What I’m Reading by Dean Cathy Sandeen

In preparation for a talk I gave last week, I compiled some interesting ideas from a number of fairly recent books focused on the subject of fostering creativity and innovation. I have written previously on the need for the US workforce—and the educational institutions that prepare that workforce—to focus more systematically on instilling an attitude of creative and innovative thinking and doing. A few quotations that reinforce this thinking:

“L-Directed Thinking [characteristic of the left hemisphere of the brain]—sequential, literal, functional, textual, and analytic—is highly prized by our broader culture. “

“Instead, the R-Directed aptitudes [right hemisphere functions] so often disdained and dismissed—artistry, empathy, taking the long view, pursuing the transcendent—will increasingly determine who soars and who stumbles. “     

-Daniel Pink. A Whole New Mind (2006), p. 26-27


The efficiency principle [of brain functioning] dictates that the brain will take shortcuts based on what it already knows. . . and because imagination comes from perception, these same categories hobble imagination and make it difficult to think differently.”

“Only when the brain is confronted with stimuli that it has not seen before, does it start to reorganize perception. This reorganization spills over and influences the internal images that can be held in the mind’s eye.”

-Gregory Berns. Iconoclast (2008), p. 57




Changing Minds Book Cover“[The creator] strikes out in unfamiliar directions and enjoys—or at least accepts—being different from the pack. . . Only a person who is willing to pick herself up and ‘try and try again’ is likely to forge creative achievements.”

-Howard Gardner. Five Minds for the Future (2006), p. 83


                                                                   In order to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative. . . there’s a process that generates creativity—and you can learn it. . . It is developed through exercise, through repetition, through a blend of learning and reflection that’s both painstaking and rewarding.”

There’s a paradox in the notion that creativity should be a habit. We think of creativity as a way of keeping everything fresh and new, while habit implies routine and repetition.”

-Twyla Tharp. The Creative Habit (2003), p. 9


 “Using experiences to drive a combination of mastery and originality is characteristic of integrative thinkers.”

“Mastery without originality becomes rote. . . . originality without mastery is flaky if not entirely random.”

-Roger Martin. The Opposable Mind (2007), p. 184 and 186.

In my view, it comes down to this dichotomy:

synthesis | analysis

flexibility | rigidly defined roles

cross-disciplinarity | organization chart focus

openness | protectiveness

risk (failure = OK) | caution (failure = bad)

chaos and ambiguity | predictability

pattern recognition | theories to prove

leaps | incremental steps

diversity | homogeneity

disruption | routine

preparation | preparation

I see a need to focus our attention more on the left hand side of the equation than we currently do. You may notice the last dyad is exactly the same.  Preparation is important in the old paradigm as well as the new one. This is where education always has and always will come into play.



One response to “What I’m Reading by Dean Cathy Sandeen

  1. Meri Anne Beck-Woods

    I just finished mentoring a male teacher and all girl team at the California Academy of Math & Science for the Capital Markets Contest in conjunction with the California Council on Economic Education and the CFA Society of Los Angeles and I agree completely with your conclusion. I also think, women especially have more of the left side of your dichotomy and have to adjust in the corporate world to succeed. I recommend Elizabeth Ghaffari’s book, OUTSTANDING IN THEIR FIELD: HOW WOMEN CORPORATE DIRECTORS SUCCEED. Those who are most successful seem to have a greater ability to adjust and adapt to change, are inclusive in management style, mentor others and are constantly seeking new ideas and innovation. We need our educational policies to reward students more in these areas and provide our teachers with the tools necessary to achieve such a goal.

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