Saturday, October 13, 2012

Creativity is not an option

I've just (I mean yesterday) returned from my company's annual meeting/fancy party extravaganza, the H'Oscars. Yes, you read that correctly, the H'Oscars.

The H'Oscars are definitely a lot of fun and an interesting way to celebrate success and achievement within our company. I am a proud two time H'Oscar winner (my H'Oscars sit in my cube at work where I'm sure they're very happy). It's fun to get dressed up (it is a formal event) and I enjoy debating with the guys over whether packing a tux or a formal dress is more difficult. Gentlemen, you will continue to lose this argument every year. You don't even want to know all the parts that go into looking as fabulous as all the ladies do at this event. My other favorite topic to discuss is the hooker/matron shoe conundrum that happens every year when I go shopping. Last year this sparked a very heated FB discussion. I ended up with more matronly shoes last year. This year, I decided to go closer to hooker on the scale. The shoes were amazing.

While the annual meeting portion of the event was very interesting and the awards and party were wonderful, my favorite part was our opening speaker. In the four H'Oscars I've attended there hasn't been an opening speaker. We usually hear the nominations and enjoy cocktails in a cool venue (like Churchill Downs). This year, the organizers were able to arrange for Sir Ken Robinson to speak. If you don't know Sir Ken Robinson, I'm sorry for you. Sir Ken is a leading writer and speaker in education and focuses much of his work on creativity and innovation. He's really the perfect speaker for a group like ours. The company mission statement includes a line about creating the world changers of tomorrow. You can't do that without innovative thinking or realizing that all students are not cogs in a machine.

I was first introduced to Sir Ken's work by my friend Allison. She also happens to be my manager and was originally the person conducting new hire training for our division (this is now my job). Anyway, she uses a video of Sir Ken in training that's really amazing and a great way to start new hire training. I've been reading his articles and books and following him on Twitter ever since. When it was announced that he would be the speaker I did a little dance at my desk. My co-workers think I'm weird. That's cool.

Sir Ken's speech was great. He's funny, engaging, and interesting. He talks about creativity as a process (like Andrew McCarthy!) and as something that can be taught (which I agree with). I also appreciate his discussion of creativity as something everyone should and can do. You don't have to be artistic or fanciful to be creative. Math can be creative. Organizations can be creative. You just have to focus on it as part of the process. He describes it as "a competency" (like literacy). Couldn't agree more. Students aren't really taught or even encouraged to be creative unless they show aptitude for an arts skill. That's a sad statement about education. Students should be encouraged to use their imagination and creativity. Anyone who has children or works with children knows this is the way to help with problem-solving and social navigation. It's not about who can paint well or play the violin beautifully or solve complex math problems, it's about the things that make us different and interesting as a human. I liked Sir Ken's description of imagination as "the source of every human achievement." (Yes, I took notes. Don't judge.)

The other thread of Sir Ken's speech that struck a chord with me was about life not being linear. Not everything can be planned. As much as I love to plan, I have to agree with him. Our lives aren't or shouldn't be designed based on the first few years of school or even what we study in college (I was a theatre arts management major so clearly this is true). I thought about some of my more recent life choices (moving to California, moving back to Virginia, dying my hair dark red) and realized that these were not planned choices. Once the choice was made, there was planning but I didn't make a pro/con list for either move. I didn't research hair colors for months and then pick one. I let my life be divergent and went where it took me. Did I make good choices? I think so. California was a great 2 years and I'm happy I lived there when I did. Do I love Virginia? I'm beginning to come around to seeing it's awesomeness. And clearly, dark haired Erin is the best choice I've made in years.

Sir Ken's speech really made the H'Oscars for me. I think it helped put other parts of the event into context (the goals and strategic plans for the company, the awards and the winners). Even the bus ride to and from Pittsburg (yes, we took buses). And the trading cards. Yep, we have work trading cards. Don't be jealous. I have some extras if you'd like one.

So as I go back to work on Monday, I will start my new hire training class with Sir Ken's video. I will think creatively about my job and how I can help students do the same. I will still make lists but I will also try to be a little less rigid with some things. And I will find a place to wear my fabulous shoes.

Because really it's all about the shoes isn't it?


  1. Love your shoes & dress!! Gotta ask, though -- is that pronounced "Hoscars"? Or "Huh-oscars"?

  2. Thanks! I'm really trying hard to find another opportunity to wear them. It's Hoscars-if you say it fast it sounds like Oscars.

  3. Yeah, those shoes are awesome! I wish I had the courage to wear heals. I don't like being any taller, and I have terrible balance. I'm a little jealous of your job. Trading cards? Really?