BEST PRACTICE FOR SYNTHESIS AND CREATIVITY
The 21st century opens on humanity coming to terms with a spectrum of global concerns. If we view the earth as one country and mankind as it citizens then each step toward the future – the horizon of change – has to be integrated into specific local communities and at the same time the global community. Certainly this is not an easy or obvious process. The kinds of creativity and synthesis that are required challenge current forms of thinking and accepted behaviors. Viewed in relation to these challenges, profound changes in education (learning) and culture (behavior) are also required.
Given the vast changes in the world, and the shifting responsibility for education across the life span, Howard Gardner proposes in Five Minds For The Future the kinds of minds that will be at the greatest premium in this century and how best to cultivate them.
The mind must be DISCIPLINED in three senses. The person must be able to think in terms of the major scholarly disciplines (history, mathematics, science, and the arts); he/she must have at least one area of expertise; he/she must have those habits of continued application so that learning can continue throughout life.
Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann argues that in the 21st century, the most important mind will be the SYNTHESIZING MIND. Individuals are subjected to huge amounts of information. We must be able to decide what is important; how best to organize it for ourselves; how best to communicate it to others. Almost everything that can be automated will be.
The last frontier for the mind is that of CREATING New Ideas…. thinking outside of the box. Such thinking presupposes a certain discipline and considerable synthesizing ability but it cannot be constrained by what has been thought or done before.
The first three kinds of minds are cognitive. The last two relate to the world of other individuals, and are thus more social and affective.
The RESPECTFUL MIND goes beyond mere tolerance. Respectful persons welcome human diversity, seek to understand and work with others, and cultivate an atmosphere of openness and reciprocity.
The ETHICAL MIND builds upon respect but entails a more abstract attitude. Ethical individuals ponder their roles as workers and citizens. They carry out good work… work that is excellent, ethical and personally meaningful. They consider their roles as citizens of their community, their region, and the globe and act in constructive, non-egocentric ways.
Needless to say, the development of each of these kinds of minds is a formidable undertaking. There is a certain tension between these minds… for example, excessive respect can thwart creativity. Thus, getting these kinds of minds to work together is itself a challenge of synthesis.
The observations Howard Gardner makes in his book Five Minds For The Twenty First Century categorizes creativity in terms of the individual, the cultural domain, and the social field. He also looks at four stages of development in individual creativity and reflects on creativity in small, and large groups, as well as in crowds. He recognizes the relationship between synthesis and creativity and their importance in art, science, and business. However, he provides only general clues for the teaching of creativity and synthesis.
Agile Methods position synthesis and creativity in a process based methodology that contributes to end results. The Agile methods also bring diverse groups into a systematic structure that has capacity building effects on both the group and the individual participants. Daily stand up meetings, demonstrations and reflections at the end of each sprint serve to accumulate the learning from the experience of being creative. There is a unique aspect to creativity in that it is not so much an objective or prescriptive condition as one that is participatory and unpredictable. These features of the nature of creativity are in effect outward manifestations of an inward process that is essentially synthesis. The two attributes-synthesis and creativity- are in a dynamic, reflexive relationship…within the group and within each individual in the group.
The Learning Circle is unique in that it provides an evaluation tool that can be applied to the processes as well as the end results of synthesis and creativity as they manifest in a specific project.