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Creativity & the Power of Attention in 2014

Jan 08, 2014 By Richard Smith

MDM students started their second semester on Monday with a kickoff to Projects 2. Building on the project planning and management skills they learned in Projects 1, students will spend this semester working on real-world projects with external clients. By the end of April, the student teams will have developed prototypes or applications from concept to deliverable.

The following is a welcome speech I gave to the students.

Dear MDM students,

Welcome back. We missed you. The school is so much livelier now that you are home! 

I started my remarks this afternoon with a flourish—pulling the covers off something we have grown accustomed to, the 3D printer from the lobby. I did that to draw attention to the growing role of robots in our society, who are taking over many tasks. I didn't point it out, but at least three of your fellow students spent the winter break learning about artificial intelligence. This is not something new. But it isn't going away any time soon, either. This could have serious consequences for our society [1].  

To cope with this impending change in our society, we are challenging you to become people who cannot be replaced by robots: creative people.

Creativity is precious but it isn't easy. It takes work. In our school we encourage you to nurture and sustain three kinds of creativity: your own creativity, the creativity of your team, and the creativity of the client you are working with. This is the theme of Projects 2. And you are asked to do this consciously, proactively, and with an eye to improvement. In other words, manage creativity. 

A major tool in that process is to be mindful, to focus your attention. Daniel Goleman's recent book, Focus [2], highlights the scarcity of attention in our society and what you can do to harness the power of your attention. He points out that you have to pay attention to your self (look in), other people (look around), and the world (look outward). These align quite well with our three types of creativity management. 

What we did last term is known as "experiential learning" in pedagogical terms. We help you learn, not so much by telling you things, but helping you have experiences. Now we want to move those lessons from the head to the heart—to a place where you will never forget them AND to a place where you will continue to grow. With that in mind, we will have you practice what you learned last semester, with coaching from each other, from your faculty, and from the clients (who all agree to sponsor a project because they believe in graduate education).

For our part, we hope to nurture a community of practice here at the MDM. A way of working that keeps your education "ever green" and always growing, by connecting you with past, present, and future alumni. This semester I have a major focus of building that community of practice, here at the CDM and online.

I am so glad to see you, and look forward to working with you this term. Have a great time!


[1] http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B002S0NITU/ref=oh_d__o02_details_o02__i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

[2] http://www.amazon.ca/Focus-Hidden-Excellence-Daniel-Goleman-ebook/dp/B00BATG220/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1389047677&sr=1-1&keywords=focus+goleman