- In what ways do you consider yourself creative or innovative?
- In what areas do you wish you were more creative or innovative?
- What stimulates your imagination?
- What are some areas within your industry or profession where innovation most needs to happen?
- Based on recognized problems and developments you have seen in recent years, what is the likely next wave of your industry or profession? What change is currently emerging?
- If you could change careers without losing any income, would you do it? If so, what would you do differently?
Think Ponds are fluid associations of diverse individuals who bring their imaginations, knowledge, and skill sets, along with their dreams and passion projects, into a community of their own design. Creative energies converge, expanding possibility. Obstacles are flattened as complementary skills combine and available resources broaden. Timelines contract. Promising ideas stay out of the trash. Connections proliferate.
For individuals, a Think Pond is a next generation platform for shaping and strengthening four essential lifelong enterprises: 1) Imagineering, 2) Self-directed life-embedded learning, 3) Creative solution-seeking, and 4) Pre-entrepreneurship. Making the most of these enterprises will both improve your competitive edge and increase your level of fulfillment with the work you do in the world.
For the greater good, an evolving ecosystem of Think Ponds is a wellspring of creativity and collaboration that can increase the sustainability of innovative, socially valuable programs, incubate new businesses, and activate unrealized human potential.
Do you think of a career as a sequence of jobs with progressively higher pay and greater responsibility? What if you reimagined your career as a set of four lifelong enterprises that you continuously create and expand and refine. Merriam-Webster defines an enterprise as “a project or undertaking that is especially difficult, complicated, or risky.” In other words, I am talking about endeavors that continue whether you are employed, unemployed, or under-employed. Whatever your circumstances, you keep these four enterprises alive because they supply something you need.
I think everyone need to pursue these four lifelong enterprises, regardless of the individual’s passions, aptitudes, credentials, employment experiences, assets, and constraints:
Imagineering. Using your imagination fully. Paying attention to the sensory experiences, images, and cultural expressions that swirl around you and mindfully pursuing those that awaken your mind, heighten the intensity of your emotions, and enrich your soul. Exploring possibilities, envisioning your desired future, and inventing the kinds of endeavors that will both fulfill you and make a positive difference.
Self-directed, life-embedded learning. Taking advantage of the numerous learning opportunities afforded by books, media entities, technologies, community resources, and people in your sphere. Continually investigating what you know and what you think you know. Consciously developing and applying new skills, adapting existing knowledge and skills in new areas, and finding greater depth of meaning and significance in the people, environments, and experiences you encounter.
Solution crafting. Looking at your life from different perspectives and seeking ways to synergize your assets and talents. Bringing an artistic sensibility, design thinking, and surprise into whatever you produce. Continually generating divergent ideas about how to look at and respond to circumstances, problems, challenges, opportunities, and desires–both individually and collaboratively.
Pre-entrepreneurship. Thinking about and testing ways to carry your ideas and solutions forward into the marketplace for your profit, into the public sphere for the good of others and the enrichment of the culture, or just into a wider conversation for their continued development and enrichment.
Whatever field you are in, starting or belonging to a Think Pond can be a vehicle for:
- Doing joyful, creative, meaningful, and fulfilling work.
- Having conversations and experiences that stretch the mind, spark the imagination, and expand the vision.
- Making “digital life” less fragmented, more inquiring, more purposeful, and more aspirational.
- Becoming attuned to possibilities and potential changes that could have wide-ranging effects.
- Working with a diverse array of minds and talents.
People in the following situations can benefit especially from Think Ponds:
Good Job, Dreams on Hold
You are starting to feel that dreams, creativity, and fulfillment are luxuries that must take a back seat when seeking employment, keeping your well-paying job, and getting ahead at work. You find the future too unnerving to consider. You often remind yourself that you are lucky just to have a job that pays the bills.
Think Pond Benefits: You will have an outlet for expressing who you are, a reduced likelihood of burnout in your job, and a better likelihood that you will be ahead of the curve when your profession or industry changes.
Fulfilling Career, Financial Uncertainty
You are in love with your job but worried about whether the income you earn will sustain you and whether you will be ready to seize opportunities to go to the next level when you have grown out of your current job. You are trying to “make it” in a creative sphere and are having trouble getting noticed or accepted into the dominant group.
Think Pond Benefits: By participating in small projects whenever you can, you will have opportunities to tap into additional income streams without detracting from your job and to show what you can do to people outside your industry or profession. You will increase your visibility as a professional by creating new avenues for sharing your creative work and unique skills in more diverse contexts.
Career Success, Change Agent
You are secure in your job and confident that you have the foresight and agility to stay ahead of the next wave of change in your profession or market. Your work is energizing and fulfilling. You have a clear, compelling dream, know the path to achieve it, and have the necessary knowledge and resources to boldly step onto that path and follow where it leads. You would like to help others.
Think Pond Benefits: You will have greater visibility, opportunities to accelerate success and diversify your network, a wealth of ideas and topics for your blog or Linked In presence.
By Deborah Vrabel
Books relevant to the topic of Rich iPresence have been central in my reading this month. I just finished four that affirmed the concerns I expressed about fragmentation but also made me examine this project more critically.
- Digital Vertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us by Andrew Keen (2012)
- The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicolas Carr (2010)
- You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier (2010)
- Mindless: Why Smarter Machines are Making Dumber Humans by Simon Head (2014)
- The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in A World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris (2014)
- Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other by Sherry Turkle (2011)
Each of these authors warns that we underestimate the extent to which information technology shapes and controls our minds, individuality, relationships, economy, and culture. Reading them made me question whether iPresence could be rich at all.
Andrew Keen is an early Internet entrepreneur, the executive director of the Silicon Valley salon FutureCast, and the author of The Cult of the Amateur. He says we are trading our precious privacy and solitude for the empty status symbol of social media visibility. Heavy social media users, he says, are like “lab rats, constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment.” Those who are adding content to Facebook are not the site’s customers, he says. They are the product it sells to advertisers and marketers who want the personal data we readily provide for free.
Lanier is a pioneer in the field of virtual reality who has witnessed the rise of Silicon Valley firsthand. He says the predominant digital culture marginalizes authorship at the cost of individuality and creativity. He says the Web is dominated by “derivative expression” instead of work that is “genuinely new in the world.”
Carr is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who has published books and articles on technology, business, and culture. He says heavy use of online media reprograms the brain making it better at scanning and surfing but diminishing concentration, depth, memory. “When we go online,” he says, “we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.”
Head is an Associate Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford and a Scholar at the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. His focus is on the systems being used to monitor and measure workers, but he also spotlights how technology is being used to devalue the capabilities and experience of workers and middle managers, increasing economic inequality.
Turkle is the director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self and a licensed clinical psychologist. Her central idea is that we are reaching a point in history she calls “the robotic moment.” People are gaining emotional and philosophical readiness to “consider robots as potential friends, confidants, and even romantic partners,” a time when “the performance of connection seems connection enough.”
Harris is a journalist (or, as his magazine began to call him as it shifted from print to digital, a “content creator”). He calls attention to the fact that those of us born before 1985 will be the only people in history to know what it was like both before and after the Internet. Therefore, we are responsible to ask “What will we carry forward?” and “What worthy things might we thoughtlessly leave behind?” His central answer to the second question is that we may end up paying a high price for “the loss of lack, the end of absence.”
These thoughtful, well-researched works challenge me to think more deeply about how I and others who see the Web as an opportunity to express original ideas, engage in complex dialogue, and learn can counteract the negative side effects the authors reveal. Making iPresence “rich” may not be the road to fame and revenues, but I now believe it’s a worthy endeavor.
By Deborah Vrabel
Creating opportunities, incentives, structures, technologies, and spaces for dialogue and collaboration is an important theme for most large organizations. It is often a daunting challenge—but well worth the effort. As a writer, I have been privileged to witness, participate in, and/or chronicle a few groundbreaking collaborative endeavors and agonize along with clients who made valiant attempts in impossible circumstances. I have also seen a few pseudo-collaborative efforts—which invariably failed.
Because of that stimulating, sometimes frustrating vantage point, I have thought deeply about collaborative work and how to sustain and enhance it. But I always thought about how collaboration would benefit my clients—never myself. Until recently, I never asked the question:
“What kind of collaborative relationships would be generative for me and others facing the realities of creating or recreating a meaningful, rewarding career in a time of rapid change, social upheaval, and economic uncertainty?”
I started to ask that question and explore what my ideas might look like.
Copyright 2016 Deborah Vrabel. All rights reserved.
By Deborah Vrabel
Meeting deadlines and achieving goals demands effective use of time and resources. When we look at our workload, we reach for the calendar, the timeline, budgets, and other tools for ensuring that we have what we need and do the right things at the right time. We don’t assume that the resources we need are unlimited and available whenever we decide to use them. We don’t treat our pool of resources as something we can stretch at will to double its original size, and we don’t squander our most valuable resources to accomplish the things that matter least.
Many of us need to follow those common sense guidelines when we allocate our most precious resource–our capacity to think.
I’m not talking here about doing brain workouts like the games sold by Luminosity or practicing mindfulness. Neither am I referring to dietary supplements, exercise, rest, and other health practices that are good for the brain.
Instead, I want to try adapting the tools we all use to manage our time, resources, and productivity to the needs of people whose work spans an array of complex issues and requires versatile use of mental processes and people who are finding their way–whether that means exploring or reassessing career directions, working on a dream and a job simultaneously, or rebuilding and recovering after loss and upheaval.
Think Pond members: Let’s see where this takes us! How might considering flow, mental energy requirements, aesthetics, and social needs help us make better use of thinking time?
By Deborah Vrabel
For awhile I thought about naming my business Creativity Springs. I imagined the different reactions of everyone I’ve encountered professionally. Some people would relate to it and automatically assume that I’m a very creative person. Others, especially those with project management responsibilities, would politely try to move the conversation onto a less metaphorical plane where the “real work” gets done. Those who haven’t seen that I can easily switch to an analytical, goal-oriented mindset when needed might be less inclined to hire me or hesitant to work with me.
But I liked the way Creativity Springs can be read as either a sentence or a proper noun for a place. I liked the image of adding some pure, cool water for my readers as they evaluate a grant proposal or a position statement I’ve written. When my work needs to be distinctive and compelling, I like the idea of this mysterious undercurrent we can all bring to light if we make a habit of looking for its shimmer and take the time to let it bubble up to the surface.
My clients don’t pay for the time I spend in Creativity Springs. To me, the opportunity to go there is its own reward and the paid work is all about making something clients can use. Still some of the projects I’ve supported through my writing have benefited greatly from my trips to Creativity Springs.
- The creative titles or metaphors I find there have helped committees renew their focus and energy for the work during a long or contentious deliberation process.
- The element of story I weave subtly into the work helps the intended users of a report or technical guidance document to understand more clearly or to see themselves in the implementation.
- The words and images I find there lead to better illustrations and cover design and can reduce the costs and iterations of the design process.
- The research or intense observation that fueled the analytical writing yields insights about how to increase visibility, broaden readership, or determine next steps.
Whatever you do in work and life, I encourage you to make a trip to Creativity Springs a part of your journey. Like Narnia, Wonderland, and other mythical places, it’s not far from you–but it will change you.
By Deborah Vrabel for Creativity Springs
In what ways do you consider yourself creative or innovative? In what areas do you wish you were more creative or innovative? What role do imagination and creativity play in your chosen profession and in your current industry, organization, and job? In your other roles (citizen, parent, partner, single person, homeowner, gardener, cook, athlete, whatever)? What are some specific creative challenges you face currently? What stimulates your imagination? What would you like to make? What are some areas within your industry or profession where innovation most needs to happen? What types of solutions would transform your industry or profession? Based on recognized problems and developments you have seen in recent years, what is the likely next wave of your industry or profession? What change is currently emerging?
Explore those questions at Creativity Springs–a place for injecting imagination, creativity, and artistry into any project or endeavor.