Set those thinking caps ablaze impress your friends with newfound knowledge and wit after processing these brain ticklers:
What makes a good conversationalist has changed little over the years. The basics remain the same as when Cicero became the first scholar to write down some rules, which were summarised in 2006 by The Economist: “Speak clearly; speak easily but not too much, especially when others want their turn; do not interrupt; be courteous; deal seriously with serious matters and gracefully with lighter ones; never criticise people behind their backs; stick to subjects of general interest; do not talk about yourself; and, above all, never lose your temper.” But Cicero was lucky: he never went on a first date with someone more interested in their iPhone than his company.
Yet if today’s museums are successful cultural caterers with wide-ranging menus, no matter where we find them, their fare manages to taste more and more the same. A handful of the same celebrity architects now designs new wings and even whole museum cities such as Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. Facilities in Spain, Boston, the Middle East, and Los Angeles all look different in the same way. An international class of museum professionals job-hops among Beijing, Paris, New York, and Qatar spreading a common corporate culture, where top directors are expected to command million-dollar salaries, oversee thousands of employees, fund-raise, invest and spend endowments on massive expansions, horse-trade the assets on the walls to create blockbuster shows that can attract headline-making crowds, and spin these activities to the press.
But creativity is not magic, and there’s no such thing as a creative type. Creativity is not a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed by the angels. It’s a skill. Anyone can learn to be creative and to get better at it. New research is shedding light on what allows people to develop world-changing products and to solve the toughest problems. A surprisingly concrete set of lessons has emerged about what creativity is and how to spark it in ourselves and our work.
On Chris Hackett’s personal periodic table, the world’s most interesting, and abundant, substance is an element he calls obtainium. Things classified as obtainium might include the discarded teapot that he once turned into a propane burner, or the broken beer bottle he used to make a razor, or the 9-millimeter shell casings he acquired some time ago, melted in a backyard foundry (also made of obtainium) and cast into brass knuckles for a girlfriend.