Although they didn’t create it (for which one cred point has therefore been deducted), The Chartered Institute of Public Relations recently shared 33 Ways To Stay Creative on Facebook. As one or two of you are possibly not on Facebook, here’s a link where you’ll be able to view a copy. As lists go, this one has been about a bit – a way to stay creative in its own right, but I potentially digress. A few digital archeologists have now been on the case, and the original source seems to have been a shorter version – with rather more ‘creative’ use of typography – on the Life on Michigan Avenue Tumblr blog. Maybe less is more?

I might be being grumpy today: it’s not impossible. But doing my own Googling to track down where the idea first took off, I found endless versions where the people posting it were contributing by offering us such shattering insights as “that’s really cool”, or “that’s lovely, I’m gonna blu-tac that in my workspace”. Bless. I appreciate in this age of digitalism, social media and transient, ephemeral communication that cut’n’paste is the new black, dude, but if a list about staying creative generates a lot of people doing a half-arsed Patience Strong/Hallmark greeting card impersonation, isn’t that a little worrying?

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Although we read incessantly that social networks and anytime media are bringing sharing to the top of the agenda and people closer together, our experience doesn’t always chime in tune with the assertion. So it was interesting that three people here at ASK independently stumbled upon an article by Alexander Fliaster at People Management last week, and were interested enough to present each other printouts of it as ‘something I wondered if you’d seen’. (And yes, we do know we could email each other: I think we hit the print button and used some shoe leather as we were genuinely interested rather than wanting to pay it the digital passing glance of a ‘Like’ button or its ilk– an aspect of social media that Evgeny Morozov commented on in The Net Delusion, reviewed here recently.)

It probably also says a lot that we all recognised each other as people who would – as individuals – be particularly interested in the article, and in Fliaster’s comments. We’re not a project team, and there’s no pressing current project that is focused primarily on creativity: but we do have a culture that means we chat openly and widely, and understand what each other might be particularly interested in (or are curious about what a particular person’s reaction to something might be).

Our reaction to the article proved, in one way, part of its author’s point that:

The real engine of creativity and organisational success is to be found in internal networks of friendship and collaboration.”

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Elaine Explains - The Dame of DoughAs an organisation that could hardly get away with believing that learning is something that stops when you leave school or university, ASK is always proud and happy to support Adult Learners Week (as we did last year) – and to have fun while we’re about it. Recognising that everyone is always interested in making lots of dough, Elaine valiantly stepped up to the mark this morning and led a group of us into the kitchen to make lots of it!

When we say ‘making dough’, we do of course mean it absolutely literally. We might watch it through interlaced fingers, but ASK Towers is not The Apprentice. We mean dough as in bread – in the sense of the staff of life, and we take the opportunity to inject a little yeast into the life of staff while we’re at it. (Is that too many dough puns, or am I off the hook?)

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Pictures from an Exhibition - 1In November last year, I wrote about my contrasting reactions to the CIPD Annual Conference in Manchester and the HR Unconference in London. One conclusion that it was hard not to draw was to question quite what the CIPD Annual Conference was attempting to achieve, and whose benefit it was attempting to achieve it for. As I remarked at the time, footfall and attendance both seemed to the reasonably eagle-eyed attendee to be surprisingly low: it was difficult to avoid the suspicion that those paying handsomely for exhibition space might be questioning the wisdom of their investment.

While it was evident even before I arrived that the Learning Technologies 2011 & Learning and Skills 2011 event, held at London’s Olympia on 26-7 January 2011, was not going to be a small, informal, grassroots/bottom up even in the style of the Unconference, I’ll admit that I was interested to see just how busy the event would be. As it turned out, and as some of the photos illustrating this post demonstrate, it turned out to be very busy indeed.

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Can you remember what Christmas was like as a kid? I was discussing this with a colleague of mine recently. She has young children and was describing how one of them, in the run up to Christmas, uttered the immortal words:

“Mummy, why can’t every day be Christmas?”

I vaguely remember a feeling similar frustration at that age. It seemed nonsensical that we had to endure the interminably dull year from start to finish in order to enjoy Christmas, when we could have it every day if we wanted. After all, what was stopping us?

There is a certain utilitarian logic to this line of thinking: one that only kids can fully master and that, at one point or another, we all seem to lose.

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I emailed my real friends, but they were busy or washing their hair, so my partner and I queued behind a thousand teens blackberrying intently while they waited to buy tickets for Vampires Suck and Paranormal Activity 2. Despite having gone to the cinema with people, everyone around us was talking to someone who wasn’t there. Eventually, and appropriately, we waded through the fast food wrappers to see The Social Network, the story of Facebook. Or more accurately, mostly the story of the lawsuits that later erupted around those at Harvard during the time that ‘thefacebook.com’ first debuted and the rather messy years that followed.

Much has been made in comments on the film of the irony of a social network whose driving force is a man portrayed as so lacking in the social graces that lubricate and enable friendship. As much as been made of the film’s suggestion that Facebook was a response to getting dumped in a bar by an erstwhile girlfriend. (She gets the film’s best line in the process), with Mark Zuckerberg, the central figure, denying it while other websites dig a little deeper into what may or may not be the truth behind what actually happened. So this posting is a reaction to watching a film that may or may not be exactly what happened in Harvard and in California in 2004 – 6: that the film itself suggests that truth is a highly interpretable abstract concept is a comment worth slipping in at this point.

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I’ve shared office space with opera singers, sculptors, concert pianists, jewellery designers and a man fluent in seven languages, including Mandarin. None of the jobs I was in at the time was ‘creative’, and these specific skills may have been hard – languages aside – to call upon in company service, but recognizing and supporting ‘creativity’ in the workplace does seem to be a neglected issue. I first got reminded how much I dislike the work-oriented tendency to define ‘creativity’ as ‘problem-solving’ (with a heavy undertone of ‘cost saving’) a few weeks back by a post at one of our favourite blogs: HR Bartender.

Calling on a dictionary for moral support, Sharlyn Lauby reminded her readers that innovation is the introduction of a new idea, method etc., while creativity is the ability to produce through imaginative skills. Innovation may sometimes be brave, but in chronological terms innovation is the egg to creativity’s chicken. While the sceptics can offer their own ‘curate’ jokes at this point, let’s be clear: eggs don’t lay themselves. And in this particular metaphorical farmyard, you hire the chickens. (Whether you find “Q: Who came first? – A: The recruitment consultant” funny or not is your own affair, ok?)

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