Tag Archives: creative problem solving

Can You Ever Be a Truly Independent Thinker?

Can You Ever Be a Truly Independent Thinker?

GUEST POST from Tom Stafford, University of Sheffield

‘It’s important to me that I make my own decisions, but I often wonder how much they are actually influenced by cultural and societal norms, by advertising, the media and those around me. We all feel the need to fit in, but does this prevent us from making decisions for ourselves? In short, can I ever be a truly free thinker?’ Richard, Yorkshire.

There’s good news and bad news on this one. In his poem Invictus, William Ernest Henley wrote: “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

While being the lone “captain of your soul” is a reassuring idea, the truth is rather more nuanced. The reality is that we are social beings driven by a profound need to fit in – and as a consequence, we are all hugely influenced by cultural norms.

But to get to the specifics of your question, advertising, at least, may not influence you as much as you imagine. Both advertisers and the critics of advertising like us to think that ads can make us dance any way they want, especially now everything is digital and personalised ad targeting is possible in a way it never was before.


This article is part of Life’s Big Questions

The Conversation’s new series, co-published with BBC Future, seeks to answer our readers’ nagging questions about life, love, death and the universe. We work with professional researchers who have dedicated their lives to uncovering new perspectives on the questions that shape our lives.


In reality, there is no precise science of advertising. Most new products fail, despite the advertising they receive. And even when sales go up, nobody is exactly sure of the role advertising played. As the marketing pioneer John Wanamaker said:

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.

You’d expect advertisers to exaggerate the effectiveness of advertising, and scholars of advertising have typically made more modest claims. Even these, though, may be overestimates. Recent studies have claimed that both online and offline, the methods commonly used to study advertising effectiveness vastly exaggerate the power of advertising to change our beliefs and behaviour.

This has led some to claim that not just half, but perhaps nearly all advertising money is wasted, at least online.

When the ads don’t work…
Shutterstock

There are similar results outside of commerce. One review of field experiments in political campaigning argued “the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero”. Zero!

In other words, although we like to blame the media for how people vote, it is surprisingly hard to find solid evidence of when and how people are swayed by the media. One professor of political science, Kenneth Newton, went so far as to claim “It’s Not the Media, Stupid”.

But although advertising is a weak force, and although hard evidence on how the media influences specific choices is elusive, every one of us is undoubtedly influenced by the culture in which we live.

Followers of fashion

Fashions exist both for superficial things, such as buying clothes and opting for a particular hairstyle, but also for more profound behaviour like murder and even suicide. Indeed, we all borrow so much from those we grow up around, and those around us now, that it seems impossible to put a clear line between our individual selves and the selves society forges for us.

Two examples: I don’t have any facial tattoos, and I don’t want any. If I wanted a facial tattoo my family would think I’d gone mad. But if I was born in some cultures, where these tattoos were common and conveyed high status, such as traditional Māori culture, people would think I was unusual if I didn’t want facial tattoos.

Similarly, if I had been born a Viking, I can assume that my highest ambition would have been to die in battle, axe or sword in hand. In their belief system, after all, that was surest way to Valhalla and a glorious afterlife. Instead, I am a liberal academic whose highest ambition is to die peacefully in bed, a long way away from any bloodshed. Promises of Valhalla have no influence over me.

Vikings had different beliefs to most modern liberal academics.
Shutterstock

Ultimately, I’d argue that all of our desires are patterned by the culture we happen to be born in.

But it gets worse. Even if we could somehow free ourselves from cultural expectations, other forces impinge on our thoughts. Your genes can affect your personality and so they must also, indirectly, have a knock-on effect on your beliefs.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, famously talked about the influence of parents and upbringing on behaviour, and he probably wasn’t 100% wrong. Even just psychologically, how can you ever think freely, separate from the twin influences of prior experience and other people?

From this perspective, all of our behaviours and our desires are profoundly influenced by outside forces. But does this mean they aren’t also our own?

The answer to this dilemma, I think, is not to free yourself from outside influences. This is impossible. Instead, you should see yourself and your ideas as the intersection of all the forces that come to play on you.

Some of these are shared – like our culture – and some are unique to you – your unique experience, your unique history and biology. Being a free thinker, from this perspective, means working out exactly what makes sense to you, from where you are now.

You can’t – and shouldn’t – ignore outside influences, but the good news is that these influences are not some kind of overwhelming force. All the evidence is compatible with the view that each of us, choice by choice, belief by belief, can make reasonable decisions for ourselves, not unshackled from the influences of others and the past, but free to chart our own unique paths forward into the future.

After all, the captain of a ship doesn’t sail while ignoring the wind – sometimes they go with it, sometimes against it, but they always account for it. Similarly, we think and make our choices in the context of all our circumstances, not by ignoring them.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image Credits: Pixabay, Shutterstock (via theconversation)

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Bring Newness to Corporate Learning with Gamification

Bring Newness to Corporate Learning with Gamification

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

I was first introduced to gamification upon meeting Mario Herger, in 2012, when he was a Senior Innovation Strategist at SAP Labs LLC, in Israel, as a participant in his two-day gamification workshop for Checkpoint Security Software. It was an exciting and exhilarating journey into the playful and innovative world of gamification pioneers such as Farmville, Angry Birds, and BetterWorks. Creatively exploiting the convergence of trends catalyzed by the expansion of the internet, and by the fast pace of exponential technology development making gamification accessible to everyone.

Propelled further by people’s increasing desire to socialize and share ideas and knowledge across the globe. Coupled with their desire to learn and connect in a high-tech world, to be met in ways that also satisfied their aspirational, motivational, and recreational needs, as well as being playful and fun.

The whole notion of making gamification accessible to corporate learning simmered in my mind, for the next ten years, and this is what I have since discovered.

Evolution of the gamification market

In 2012 Gartner predicted that – Gamification combined with other technologies and trends, gamification would cause major discontinuities in innovation, employee performance management, education, personal development, and customer engagement. Further claiming that by 2014, 80% of organizations will have gamified at least one area of their business.

It seems their prediction did not eventuate.

In their Gamification 2020 report, Gartner then predicted that gamification, combined with other emerging trends and technologies, will have a significant impact on:

  • Innovation
  • The design of employee performance
  • The globalization of higher education
  • The emergence of customer engagement platforms
  • Gamification of personal development.

It seems this prediction is now an idea whose time has come!

According to Mordor Intelligence – The global gamification market was valued at USD 10.19 million in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 38.42 million by 2026 and grow at a CAGR of 25.10% over the forecast period (2021 – 2026). The exponential growth in the number of smartphones and mobile devices has directly created a vast base for the gamification market.

This growth is also supported by the increasing recognition of making gamification accessible as a methodology to redesign human behavior, in order to induce innovation, productivity, or engagement.

Purpose of gamification

The initial purpose of gamification was to add game mechanics into non-game environments, such as a website, online communities, learning management systems, or business intranets to increase engagement and participation.

The initial goal of gamification was to engage with consumers, employees, and partners to inspire collaboration, sharing, and interaction.

Gamification and corporate learning

The last two years of the coronavirus pandemic caused many industries to deal with their audiences remotely and combined with an urgent need for having the right technologies and tools to:

  • Reach out to, and connect with, both their employees and customers, in new ways

Acknowledging the range of constraints and restrictions occurring globally we have an opportunity to couple these with the challenges, disconnectedness, isolation, and limitations of our remote and hybrid workplaces.

While many of us are seeking more freedom, fun, play, and adventure, yet, we are still mostly bound to our laptops, TVs, and kitchens, and locked up within the boundaries of our homes, local neighborhoods, and hometowns.

  • Expanding knowledge, mindsets, behaviors, and skills

At the same time, this period has also created incredible opportunities for expanding our knowledge, and developing new mindsets, behaviors, and skills!

In different ways to help teams and organizations adapt, innovate, and grow through gamification, which increases our adaptability to flow and flourish and drive transformation, within a constantly, exponentially changing, and disruptive workplace.

Benefits of a gamified approach

Companies that have focused on making gamification accessible within their learning programs are reaping the rewards, as recent studies revealed:

  • The use of mobile applications gamified individually or as a complement to an LMS or e-learning platform has been shown to improve employee productivity by 50% and commitment by 60%.
  • That 97% of employees over the age of 45 believe that gamification would help improve work.
  • That 85% of employees are willing to spend more time on training programs with gamified dynamics.

Gamification is finally at an inflection point

The shift from face-to-face and live events to online created an opening for improving the quality of coaching, learning, and training experiences in ways that align with the client’s or organization needs and strategic business goals.

Keeping people and teams connected, engaged, and motivated in the virtual and hybrid workplace for extended periods of time is a key factor in business success.

Atrivity is a platform that empowers employees and channels to learn, develop, and perform better through games have identified eight trends influencing the growth and adoption of gamification including:

  • Gamification for Digital Events are here to stay, people are time and resource-poor, and will more likely attend a digital event rather than invest time and resources in travelling.
  • Gamification for Millennials and gen-Z is their new normal, being a generation who have grown up with, and become habitually attuned to Facebook and Instagram.
  • The start of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is speeding up and offers new creative approaches.
  • Remote onboarding becomes standard as we all adapt to a globalized and diversified work environment.
  • Gamification helps to reduce hospital strains with emerging telehealth innovations.
  • Customization of, and access to contents allows us to visit museums, galleries, libraries virtually
  • Knowledge evaluation metrics have become common proactive through the use of app-based dashboards and scorecards that provide gamified reward and recognition processes
  • Gamification is an Enterprise “must-have” tactic to attract and retain talent.

Corporate learning is also finally at an inflection point

Innovative new organizations like Roundtable Learning focus on co-creating one-of-a-kind training programs that utilize innovative technologies, reflect the client’s brand, and show measurable business results by enhancing traditional corporate learning practices and embracing more interactive, engaging programs.

This is what ImagineNation™ is collaborating with Binnakle Serious Games to bring newness, creativity and play, experimentation, and learning in gamified ways to enable people and teams to innovate, by making gamification accessible to everyone!

We have integrated technology and co-created a range of blended learning solutions:

  • Digital and gamified learning experiences for groups and teams.
  • Playful and experiential learning activities that deliver deep learning outcomes.
  • Co-creation of customized or bespoke blended learning programs that deliver what they promise.

Making corporate learning accessible, affordable, and scalable

Our aim is to make corporate learning agile, by making gamification accessible, and scalable to everybody, across all time zones, modalities, geographies, and technologies.

Where people have time and space to unlearn, relearn, reskill and upskill by engaging in and interacting with both technology and people:

  • Understand and learn new innovative processes, concepts, principles, and techniques and feel that their new skills are valued.
  • Retreat, reflect and explore, discover and navigate new ways of being, thinking, and acting individually and collectively.
  • Question, challenge the status quo and experiment with new ideas, explore effective collaborative analytical, imaginative, aligned problem-solving and decision-making strategies.
  • Safely fail without punishment, make and learn from mistakes, to iterate and pivot creative ideas and innovative solutions that really matter.

To meet our client’s short- and long-term learning needs in terms of innovation focus or topic depth and breadth. Through enhancing teaming, teamwork, and collaboration, by offering products and tools that make gamification accessible to suit all peoples learning styles, time constraints, diverse technologies, and cost needs.

Who was I to know that it would take another ten years for making gamification accessible enough to reach a tipping point!

An opportunity to learn more

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, May 4, 2022.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus,  human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Dare to Think Differently

Dare to Think Differently

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

As many of my colleagues are aware, I am at heart, a maverick, an unorthodox or independent-minded person. Who is curious and inquisitive, and finds change and challenging the status quo exciting, fascinating and stimulating. I am also, considered, by some, as a misfit, someone whose behaviors and attitudes sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way, that often rocks the boat. There is a range of consequences for people like me, who dare to think differently, especially now that I have also achieved the status of a Modern Elder – “the perfect alchemy of curious and wise, with curiosity leading to expansive inquiry while wisdom distills what’s essential.”

Coupled with both the challenges and constraints of the currently disrupted Covid-19 and digitized world, I am finding that the consequences of being different have intensified, become more impactful, and are often, quite confronting. Where differences cause resistance to change, divisiveness, and conflict, rather than maximizing differences in ways that embrace our humanity, diversity, to harness collective intelligence to make the organization, or world a better, more inclusive, and safer place.

Diversity is of the Essence

According to Jonathan Sacks, in his book “The Dignity of Difference- How to avoid the clash of civilizations,” he states that “we are living in the conscious presence of difference”.

Which exists in the home, in the street, in our workplaces, communities, and countries where we constantly encounter groups and cultures whose ideas and ideals are unlike ours. “That can be experienced as a profound threat to identity. Identity divides.” Considering that “the world is not a single machine, it is a complex, interactive ecology in which diversity – the biological, personal, cultural and religious – is of the essence.”

“When difference leads to war, both sides lose. When it leads to mutual enrichment, both sides gain.”

As is currently being evidenced by the tense and tentative Ukrainian and Russian border confrontation, with its potentially tragic consequences. Where Yuval Noah Harari states in a recent article in The Economist – “At the heart of the Ukraine crisis lies a fundamental question about the nature of history and the nature of humanity: is change possible? Can humans change the way they behave, or does history repeat itself endlessly, with humans forever condemned to re-enact past tragedies without changing anything except the décor”?

People Who Dare to Think Differently

Adam Grant, in his book “The Originals – How Non-Conformists Change the World” describes an original (n) as “A thing of singular or unique character; a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way; a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity”.

The book goes on to explain strategies, through studies and stories how to champion new ideas and fight groupthink, in constructive ways that maximize diversity and differences and promote dissent, as the basis for cultivating original thought to effect positive change.

Ray Dallio, in his book Principles explores this further, suggesting that “if you are like most people, you have no clue about how other people see things and aren’t good at seeking to understand what they are thinking because you’re too preoccupied with telling them what you yourself think is correct.” Often causing divisiveness rather than inclusion, resistance to change, and as a consequence, missing the possibilities and opportunities that may be present.

This also impedes our overall adaptiveness and creativity in an exponentially changing, world, to make real progress, and constructively change and limits the potential for innovation, growth and ability to contribute to the common good.

Change Management Has Changed

In a recent article from the Boston Consulting Group, they stated that  “Effective change management requires leaders to shift away from one-size-fits-all approaches and develop an expanded set of context-specific strategies”.

Which are truly adaptive, collaborative, energize, catalyze change, harness, and mobilize people’s and customers’ collective intelligence, in ways that are appreciated and cherished by all, and contribute to the common good.

To ultimately collectively co-create a set of different, empowered future-fit leaders, teams, and organizations – who courageously, compassionately, and creatively contribute toward an improved future, for customers, stakeholders, leaders, teams, organizations as well as for the good of the whole.

Welcoming Dissent and Thoughtful Disagreement

At ImagineNation™ we dare to think differently and teach train, and coach people and teams to maximize their potential to lead, manage, coach, through implementing and embedding change and innovation, differently.

We enable people to lead in the imagination age by empowering, enabling, and equipping them to be and think differently to:

  • Flow with some people’s need to be “right” and in control, when they are being defensive, abusive, and divisive, even when disagreement and conflict occur.
  • Artfully and skillfully use cognitive dissonance and creative tension to pull people towards a new possibility and envision a new and compelling future.
  • Be inclusive to support mutual enrichment, through co-sensemaking, that helps them create “order” (in their own context) and simplicity from complexity and change.
  • Self-regulate and self-manage emotionally in the face of uncertainty and volatility.
  • Be relatable, empathic, inspiring, and artfully and skillfully influential in helping people open their minds and hearts toward co-creation, collaboration, and experimentation that ensures a shared contribution for mutual gain.
  • Be creative and inventive to maximize their multiple and collective intelligences through learning, contrarian thinking, constructive debate, and creative conversations that generate discovery.

In ways that engage deep generative listening, inquiry, questioning, and differing that uses cognitive dissonance to unleash the creative energy that triggers and generates thinking differently.

When people are trusted and empowered to think differently, they co-create a frequency that allows, awakens, and activates their adaptive and innovative leadership qualities, consciousness, states, and qualities of mind and heart, to effect positive change.

Taking wise and intelligent action

It also enables them to wisely choose the most intelligent actions that result in adaptive and innovative outcomes.

This helps creativity to flourish and disrupts and interrupts those people, whose complacency, conformity, and rigidity create divisions, and feelings of desolation and exclusion that kill our capacity and competence to collaborate, create and invent.

Leaving me to wonder and inquire;

  • What if the “strangers” among us simply listen, with open minds and open hearts to the thought, feelings, and opinions of others, with both curiosity and detachment?
  • What if we could collectively co-create safe containers and collective holding spaces, that maximize our differences and diversity, and simply share a creative conversation about what could be possible?
  • How might we maximize our diversity of thought, to enable us to think differently about the issue, opportunity, or problem in ways that supported differences for mutual enrichment?

There is no wisdom on one point of view

Might this result in a deeper connection when there is polarization between people?

Might it be possible to co-sense and co-create a sense of inclusion, and an opening for a deeper philosophical exploration and discovery for thinking differently about the role, nature of and impact prescriptive points of view on how people truly feel, really think, and deeply act in our globalized and connected world?

Might it help us collectively to co-create making it a better place?

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, May 4, 2022. It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and to upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context. Find out more.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Using Boredom to Help Students Learn

Bored Game TeacherWhat do you get when you take the technology away from a group of 10 and 11 year olds and ask them to be creative with a handful of household objects?

Well, Thomas Fraser, a teacher at Crestwood Elementary School in Edmonton, Canada, troubled by the short attention spans of today’s youngsters endeavored to find out by creating what he calls the Bored Game, which involves giving students a handful of common household objects with the only instruction being to do something interesting with them.

The reaction at first from his group of always on youngsters were perplexed looks of how can I create something without an iPad, smartphone or a computer?

Then they started to get into it, and were sad when they didn’t get to play the Bored Game.

CTV recorded an interview about the Bored Game that you can watch here:

(sorry, video is no longer available)

My favorite part of the story is that they’re finding that the performance of the children in a range of subjects is increasing as the children have this periodic time to play and engage their creative problem solving skills.

So, maybe we need less technology in the classroom if we want to teach kids how to learn?

In my opinion, we focus too much on teaching kids to repeat activities, facts, and figures, focusing and what they’re able to memorize and regurgitate and not enough on actually teaching kids creative problem solving and how to learn. We don’t need a new generation of trivia experts, we need a new generation of problem solvers that can help repair the world.

We’ve all heard the saying “If you give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day, if you teach a man to finish he’ll never go hungry.”

If you want your child to be more successful, you have to do the same thing…

“Good teachers teach kids how to do well on the test, great teachers teach kids how to learn so they do well in life.”

For more, I encourage you to check out the Edmonton Journal Article (link expired)

Image credit: Edmonton Journal


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