Imagine Making Work "Hard Fun"


Late last night, I finished reading my second "fun read" for the summer. It was "Ready Player One" - a science-fiction thriller based on a futuristic society where everyone lives in a 1980's science fiction/game-based virtual reality. Tons of fun! Earlier this summer, I read "Man-made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity." It's a hilarious book about the author's quest for what it takes to "be a man" in light of the upcoming birth of his first son.

After finishing these two rather "light" reads, I decided it was time to read something a little more serious  - something I could use in the workplace. Then I remembered I'd been eyeing a book called "Imagine: How Creativity Works" for quite some time. The book description from author Jonah Lehrer's website states ....
"["Imagine" is] a sparkling and revelatory look at the new science of creativity. Shattering the myth of muses, higher powers, even creative “types,” Jonah Lehrer demonstrates that creativity is not a single “gift” possessed by the lucky few. It’s a variety of distinct thought processes that we can all learn to use more effectively. Lehrer reveals the importance of embracing the rut, thinking like a child, and daydreaming productively, then he takes us out of our own heads to show how we can make our neighborhoods more vibrant, our companies more productive, and our schools more effective" 
So, I finally downloaded it to my iPad and started reading last night. I just finished the first chapter and I'm already finding some great gems.

In the beginning of the book, Lehrer recounts Proctor and Gamble's creation of the Swiffer and how it came to be. Lehrer points out that a huge part of that creative process was that the researchers at Procter & Gamble were initially stumped by the challenge of creating a better mop. Lehrer points out that we often forget that's an integral part of the creative process. The idea of not knowing what to do next is often what leads to the "Ah-Ha" moments we love. Lehrer writes...
"The feeling of frustration - the act of being stumped - is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer—before we probably even know the question—we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach...It's often at this point, after we've stopped searching the answer, that the answer arrives."
All this reminded me so much of what Phil Schlechty talks about in designing challenging work for students. When we design engaging work for students, we have to find a balance between work that is too easy and work that is difficult, yet challenging.

If we design work that is too easy, our students will experience no sense of accomplishment when the work is done.  Make something too difficult and students will give up.  (Even adults would give up in light of an impossible task.) But, design work that challenges the student at just the right level, work that spurs the creativity process and engages them in that work and you'll design work that leads to a sense of accomplishment. Students will  finish feeling they've done something worthy of their time and talents.

In a recent board meeting I was at for the Texas Computer Educators' Association,  we had Wes Fryer as a guest presenter. Wes' blog, The Speed of Creativity is a great resource for teachers. In talking to us about designing work for kids, Wes brought up this same topic. He said we need to get kids involved in "hard fun." I love that phrase - HARD FUN. So, get your creative juices flowing as you prepare for next year. It'll be worth it.

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