Creativity and technology

There has probably never been a time where “creativity” has been as much in the forefront as now. Watch pretty much any ad for the newest phone, and the thrust of the ad is not the phone capabilities (I mean, you can make and take calls; how exciting is that?). Rather, our phones – or should I say, mini pocket computers) appeal to us for the ability to express our creativity. Suddenly, we’re all capable of being photographers, movie makers, music producers, and more.

“Creative” has become a nown, as in, one could identify as a “creative.” Not just creative, adjective. “I am creative.” But, A creative.“I am a creative.” “I am part of the creative community.”

There’s nothing wrong with this impulse. I believe it’s part of our nature as being created in the image of God, who displays his enormous creativity throughout all the things he has made. Everyone of us has marvelled at the beauty of a sunrise, the refraction of light into brilliant colors in a rainbow, the variagated song of a mockingbird. And then there’s those weird-looking creatures at the bottom of the ocean, just because.

So, if our technology allows us to explore our creativity more freely, I’m all for it.

I’ve been a hobby photographer for my whole adult life, starting with an Olympus half-frame 35mm camera that belonged to my brother, to now going back and forth between my Canon DSLR and my “phone” – my Galaxy S20 Ultra. A few years ago, I discovered that shooting a digital photo was not the end of the process, and I began learning Lightroom and other processing apps that really helped clean up and enhance my photography.

Technology has made that easy, too. Sometimes, a little too easy.

It has raised a question in my mind about what is really creative. For a simple illustration, look at this collage of a photo I shot a couple weeks ago in my back yard.

The picture on the left is pretty much “no filter.” In other words, this is the way I saw it and captured it. The scene caught my eye because here was this lone tree amidst others that had maintained its fall folliage, standing tall against the inevitable forces of winter.

For the picture on the right, I simply took the original into the app Photoshop Camera, and with one click applied a filter that turned everything that was not yellow or green into black and white. It looks cool.

But with which picture did I engage the most creative activity? One might say the right picture is more creative. But technology allowed me to create that with one click. And there are dozens and dozens of effects out there, that someone else has created, that I could have applied. Yeah, I chose which one I liked best, but I didn’t really feel like I was being all that inventive.

On the left picture, the original one that I shot, I had to take notice of the scene, value its creative potential, compose the shot. While I like the effect of the second picture, I chose to post the left one to Instagram because it felt like it was mine.

Is creativity accomplished on the presets of others really creativity? Well, to a degree, of course. Anything that helps me to see in more creative ways becomes visionary. But we must beware of the danger of pre-fab “inventiveness.”

I remember going to an art boutique in downtown Asheville once, where one of the booths featured a local landscape photographer. This photographer took some beautiful shots, but honestly, had applied too many and too extreme Photoshop filters to the photos, increasing the saturation levels to create bold colors and other-worldly vistas. In the guest sign-in book, one person commented that it was “cheap” to simply apply a bunch of filters and then pass it off as original “art.” That might have been harsh, but it was a valid point.

As the creative community grows with the rise in inventive technology, I welcome you. Use the tools at your disposal. But while you do, make sure it’s your vision, your skill, your creativity.

Will you “KISS” this upcoming week?

I am a fan and long-time user of Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner. Check it out here. I moved away from a digital planning system several years ago and back to an analog system that has boosted my productivity. Your mileage may vary.

Each week, one of the rituals to accomplish is a Weekly Preview. Part review, part preview, it allows me to look back on the victories of the previous week and plan the upcoming week. I have found that one of the better exercises is the question, What will you keep, improve, start, or stop doing? In acronym form, “KISS.”

What will you KEEP?

Were there some productivity techniques or habits that worked especially well? Maybe getting up earlier. Perhaps you found that setting out your clothes for the next day the night before empowered your morning. If it worked, keep doing it.

What will you IMPROVE?

Was there something you accomplished that you could do better? So you set out to walk 10,000 steps each day, but only reached that goal on 4 days? That’s a prime example of something you could improve.

What will you START?

We all probably have things in our “goal hopper” that we want to get to “someday.” How about starting this week? 8 glasses of water a day? Writing 10,000 words? Taking time to pray/meditate? Start this week!

What will you STOP?

If you’re like me, there are habits and activities that don’t contribute to productivity at all. Can you put a full stop to them? Time-wasting apps are a killer for me. Maybe you could stop your non-constructive self-talk. Put a stop to such things.

It’s wise to write these things down and place them where you can see them often. For me, it’s in the Weekly Preview of the Full Focus Planner. No matter where, write it down somewhere. And “KISS” this week!

Know thyself: a survey of personality assessments, Part 2

2019-04-22-22-55-10I’m continuing my survey of personality assessments. If you haven’t read Part 1 or a little of my story, you might want to do that first. Otherwise, here are the next two.

DISC (or DiSC, in some brandings)

DISC (stands for Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness) has been around a long time, and you can find some simple, free tests online. Some are better than others and reveal more shadings and nuances. I test out as a “High C,” which corresponds pretty well with the “Strategic Thinking” themes of the Clifton.

DiSC_MK
©everythingDiSC

DISC can be very helpful in understanding and valuing yourself and others. It was a DISC-like assessment that saved my career all those years ago. Very valuable in accepting your unique qualities and contributions.

There is a DISC-like assessment called The Flag Page, from the “Laugh Your Way” marriage conference people. It’s fun (as you would expect) and identifies what “country” you are from and what your top 5 motivations are. The categories mirror the DISC, but the findings give you some shadings that don’t always show up in a DISC, like identifying “soft” and “hard” qualities.

Summary: simple (in a good way), available free in some places, gives you the vocabulary to give expression to your value.

Fascination Advantage

One of the more unique and interesting assessments I’ve encountered is Fascination Advantage, the creation of Sally Hogshead, a former successful ad writer, who has turned her research into the “science of fascination.” In a word, it helps you identify your highest value in communicating yourself and your personal brand. The system is fully explained in her book, How the World Sees You (@$18), which contains a code that you can use to take her assessment.

Archetype_MK
©howtofascinate.com

The test uses 7 “Advantages” in a unique way: rather than simply identifying your top 2, the appraisal combines your primary and secondary advantages into one of 49 “Archetypes” (see illustration). Thus, my TRUST combined with my POWER advantages synthesize into “The GRAVITAS,” and identify my top 3 adjectives of “dignified, stable, and hardworking.” My “Dormant” advantage (“PASSION”), the one that is the most exhausting for me, is also identified as the least likely to impress others.

Your personalized report prompts you to go on to create an “Anthem” for yourself, which is a 2-word phrase (adjective/noun) that can identify the value you bring to the table. You can use your Anthem on business materials, resumes, website, etc. An example for my archetype might be “Deliberate Certainty.”

Ms. Hogshead sprinkles her writing with some pithy thoughts that are pure gold if you are an assessment advocate like me. “If you don’t know your own value don’t expect anyone else to.” “To become successful, don’t change who you are. Become more of who you are.” And my personal favorite: “The world is not changed by people who sort of care.”

Her website has a ton of resources available, such as videos giving you more insight into your Advantages and Archetype. There’s also an avenue for you to explore the Archetypes within your team dynamics.

Summary: unique synthesis of character traits into Archetypes, plentiful resources for further study. Especially helpful if you are building a personal brand.

Coming next: The Motivators Assessment and the Enneagram

I teach a course which utilizes the DiSC personality assessment. It’s called “Solving the People Puzzle” and is available in faith-based and non-faith-based formats. Please contact me if you are interested in this for your group or organization.

Know Thyself: a survey of personality assessments, Part 1

2019-04-22-22-55-10In my last blog post, I told my story of how a personality assessment saved my career. If you haven’t read it, please do. I’ve learned that I work and lead best when I’m being myself rather than trying to be someone else. Over the years, I’ve taken a number of different assessments, and each one has told me a little more about myself. Here’s a quick survey of some of them, along with some thoughts about the effectiveness of each.

Clifton Strengths (StrengthsFinder)

We use this test extensively with our leaders and other key people at the Chick-fil-A where I work. This appraisal is backed by the power Gallup, Inc., the famous survey people. They are able to synthesize the findings of 20+ million people who’ve taken the test. If you take the simple test ($20), you’ll identify your “Top 5” strengths (out of a possible 34 themes). This is helpful, but the real insight comes when you pay extra ($40 on sale) to reveal your entire list of 34. Note: it’s worth it.DNA

My top 5 strengths are Strategic, Responsibility, Learner, Input, and Relator. Further insight comes from the supplemental book, Strengths Based Leadership, by identifying the 4 Strengths Domains (also available within the app). I’ve learned that I am at my best in the Strategic Thinking domain, and I really need to collaborate with someone strong in the Influencer domain, where I struggle.

Summary: especially helpful when you get the full report, supportive website, extensive documentation. Get the e-book, Expanding Your Strengths.

StandOut

StandOut is the creation of Marcus Buckingham, who was connected with the Clifton Strengths assessment before launching out on his own. StandOut identifies and ranks 9 Strength Roles and classifies you with the top 2 (though you know your rank of all 9). The cost of the test is the price of the book or e-book (@$16-$19). The roles aren’t sliced as thin as the themes of the Clifton.

My assessment revealed that I am an Equalizer/Creator. The descriptions in the companion book and report are among the most insightful of any assessment. Interestingly enough, two of my colleagues tested the same, yet we are very different on other appraisals, especially the DISC. All this goes to show that no one rating can tell the whole story about who you are.

Summary: great advice and application to many venues (leadership, sales, management, client service). Lots of great take-aways. The “How to Describe Yourself in Interviews” sections are worth the price if you’re looking for a career move.

Question to consider: Have you taken either of these assessments, and how have they helped you?

Coming next: DISC, Fascination Advantage, The Motivators Assessment, and the Enneagram

I teach a course which utilizes the DiSC personality assessment. It’s called “Solving the People Puzzle” and is available in faith-based and non-faith-based formats. Please contact me if you are interested in this for your group or organization.