At School, Work and Play

According to Marissa Mayer, formerly a Vice President at Google and now CEO at Yahoo, “Creativity loves constraint.” *

– and children of all ages, given the opportunity, love to be “creative”.

Quotes do need to be placed in context: as her (Marissa Meyer’s)  further comment is equally important “Yet constraints alone can stifle and kill creativity.” Going for Clarity: the use of the word constraint here doesn’t mean constraints as in – “jail cell” – it does mean how to focus a problem so that there is a yin/yang in action = focus, expand- focus –expand- ad infinitum…knitting doesn’t have to be negative like the character in Tale of Two Cities, knitting is in fact generally the more recognized action of joining together – twine, wool, and people, ideas, activities- etc. When brainstorming as a group, someone does need to be the “knitter”. 

Think of a classroom, filled with bouncy children. Now take those children on a field trip. And instead of all the rules about what can’t be done, supply 5 rules for action: what to expect at destination, how to behave, what to look for, how to record the new information, and where to meet up when trip is complete. If preparation pre-trip is planned and performed with the students involved– and if input from the students allowed – meaning active questioning regarding these (or any other rules) encouraged and discussions about the purpose of the event handled in such a way that the participants are eager to attend- then a certain amount of “freedom” may be permitted within the event itself. Brainstorming is central to “Hearing oneself think!” A key then is that the space in which brainstorming will be practiced be known as a “safe space’. So much lip service has been paid recently to the concept of “failing forward” and being able to take risks. How often is this really allowed within either classrooms or boardrooms? Boardrooms may not be filled with “bouncy children” – often times they are filled with self censored and cautious adults. And these same adults do constrain themselves to the point of little real brainstorming taking place- in favour of a “yes” session.

How much better if we could adapt a little of the “crazy” attitude seen in the show “The Crazy Ones”**. Not egalitarian- that is unrealistic-, better to establish some simple roles, similar in practice to the currently popular “literature circles”***- a focused learning environment in which players don the mantle of a particular role, and switch up this role regularly- then each participant has the opportunity to engage in an empathetic situation while offering ideas (brainstorming is about sharing ideas) that are both personal and also ideas pertaining to the “role”- allowing for a subjective and an objective experience. Getting into “character” may also alleviate some of the self-censoring that often takes place. Please note, the above is not advocating for a “free – for – all” – establishing parameters returns to this notion of “constraints”. Over all, the umbrella constraint, or ideology, must- (oh dear, a prescriptive)- must be- mutual RESPECT- think Aretha Franklin- put the song on if it helps- and let the ideas flow.

**“In the episode, Simon’s campaign wins, but not because it’s entirely based on spontaneous creativity and impulse. Read more at”
***For All Ages:
How to conduct a Literature Circle

1. Choose a book you would like to read and find 4-5 others who would like to read the same book.

2. Each participant is assigned a different role as a reader.
a. Discussion director – Your job is to write down some good questions about the story that you think your group would want to talk a bout.
b. Artful artist – Your job is to draw a picture of something about the story. Don’t let anyone see what you are drawing. When you show your group the picture, they will have to guess what you drew. After they guess, tell them what you drew and why you drew it. It might be
i. A character
ii. A problem
iii. A funny part
iv. An interesting part
v. A scary part
c. Word wizard – Your job is to pick two special words in the story. They might be words that are new, weird, interesting, funny, descriptive, or important. When it is your turn to share, read the sentence from the book and tell what word you thought was special. Tell your group why you picked that word.
d. Connector- Your job is to make connections between what you read and your own life. Write about what the story reminds you of. It might be
i. Something from your own life
ii. Something that happened at school
iii. Another story that you have read

3. Read independently and quietly.

4. Get together in a literature circle and share your thoughts about your connections.


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