Is it possible to practice in your media in other ways other than being on the computer?” and “How often do you do practice in those ways?” the following answer was elicited:
Younghusband: “Well, reading voraciously helps… whether on or offline, writing is one way to practice, but more importantly is critical thinking. I draw lots of little diagrams and look at maps a lot and think about stuff while walking and talking so discussion is a way of practice… all the time.”

Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):

We see that their work in the domain is seen as an overriding work task. There appears to be purposeful practice either “most” or “all” of the time, and it is also very hard to stop. However, there are still differences in their perceptions. Notice that only one of them implied that stopping is painful (Curzon).

Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):

“Individuals who produce world-class work are totally absorbed in their careers (Weisberg, 1993).”
“[Creative individuals] work long hours, with great concentration… (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”
“He is passionate about it … just thrilled by it … We once took chess away and he was miserable, it was like yanking the soul out (Kiewra, et al. Developing young chess masters: A collective case study).”

Nagging Questions (Regulate):

Is the spread of identities – how much they differ relative to their essential similarity – of these creative subjects similar to the spread of identities of drug users? Both our creative subjects and drug users find that their lives seem to have been taken over by some “thing.” While we realize full well that this comparison is superficial, it is none the less quite interesting if you stop to ponder about it for a moment. Finally, how is obsession associated with our next factor, sacrifices the subjects make in order to become the most creative and talented bloggers? Do they sacrifice the things they like to do simply because they are obsessed with blogging?


Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion