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Monthly Archives: July 2010

America’s Dummy Census 2010

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My mom suggested that I check out an article in Newsweek titled “The Creativity Crisis”. So I did, of course. (And thanks, mom!)

Surprise!

New findings in neuroscience are debunking the old “left-brain” right-brain” it’s-either-one-or-the-other myth. Creative types use both sides effectively and often. Plus, a fifty year study of creativity has given us a measurable framework that validates creative people’s thought processes.

Seems we’re not just dreamers. And we’re not alone. Not yet anyway.

Some highlights for us Dummy’s:

The accepted definition of creativity is production of something original and useful

There is no “one right answer” for a solution

To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result).

Now the not so good news.

It appears that America’s creativity pool may be hitting the tar pits. And our educational system’s reliance on curriculum standardization plays a pivotal role in this potential demise.

In fact, when a researcher who studied the original data from this creativity study was asked by Chinese faculty in Beijing to identify trends in American education, he described the trend as a “focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing.” The Chinese just started laughing and said, “You’re racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model as fast as we can.”

Ouch.

Despite the revelation that America’s Creative Quotient is slipping into the mire, at least one school is trying to fight this tide. Teachers at the National Inventors Hall of Fame School, a new public middle school in Akron, Ohio, assigned a special problem-solving project to the entire fifth grade to work on. The results? Students met Ohio’s entire fifth grade curriculum requirements. I highly recommend that you read this Newsweek article as soon as you get the opportunity.

In the meantime, I think I’d rather look at this continuing half-century-old study as some kind of special Dummy Census for 2010. I do feel better knowing that folks like us have been counted, measured, and validated. And I’d like to participate next year as soon as I figure out who to talk to. (Any other takers?)

Still, the news about the possible dwindling pod of creative talent here in America makes me feel a bit like a Dummysaurus, creaky in the joints and cringing at the thought of another Ice Age.

Oh, well. Just call me D Rex.

For now anyway.

P.S. You’ll also want to read this related Newsweek article on Brainstorming.

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

Dummy Me Can’t Drive 55

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I was talking on my cell and didn’t notice the Chippie hanging off my six until he pulled along side me to flash me five fingers twice.

Guess my foot was leaning too comfortably on the gas and I was hitting nearly 65 in a 55 zone. (Where I live there’s a stretch of road that’s heavily patrolled because some folks just drive way too fast. Imagine that.)

I was thankful I didn’t get a ticket. And thank you, Bluetooth. The CHP officer could have just as easily lavished me with a two-for-one special instead of a “Heads-up, Dummy!”

After dropping a few pounds off the gas pedal and finishing my call (close call?), I realized that I was so wrapped up in what I was doing and thinking that I completely spaced on everything around me. In fact, I wasn’t sure of what I had seen on the way from the house to the freeway. How many cars had I passed? Did I really stop at the red light? How long was that Chippie following me?

Aaaargh. I’ve been here before. And it reminded me that I needed to slow down – again.

Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and dreams. Ideas can come at any time and when they do it’s at the speed of thought. Capturing them can be work and can take time. I know at times I’ve caught myself thinking I must push ahead and get everything down on paper. Time is passing quickly. So I MUST be first. I MUST finish this thought. I MUST make this last recording.

But I’ve learned through several deep drops into the angst well that going hell bent for leather 24/7/365 eventually puts up a roadblock to my creativity and productivity. And it can be a real drag to a balanced life always being “on”.

So I decided to accept an invitation from several friends to hike Mt. Woodson. They wanted to show me the “Potato Chip”, a thin, flat outcropping of rock that’s famous in the area. A short drive later I was parking my car at the base of the trail. Oh, boy. This was going to be a long…steep…hike.

I think I counted 30 switchbacks on the climb up, places where the trail cuts back on itself slightly before continuing to the top of the mountain. I had to lean forward like some long jump skier just to walk because the slope was so steep. Thoughts of bumping my nose to the trail were starting to bubble into my head.

By the time I crested the summit I was 10 pounds lighter, most of that “lost” weight soaking my t-shirt. My legs were achy and my feet tender and hot. I don’t recommend wearing sneakers to hike in. But that gorgeous sunset vista massaged away the soreness of the blisters on my feet and the pinching throb of the ever-present torn meniscus in my left knee. The Potato Chip was just amazing, too. It jutted out of the face of the trailside boulders like Jay Leno’s chin. How cool was that! Great place for Yoga poses, too.

Finally, what seemed like a boatload of hours later, I was back down the mountain and on my way home. I started to think about how difficult that hike had been. And I thought about how I finished strong and about the other hikers I’d met along the way. That felt really uplifting. I also came away with ideas for some new products and an invitation to lunch to discuss a business opportunity. Not bad for two hours of hobbling sweat equity, eh?

So note to self and all you creative thinkers, entrepreneurs, and tinkerers: once in while take some time to check out your six. And slow down. Creativity — and Life — has a way of working itself out for you.

And you just might get where you want to go — without speeding.

Now that’s the ticket.

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

What the Rubba Dub Dubya-T-F!

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Although I rarely if ever swear, I often use acronyms to provide certain color to what I have to say. Sure, more descriptive words abound. But some words and phrases are so universal and their meaning so well understood, it just made sense for me to push forward and put ink to blog.

So in this case I decided to use a favorite wordnunciation of our former Mangler-in-Speak, GWB (I’m not sure if I’m allowed to actually use his name. But I’m sure that you’ll recognize the word “Dubya” as in “W”, yes?).

Now you know who I’m talking about. And now you know what the title of this post means.

Hooyah!

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved.

Mi Vida Dummy Zero™

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Sometimes it’s not easy hearing every atom in your body screaming to be an entrepreneur. It can also be draining trying to handle the constant flow of thoughts and ideas and interconnections coming at you day and night, even when you sleep.

This morning I woke up and wondered if I make sense? Where is all this creative chum getting me? It’s frustrating as hell that I haven’t been invited to another Dummies party yet.

If you’re an entrepreneur like me sometimes you have moments – or days – when you wonder when the “big” payoff is coming. That payoff might me a vacation, some extra cash, recognition, or if you’re thinking Gates-like – retirement!

Don’t give up! Just understand that it’s part of who you are. So take a well-deserved break. Have your primal scream or pint of Ben and Jerry’s or go bowling. Whatever you need just go do it. Then get back to your dream. Trust me, it will all be worth it when your “baby’s” born.

And as for me…aaaaaarghhh…it’s going to be a crunchy day.

Time for lunch. Maybe a nice Marionberry protein shake. Yum.

© 2010 Dummy Zero™ All Rights Reserved

The True Story Behind the “For Dummies®” Books Success Story

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I’ve always been an avid reader, tinkerer, and a serial entrepreneur.

One of my first ventures was a mobile marine hardware business catering to the bait boats and sport fishing boats in San Diego. My partners and I lasted about three months before our money ran out and we couldn’t get financing. We managed to liquidate our business and still keep our shirts on. Even so, I continued to try out my ideas. I started a small delivery service called “Two Men Will Shop for You”. I brought in a partner to help with the shopping. We had no budget and no real business plan. Finally, we landed our first customer. But the logistics of shopping for someone’s groceries without much help from the supermarkets was daunting. The business ended as a big flop.

Even though I had regular jobs, I could never shake this entrepreneurial bent. I’d keep a log of ideas and thoughts. Many were oriented around words, text, screenplays, or book ideas, often combined with design ideas. Others were machines or improvements on already-existing products that needed “help” to be what they should’ve been in the first place. I learned to keep a pencil and paper handy next to the bed because I’d wake up in the middle of the night with some fantastic idea that I just know must not be forgotten. So I spent lots of time either solving a problem by creating something new or making improvements to what had already been created. Sometimes it seemed as if there were no rhyme or reason to my scribblings. But I’d write them down anyway.

So here I was with these piles of notes and ideas wondering what it all meant. Maybe I could write a book and get it published. Of course, that meant another trip to the book store looking for some reference material to help me out. That’s when I discovered a self-publishing manual by Dan Poynter. He outlined the whole process for me – perfect! I bought the book and followed his instructions as much as I could and formed my own publishing company. Brookes-Redhouse Publishing was born right there at my kitchen table.

This article is all about  how I created the For Dummies® book concept — the concept, which according to published reports has sold over 200 million books in 30 languages and spawned a new generation of fun, readable, interesting books. The first Dummies book was “DOS for Dummies®” which made perfect sense because DOS was still a viable operating system.  And alliteration has my name all over it.

So I decided to write my first book about how to save money by building your own computers. Yes, I was a nerd at heart (and still am). Part of the research I was doing for the book involved the use of DOS, the operating system at the time. So I haunted my local bookstores for nearly an entire year trying to find some book or resource to help me understand DOS and help me use it efficiently. Needless to say, I became very frustrated with most of the book offerings. All I could find were pamphlet-like books with sophomoric information or monolithic engineering beasts with 200 word run-on sentences. It seemed that nothing was out there that was interesting to read and informative enough to act on. I also talked to hundreds of book and software shoppers about books they were buying or considering. What an earful!

It’s been said that sometimes the best ideas show up when you least expect them. That definitely rang true for me. My car had been having problems all week shifting into gear. And I didn’t have any money to take it to a shop. So I pulled out my trusty how-to car repair manual. I remember the dread setting over me as I figured out what was wrong and opened the manual to find out what to do next. And right there, staring boldy at me from the pages of this book was the author sitting in his garage surrounded by VW parts.  He had just torn apart his car and it looked as if he were sitting in a sea of nuts, bands, and bolts. He was scratching his head and smoking a joint. That’s when the idea for the Dummies concept flashed me the full monty.

And this is where the real For Dummies® book story really begins…sitting next to my car with grease under my fingernails and a clutch cable in my hand…