Creativity and networks

How great would it be if more of our formal education incorporated some of the strategies of informal learning. I’m thinking about the Research and Do-It-Yourself approach.

Have a look at this example posed by Britta Riley of Windowfarms fame. These Do-It-Yourself researchers are apartment dwellers, learning how to make home window gardening  a viable option. If they can figure it out, this means  we can grow a little bit of our food at home, even if we don’t have a backyard in which to cultivate vegetables and fruit. Using the light from  lounge and bedroom windows, we could be growing strawberries and tomatoes enough to feed a family.

To problem solve this complex horticultural and engineering feat, they’re using the power of the internet to make connections and share information. They’re connecting and combining ideas drawn from hydroponic research and space station research, and they’re just ordinary folk like you and me with an interest in gardening. Their research potential is tremendous because they are building on the knowledge of others, not reinventing the wheel at every point.

I think this is an example of what Steven Johnson calls emergent behaviour. No one is in charge but things keep on happening and a self-organising system is growing and thriving. Or so it seemed.

There is a dark side to this unfortunately.

The economic model seems to have failed as Riley’s self-styled ‘open source community of developers of hydrophoic edible gardens for urban windows’ is unable to meet demand for their home DIY gardening kits, and their website is covered in messages requesting that orders be met and delivered. The last message on their website was 16 December 2013, and ‘Lori” said she won’t stop posting there till she gets her kit. She’s been shouting for a while. It seems like no one is listening I’m afraid Lori.

Sad. But it doesn’t mean the idea of networking is not a good one. It’s the economic model that need some renovation.

Anyway, here’s  Britta Riley with her idea: A garden in my apartment.

And, as you know, as Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody say, “From little things big things grow.” You just need patience and perseverance.

Johnson, S. (2001). Emergence: The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software. London: Penguin.

Creativity and anatomy

Now this is creative. Using body paint to help students learn about anatomy. Dr Claudia Diaz, at RMIT in Melbourne, gets her students finding those bones and muscles with the stroke of a brush rather than a pen or a keyboard. She also coordinates an annual anatomy mini Olympics.

You can be creative with any subject. See her students here, and in the video below.

Anatomical Man: RMIT

Creative teams

The literature tells us that there is a difference between supporting effective teams,  supporting creative teams, and one more – supporting creative teams working online (e.g. Chamakiotis et al 2013). Context is always important.

Have you worked in a creative team? Do you know the challenges and the pressure? How do you rate as a creative team member? Perhaps you have many tips and hints for those new to the task. If you do, please add your comments to this blog!

Mark Brown has some hints for creative teams. He’s watched some teams and says it’s important to strategically step back and let the team thrive. Support others so you get where you need to go, but at the same time don’t allow good ideas to get brushed aside.

Tom Wujec has some insights from the now famous spaghetti and marshmallow design team challenge. The big lesson from the Wujec’s challenge is that rapid prototyping is the way to go. Be prepared to fail and try again, and fail and try again, and again. Be prepared to sacrifice a few marshmallows.

Tom Wujec; Build a tower, build a team


Chamakiotis, P., Dekoninck, E. A., & Panteli, N. (2013). Factors influencing creativity in virtual design teams: An interplay between technology, teams and individuals. Creativity and Innovation Management, 22(3), 265-279.