Saturday, November 7, 2009

"Design Thinking" to Leverage the Heavy Lifting

What's Thwarting American Innovation? Too Much Science, Says Roger Martin

BY Linda TischlerWed Nov 4, 2009 at 3:18 PM
By pushing the principles of scientific management too far, corporations are short-circuiting their own futures, says the designiest dean of all the business schools. "The enemy of innovation is the phrase 'prove it,'" Roger Martin says.

roger martin

The folks at McKinsey, Bain, and BCG should be happy that Roger Martin likes his job. Otherwise, he could cause them a heap of trouble.

As it is, the dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto is traveling the country, throwing down the gauntlet to companies who hope to analyze and strategize their way out of a recession by bringing in armies of management consultants. You'll get what you pay for, he warns, and it won't be innovation.

"The business world is tired of having armies of analysts descend on their companies," he says. "You can't send a 28-year-old with a calculator to solve your problems."

the design of business

The problem, says Martin, author of a new book, The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, is that corporations have pushed analytical thinking so far that it's unproductive. "No idea in the world has been proved in advance with inductive or deductive reasoning," he says.

The answer? Bring in the folks whose job it is to imagine the future, and who are experts in intuitive thinking.
That's where design thinking comes in, he says.

"If I didn't like my job, I'd go out and create a killer firm that would take on McKinsey head-to-head in their own market. A company would get better results, at a fraction of the price." McKinsey, a $5B company, bills out freshly minted MBAs at $1M a year, Martin says. Their billing structure is 10 times what a design firm typically gets.

We spoke to Martin about why MBAs and designers should learn to get along prior to his coming to New York for the Rotman School of Management Design Thinking Experts series with IDEO's Tim Brown and Target's Will Setliffe.

Fast Company: As we slowly climb out of the recession, everybody's looking for where the next innovation will come from. Why does our pace of innovation seem to be slowing?

Martin: Most companies try to be innovative, but the enemy of innovation is the mandate to "prove it." You cannot prove a new idea in advance by inductive or deductive reasoning.

Fast Company: Are you saying that the regression analysis jockeys and Six Sigma black belts have got it all wrong?

Martin: Well, yes. With every good thing in life, there's often a dark shadow. The march of science is good, and corporations are being run more scientifically. But what they analyze is the past. And if the future is not exactly like the past, or there are things happening that are hard to measure scientifically, they get ignored. Corporations are pushing analytical thinking so far that it's become unproductive. The future has no legitimacy for analytical thinkers.

Fast Company: What's the alternative?

Martin: New ideas must come from a new kind of thinking. The American pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce called it abductive logic. It's a logical leap of the mind that you can't prove from past data.

Fast Company: I can't see many CEOs being comfortable with that!

Martin: Why not? The scientific method starts with a hypothesis. It's often what happens in the shower or when an apple hits you on the head. It's what we call 'intuitive thinking.' Its purpose is to know without explicit reasoning.

Fast Company: So, if you're not getting these Newtonian moments from your management consultants, where are they likely to come from?

Martin: In a knowledge-intensive world, design thinking is critical to overcoming the biggest block: overcoming analytical thinking and fear of intuitive thinking. The design thinker enables the organization to balance exploration and exploitation, invention of business and administration of business, originality and mastery.

Fast Company: Who's been brave enough to embrace that idea in this market?

Martin: When he first took over, A.G. Lafley at P&G was brilliant enough to realize they were missing a lot about the holistic consumer experience by sticking to things that were rigorously quantified. For example, when the company moved into beauty products, they were looking at face cream. And the scientists decided it must be about pore coverage. So they analyzed the hell out of pores and said 'We can cover pores better than anybody.' So when women in their research started talking about wanting to feel beautiful and desirable, they'd say, 'Don't talk about that. We don't know how to quantify that!' And they couldn't understand why stupid women would go off to department stores and pay ten times more when they could cover pores just as well. Ten years ago, P&G couldn't prove they could sell women billions of dollars of Oil of Olay face cream at $30-$60. They could imagine it, but not prove it. Lafley took it as a management challenge to see across the divide.

Fast Company: If you don't have A.G. Lafley or Steve Jobs at the helm, how can you sell your organization on the idea of an intuitive leap instead of a scientific leap?

Martin: You don't have to convert the whole organization to design thinking. Propose a little experiment--say, three months in length--where you test out a bite-sized chunk of a problem using this method. If you have a little success, be sure to then attach metrics to it. In that way, you turn the future into the past in a way they understand.

Fast Company: We're a little biased toward the designers here. Don't they bear some of the responsibility for the gap in understanding?

Martin: Absolutely. Like anybody who takes a job in another country, and needs to learn the local language in order to function, design thinkers need to learn the language of reliability, terms such as proof, regression analysis, and best practices.

Fast Company: Sounds like there's a promising future for somebody who's bilingual and can combine both approaches.

Martin: This is a fascinating time, and there's an interesting battle coming. One of these smallish design firms might combine the best of the analytical from the business world and the best intuitive thinking from the design world and become gigantic. There would be massive traction for it. It wouldn't be the first time that a little company in a garage saw things differently.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Inspiration for creating during these tough times.

Despite these hard economic times I don't know anyone who's letting it stop them making art or creating. Here's a bit of inspiration for all of us to create amazing things with next to nothing.

"Two MIT students have successfully photographed the earth from space on a strikingly low budget of $148. Perhaps more significantly, they managed to accomplish this feat using components available off-the-shelf to the average layperson, opening the doors for a new generation of amateur space enthusiasts. The pair plan to launch again soon and hope that their achievements will inspire teachers and students to pursue similar endeavors."

See the full story on ireport here and watch the full video below!


Friday, February 6, 2009

THINK: EduWood Digital Learning Studios!

Hollywood comes to Oakland

The Oakland Press/TIM THOMPSON A building in the General Motors Centerpoint complex in Pontiac, which will be the site of a $70 million movie studio with nine sound stages.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 11:40 AM EST

Of The Oakland Press

Founders of a movie studio planned for Pontiac want to be making movies within 90 days. That’s a realistic goal, says county Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

The movie studio initiative was the high point of Patterson’s State of the County address Tuesday in Troy. Gov. Jennifer Granholm was supposed to make the same announcement at the same time in her State of the State address to the Legislature. Patterson blamed the governor for leaking news about the studio a day before the concurrent speeches. “The governor got so excited about the news — you remember she lived in Hollywood for awhile — she couldn’t contain her girlish enthusiasm and let the cat out of the bag,” Patterson said.

Patterson is among a halfdozen Republicans considering a run for governor when the term-limited Granholm leaves office in 2010.

But all agree the studio is certain to generate much-needed jobs.

“It’s good news — it’s going to be 3,600 jobs,” Patterson said Tuesday.

The local investors in the new studio are Oakland County developers A. Alfred Taubman, Gary Sakwa of Grand Sakwa Properties in Farmington Hills and Linden Nelson of Nelson Ventures in Birmingham. They’re teaming up with Raleigh Studios of Hollywood, Calif., and Endeavor Talent Agency of Beverly Hills, Calif.

“They’re the real deal,” state Rep. Tim Melton, D-Auburn Hills, said of Raleigh and Endeavor. Melton’s district includes Pontiac.

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority also is putting up money for the venture, the reason it was included in both Patterson and Granholm’s speeches.

The new venture, called Motown Motion Pictures LLC and currently based in Birmingham, will include both a film studio and production company.

The investors plan to spend $70 million for a 600,000-square-foot development, including nine sound stages located inside General Motors’ former Centerpoint truck plant at South Boulevard and Opdyke Road in Pontiac.

The state’s growth authority expects the studio to create 3,600 direct jobs and another 1,500 indirect jobs by the year 2020 with an average weekly wage of $824.

The authority on Tuesday approved a state tax credit valued at $101 million over 12 years. The project also will receive $12 million in state incentives along with job training assistance through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Also receiving assistance from the authority are two other film industry businesses — one to be based in Plymouth and one in Detroit.

Michigan currently has the most favorable tax incentives for the film industry in the country.

Movie studio a definite among many ‘maybes’

Thursday, February 5, 2009 6:08 AM EST

By The Oakland Press

Amid all of the promises and glowing predictions we heard Tuesday night from both Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, there was at least one bit of very good, defi nite news.

In their state of the state and state of the county addresses, we were informed of the establishment of a movie studio in Pontiac. Motown Motion Pictures will invest $70 million to build its new film studios at a former General Motors plant.

Granholm noted that Pontiac’s studio was one of three projects coming to Michigan to boost its ongoing efforts to attract Hollywood filmmakers to the state. The governor noted that Wonderstruck Animation Studios will invest $86 million to build a new studio in Detroit and Stardock Systems, a digital gaming manufacturer, will build its production facilities in Plymouth.

The local investors in the Motown studio are Oakland County developers A. Alfred Taubman, Gary Sakwa of Grand Sakwa Properties in Farmington Hills and Linden Nelson of Nelson Ventures in Birmingham. They’re teaming up with Raleigh Studios of Hollywood, Calif., and Endeavor Talent Agency of Beverly Hills, Calif.

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority also is putting up money for the venture.

Motown Motion Pictures LLC is based in Birmingham and will include both a film studio and production company.

The investors plan to spend $70 million for a 600,000-square-foot development, including nine sound stages located inside General Motors’ former Centerpoint truck plant at South Boulevard and Opdyke Road in Pontiac.

The state’s growth authority expects the studio to create 3,600 direct jobs and another 1,500 indirect jobs by the year 2020 with an average weekly wage of $824.

The authority has approved a state tax credit valued at $101 million over 12 years. The project also will receive $12 million in state incentives along with job training assistance through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

However, tax revenue for Pontiac is expected to be anywhere from $1.4 to $2.8 million annually, according to city officials. The state expects its tax revenues to be $178 million by 2020.

Patterson even mentioned the county was in the early stages of its first-ever film festival, possibly coming in 2010.

In speeches that made a lot of promises, it was good hear about some real, concrete projects coming to Oakland County and the state.

We commend Patterson, Granholm, the Pontiac mayor’s office as well as other local and state officials for their efforts in securing this project.

Generally, Granholm painted a beautifully bright future for Michigan.

Of course, she had to do something positive because with the highest unemployment in the nation and an economy that is reeling, gloomy doesn’t even do justice as a description.

Meanwhile, Patterson also did some painting. As usual, he focused on the county’s accomplishments.

Patterson, among other things, noted that Automation Alley, on the strength of a 17-percent increase in membership last year, has hit the magical 1,000 membership mark. He also said that 106 Emerging Sectors companies have either located in Oakland County or expanded here over the past four years, resulting in $1.3 billion in new investment and the creation of 14,762 new jobs.

The picture Granholm crafted certainly sounded good. She plans to shrink state government and balance Michigan’s budget while creating more jobs through diversification of the state’s industries.

Obviously, the devil is in the details.

Will the state balance the budget through some type of tax increases on the backs of businesses and individuals? Will Granholm remember that whatever federal stimulus funds the state receives will be a one-time shot, so they need to supplement Michigan’s finances, not just prop them up for one more year. We certainly can’t argue with anything Granholm and Patterson said. We hope their visions come true.

But just how realistic are they? Historically, we would predict that Patterson’s projections are more accurate because Oakland County has continually led the way in fiscal responsibility and acumen.

Time will tell.

We’ll get a glimpse of Granholm’s plans to finance her visions when she presents her budget next week.

But no matter how successful Granholm and Patterson are in their programs, one thing is certain: For the time being, we’re all in for a bumpy ride, so hang on.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008








It’s No Time to Forget About Innovation

James Yang

Published: November 1, 2008

BY its very nature, innovation is inefficient. While blockbusters do emerge, few of the new products or processes that evolve from innovative thinking ultimately survive the test of time. During periods of economic growth, such inefficiencies are chalked up as part of the price of forging into the future.

But these aren’t such times. Wild market gyrations, frozen credit markets and an overall sour economy herald a new round of corporate belt-tightening. Foremost on the target list is anything inefficient. That’s bad news for corporate innovation, and it could spell trouble for years to come, even after the economy turns around.

“To be honest, we had a problem with innovation even before the economic crisis. That’s the reason I wrote my book,” says Judy Estrin, former chief technology officer at Cisco Systems and author of “Closing the Innovation Gap.” “We’re focusing on the short term and we’re not planting the seeds for the future.”

In tough times, of course, many companies have to scale back. But, she says: “To quote Obama, you don’t use a hatchet. You use a scalpel. Leaders need to pick and choose with great care.”

There are important things managers can do to ensure that creative forward-thinking doesn’t go out the door with each round of layoffs. Fostering a companywide atmosphere of innovation — encouraging everyone to take risks and to think about novel solutions, from receptionists to corner-suite executives — helps ensure that the loss of any particular set of minds needn’t spell trouble for the entire company.

She suggests instilling five core values to entrench innovation in the corporate mind-set: questioning, risk-taking, openness, patience and trust. All five must be used together — risk-taking without questioning leads to recklessness, she says, while patience without trust sets up an every-man-for-himself mentality.

In an era of Six Sigma black belts and brown belts, Ms. Estrin urges setting aside certain efficiency measures in favor of what she calls “green-thumb leadership” — a future-oriented management style that understands, and even encourages, taking risks. Let efficiency measures govern the existing “factory farm,” she says, but create greenhouses and experimental gardens along the sides of the farm to nurture the risky investments that likely will take a number of years to bear fruit.

“I’m not suggesting you only cut from today’s stuff and keep the future part untouched,” she says. “You have to balance it.”

Yet even that approach has its drawbacks. Companies that create silos of innovation by designating one group as the “big thinkers” while making others handle day-to-day concerns risk losing their innovative edge if any of the big thinkers leave the company or ultimately must be laid off.

“Innovation has to be embedded in the daily operation, in the entire work force,” says Jon Fisher, a business professor, serial entrepreneur, and author of “Strategic Entrepreneurism,” which advocates building a start-up’s business from the beginning with an eye toward selling the company. “A large acquirer’s interest in a start-up or smaller company is binary in nature: They either want you or they don’t, based on the innovation you have to offer. The best way to foster innovation is to create something, put it to the test, build a good company and then get it under the umbrella of a world-renowned company to move it forward.”

David Thompson, chief executive and co-founder of Inc., based in San Mateo, Calif., says that innovation “has a bad name in down times” but that “bad times focus the mind and the best-focused minds in the down times are looking for the opportunities.”

“You do have to batten down the hatches and reduce expenses, but you can’t do it at the expense of the big picture,” Mr. Thompson adds. “You always have to keep in mind the bigger picture that’s coming down the road in two or three years.

“The last thing you want to do with innovation is just throw money at it. It’s a very tricky balance.”

In fact, hard times can be the source of innovative inspiration, says Chris Shipley, a technology analyst and executive producer of the DEMO conferences, where new ideas make their debuts. “Some of the best products and services come out of some of the worst times,” she says. In the early 1990s, tens of millions of dollars had gone down the drain in a futile effort to develop “pen computing” — an early phase of mobile computing — and a recession was shriveling the economic outlook.

Yet the tiny Palm Computing managed to revitalize the entire industry in a matter of months by transforming itself overnight from a software maker into a hardware company.

“Our biggest challenge right now is fear,” she says. “The worst thing that a company can do right now is go into hibernation, into duck-and-cover. If you just sit on your backside and wait for things to get better, they’re not going to. They’re going to get better for somebody, but not necessarily for you.”

HOWARD LIEBERMAN, also a serial entrepreneur and founder of the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute, says innovation breeds effectiveness. It’s not about efficiency, he argues. “Efficiency is for bean counters,” he says. “It’s not for C.E.O.’s or inventors or founders.”

The current economic downturn comes as no surprise to him, he says, because it mirrors the downturn at the time of the dot-com bust. Then and now, the companies that survive are those that keep creativity and innovation foremost.

“Creativity doesn’t care about economic downturns,” Mr. Lieberman says. “In the middle of the 1970s, when we were having a big economic downturn, both Apple and Microsoft were founded. Creative people don’t care about the time or the season or the state of the economy; they just go out and do their thing.”

Janet Rae-Dupree writes about science and emerging technology in Silicon Valley.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Deep Understanding by Design

Powerful Learning: Studies Show Deep Understanding Derives from Collaborative Methods

Cooperative learning and inquiry-based teaching yield big dividends in the classroom. And now we have the research to prove it.

by Brigid Barron
Linda Darling-Hammond
October 8, 2008

Illustration of kids and teacher looking at a T Rex skeleton in a museum.
Credit: Thomas Reis

Today's students will enter a job market that values skills and abilities far different from the traditional workplace talents that so ably served their parents and grandparents. They must be able to crisply collect, synthesize, and analyze information, then conduct targeted research and work with others to employ that newfound knowledge. In essence, students must learn how to learn, while responding to endlessly changing technologies and social, economic, and global conditions.

But what types of teaching and learning will develop these skills? And, just as important, do studies exist that support their use?

A growing body of research demonstrates that students learn more deeply if they have engaged in activities that require applying classroom-gathered knowledge to real-world problems. Like the old adage states, "Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand."

Research shows that such inquiry-based teaching is not so much about seeking the right answer but about developing inquiring minds, and it can yield significant benefits. For example, in the 1995 School Restructuring Study, conducted at the Center on Organization and Restructuring of Schools by Fred Newmann and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, 2,128 students in twenty-three schools were found to have significantly higher achievement on challenging tasks when they were taught with inquiry-based teaching, showing that involvement leads to understanding. These practices were found to have a more significant impact on student performance than any other variable, including student background and prior achievement.

Similarly, studies also show the widespread benefits of cooperative learning, in which small teams of students use a variety of activities to more deeply understand a subject. Each member is responsible not only for learning what is taught but also for helping his or her teammates learn, so the group become a supportive learning environment.

What follows is a summary of the key research findings for both inquiry-based and cooperative learning. First, let's look at three inquiry-based approaches: project learning (also called project-based learning), problem-based learning, and design-based instruction.

Project-Based Pathways

Project learning involves completing complex tasks that result in a realistic product or presentation to an audience. "A Review of Research on Project-Based Learning," prepared by researcher John Thomas for the Autodesk Foundation, identified five key components of effective project learning:

  • Centrality to the curriculum
  • Driving questions that lead students to encounter central concepts
  • Investigations that involve inquiry and knowledge building
  • Processes that are student driven, rather than teacher driven
  • Authentic problems that people care about in the real world

Research on project learning found that student gains in factual learning are equivalent or superior to those of students in more traditional forms of classroom instruction. The goals of project learning, however, aim to take learning one step further by enabling students to transfer their learning to new kinds of situations, illustrated in three studies:

  1. In a 1998 study by H.G. Shepherd, fourth and fifth graders completed a nine-week project to define and find solutions related to housing shortages in several countries. In comparison to the control group, the project-learning students scored significantly higher on a critical-thinking test and demonstrated increased confidence in their learning.

  2. A more ambitious, longitudinal comparative study by Jo Boaler and colleagues in England in 1997 and 1998 followed students over three years in two schools similar in student achievement and income levels. The traditional school featured teacher-directed whole-class instruction organized around texts, workbooks, and frequent tests in tracked classrooms. Instruction in the other school used open-ended projects in heterogeneous classrooms.

    The study found that although students had comparable learning gains on basic mathematics procedures, significantly more project-learning students passed the National Exam in year three than those in the traditional school. Although students in the traditional school "thought that mathematical success rested on being able to remember and use rules," according to the study, the project-learning students developed more flexible and useful mathematical knowledge.

  3. A third study, in 2000, on the impact of multimedia projects on student learning, showed similar gains. Students in the Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project [4], in California's Silicon Valley, developed a brochure informing school officials about problems homeless students face. The students in the multimedia program earned higher scores than a comparison group on content mastery, sensitivity to audience, and coherent design. They performed equally well on standardized test scores of basic skills.

Other short-term, comparative studies demonstrated benefits from project learning, such as increases in the ability to define problems, reason with clear arguments, and plan projects. Additional research has documented improvements in motivation, attitude toward learning, and work habits. Students who struggle in traditional instructional settings have often excelled when working on a project, which better matches their learning style or preference for collaboration.

Students as Problem Solvers

Problem-based-learning approaches are a close cousin of project learning, in which students use complex problems and cases to actively build their knowledge. Much of the research for this approach comes from medical education. Medical students are given a patient profile, history, and symptoms; groups of students generate a diagnosis, conduct research, and perform diagnostic tests to identify causes of the pain or illness. Meta-analyses of multiple studies have found that medical students in problem-based curricula score higher on clinical problem solving and performance.

Use of problem-based cases in teacher education has helped student teachers apply theory and practical knowledge to school contexts and classroom dilemmas; these cases, for example, have enabled teachers to take alternative perspectives to better appreciate cultural diversity.

Studies of problem-based learning suggest that it is comparable, though not always superior, to more traditional instruction in teaching facts and information. However, this approach has been found to be better in supporting flexible problem solving, reasoning skills, and generating accurate hypotheses and coherent explanations.

Learning Through Design

Design-based instruction is based on the premise that children learn deeply when they create products that require understanding and application of knowledge. Design activity involves stages of revisions as students create, assess, and redesign their products. The work often requires collaboration and specific roles for individual students, enabling them to become experts in a particular area.

Illustration of a girl smiling, holding a book.
Credit: Thomas Reis

Design-based approaches can be found across many disciplines, including science, technology, art, engineering, and architecture. Design competitions for students include the FIRST [5] robotics competitions and Thinkquest [6], for which student teams design and build Web sites on topics including art, astronomy, computer programming, foster care, and mental health.

Thinkquest teams are mentored by a teacher who gives general guidance throughout the design process, leaving the specific creative and technical work to the students. Teams offer and receive feedback during a peer review of the initial submissions and use this information to revise their work. To date, more than 30,000 students have created more than 7,000 Web sites [7] through this competition.

Few studies have used a control group to evaluate the impact of the learning-by-design model, but in a 2000 study by researchers C.E. Hmelo, D.L Holton, and J.L. Kolodner, sixth-grade students designed a set of artificial lungs and built a partially working model of the respiratory system. The learning-by-design students viewed the respiratory system more systemically and understood more about the structures and functions of the system than the control group.

Hmelo and colleagues argued that design challenges need to be carefully planned, and they emphasized the importance of dynamic feedback. They also determined that teachers working on design projects must pay particular attention to finding a balance between students' work on design activities and reflection on what they are learning; that balance allows teachers to guide students' progress, especially in recognizing irrelevant aspects of their research that may take them on unproductive tangents, and in remaining focused on the whole project rather than simply on its completion.

Shifting Ideas, Shifting Roles

A significant challenge to implementing inquiry approaches is the capacity and skill of teachers to undertake this more complex form of teaching. Teachers may think of project learning or problem-based teaching as unstructured and may fail to provide students with proper support and assessment as projects unfold.

When students have no prior experience with inquiry learning, they can have difficulty generating meaningful driving questions and logical arguments and may lack background knowledge to make sense of the inquiry. Students can neglect to use informational resources unless explicitly prompted. They can find it hard to work together, manage their time, and sustain motivation in the face of setbacks or confusion.

One of the principal challenges for teachers, then, is to learn how to juggle a host of new responsibilities -- from carving out the time needed for extended inquiry to developing new classroom-management techniques. They must also be able to illuminate key concepts, balance direct instruction with inquiry teaching, facilitate learning among groups, and develop assessments to guide the learning process. That's a tall order for even the most experienced teacher.

To address these problems, Alice D. Gertzman and Janet L. Kolodner, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, introduced the concept of a design diary in 1996 to support eighth-grade science students in creating a solution for coastal erosion on a specific island off the coast of Georgia. Students had access to stream tables, as well as resources on videotape and the Internet.

In a first study conducted by Gertzman and Kolodner, learning outcomes were disappointing but instructive: The researchers noted that the teacher missed many opportunities to advance learning because she could not listen to all small-group discussions and decided not to have whole-group discussions. They also noted that the students needed more specific prompts for justifying design decisions.

In a second study, the same researchers designed a broader system of tools that greatly improved the learning outcomes. These tools included more structured diary prompts asking for design explanations and the use of whole-class discussions at strategic moments. They also required students to publicly defend their designs earlier in the process. Requiring students to track and defend their thinking focused them on learning and connecting concepts in their design work.

Talented Teams

Inquiry-based learning often involves students working in pairs or groups. Cooperative small-group learning -- that is, students working together in a group small enough that everyone can participate on a collective task -- has been the subject of hundreds of studies. All the research arrives at the same conclusion: There are significant benefits for students who work together on learning activities.

In one comparison by Zhining Qin, David Johnson, and Roger Johnson, of four types of categories for problems presented to individuals and cooperative teams, researchers found that teams outperformed individuals on all types and across all ages. Results varied by how well defined the problems were (a single right answer versus open-ended solutions, such as writing a story) and how much they relied on language. Several experimental studies have shown that groups outperform individuals on learning tasks and that individuals who work in groups do better on later individual assessments.

Cooperative group work benefits students in social and behavioral areas as well, including improvement in student self-concept, social interaction, time on task, and positive feelings toward peers. Researchers say these social and self-concept measures were related to academic outcomes and that low-income students, urban students, and minority students benefited even more from cooperative group work, a finding repeated over several decades.

But effective cooperative learning can be difficult to implement. Researchers identify at least three major challenges: developing group structures to help individuals work together, creating tasks that support useful cooperative work, and introducing discussion strategies that support rich learning.

Productive Collaboration

A great deal of work has been done to specify the kinds of tasks, accountability, and roles that help students collaborate well. In a summary of forty years of research on cooperative learning, Roger and David Johnson, at the University of Minnesota, identified five important elements of cooperation across multiple classroom models:

  • Positive interdependence
  • Individual accountability
  • Structures that promote face-to-face interaction
  • Social skills
  • Group processing

Cooperative-learning approaches range from simply asking students to help one another complete individually assigned problem sets to having students collectively define projects and generate a product that reflects the work of the entire group. Many approaches fall between these two extremes.

Illustration of a girl laughing.
Credit: Thomas Reis

In successful group learning, teachers pay careful attention to the work process and interaction among students. As Johns Hopkins University's Robert Slavin argues, "It is not enough to simply tell students to work together. They must have a reason to take one another's achievement seriously." Slavin developed a model that focuses on external motivators, such as rewards and individual accountability established by the teacher. He found that group tasks with individual accountability produce stronger learning outcomes.

Stanford University's Elizabeth Cohen reviewed research on productive small groups, focusing on internal group interaction around tasks. She and her colleagues developed Complex Instruction [8], one of the best-known approaches, which uses carefully designed activities requiring diverse talents and interdependence among group members. Teachers pay attention to unequal participation, a frequent result of status differences among peers, and are given strategies to bolster the status of infrequent contributors. Roles are assigned to encourage equal participation, such as recorder, reporter, materials manager, resource manager, communication facilitator, and harmonizer.

Studies identified social processes that explain how group work supports individual learning, such as resolving differing perspectives through argument, explaining one's thinking, observing the strategies of others, and listening to explanations.

Good Signs

Evidence shows that inquiry-based, collaborative approaches benefit students in learning important twenty-first-century skills, such as the ability to work in teams, solve complex problems, and apply knowledge from one lesson to others. The research suggests that inquiry-based lessons and meaningful group work can be challenging to implement. They require changes in curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices -- changes that are often new for teachers and students.

Teachers need time and a community to organize sustained project work. Inquiry-based instruction can help teachers deepen their repertoire for connecting with their peers and students in new and meaningful ways. That's powerful teaching and learning -- for students and teachers alike.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Summary View-Point on Creative Cities Summit

Creative Cities Summit 2.0 Recap by Arnold Weinfeld
Director of Public Policy & Federal Affairs for the League


October 13, 2008

This week, the second-ever Creative Cities Summit will be taking place in Detroit at the Renaissance Center. The League has been working with event founder Peter Kageyama and a host of other organizations over the last several months on putting together an event that will feature speakers from around the world with knowledge and experience in creating vibrant communities. I'm looking forward to hearing from people such as Richard Florida, Charles Landry, John Howkins, Doug Farr, Bill Strickand and a host of others. Session content covers a wide array of topics from cities and universities; attracting and retaining talent (this one features League CEO Dan Gilmartin); design; marketing and media; transportation; music and creativity; and sustainability, just to mention a few. It all starts today and runs through Wednesday. I'll be reporting highlights throughout the week. For a full agenda check out


October 14, 2008

As the Creative Cities Summit opened on Monday in Detroit, Karen Gagnon, Cool Cities director and CCS2 (Creative Cities Summit 2) co-producer, asked people to take away one big idea. Yet the first day speakers revealed several concepts that when woven together bring to mind the big idea that cities hold the key to creating the environment necessary for creativity.

As Pier Giorgio Di Cicco, author of The Municipal Mind noted, creativity is impossible without the civil encounter, for the city is the place where one discovers his/her destiny through others. Di Cicco also spoke about how risk taking is essential to creative economies as much as good urban citizenship is a key to knowledge economy. He was followed by John Howkins, one of the first to publish ideas on creativity and innovation in the 2001 work, The Creative Economy, and a consultant who has worked in over 30 countries—most recently in China. He began by noting how China will achieve in 30 years, the kind of urbanization it took Europe nearly 2,000 years. Howkins said the creative economy sees more failures than the service or manufacturing economies and that global competition in the 21st century is minds vs minds and copyright vs copyright, or minds working with other minds. He set forth his principles of 'creative ecology' whereby everyone is considered to be creative; creativity needs freedom and freedom needs markets. Howkins said creativity is not simply art or innovation but imagination, dreams, new concepts, design, culture, style, and meaning.

Freedom is dialogue, collaboration, education, training, learning, and acceptance by family/friends/society. The market is the marketplace of ideas as evidenced through information content and the internet. The creative ecology is one where diverse individuals express themselves in a systematic and adaptive way using ideas to produce new ideas. According to Howkins, the six indicators of the creative ecology are systems, diversity, change, learning, adaptation, and sustainability. The next billion of those looking for work will go to creative cities to join the creative ecology.

Bill Strickland concluded with his inspirational story of the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild and Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh, PA. Strickland's story and his vision are built around the premise that provided the right environment, people will go into the world as assets, not liabilities. To say the least, the first day of the summit was a day for listening and learning. Tuesday we'll hear more thoughts on the creative economy, creative city, and creative design from thinkers such as Richard Florida and Charles Landry, sustainable urbanist Doug Farr, as well as Ben Hecht of Living Cities and Tom Wujec of Autodesk, with breakout session topics covering LEED neighborhood development, transportation, and a discussion on the Midwest as a mega-region. Something tells me that it will be another day of big ideas. Stay tuned to more from the 'D' on these and other goings on at the CCS2!


October 15, 2008

You'll recall that I mentioned yesterday that if Monday's sessions were any indication then those speaking Tuesday would also have some big ideas for us to consider. Well I and those in attendance were not disappointed! The day began with Tom Wujec of Autodesk. Autodesk is the Oscar-winning industry leader in 3D computer animation technology. Tom discussed how teams foster their creativity, that innovation is the capacity to encourage imagination. He was followed by Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities. Living Cities is a national community redevelopment initiative that looks to improve the built environment in under-developed neighborhoods. Ben sees cities as the solution for solving America's problems—leading us into the green economy and building a new urban ecosystem through strong neighborhoods. He noted that venture capitalists are funding 'clean technology' initiatives right behind information technology and bio tech.

We then heard from Doug Farr, a Detroit native and an architect, planner, and author of the book Sustainable Urbanism. Doug spoke about the foundations of sustainable urbanism—smart growth, green buildings, and new urbanism. He said that we need to change our culture and our systems when it comes to thinking about efficiency and sustainability, including fixing codes and reversing regulations. He noted that a part of the 2030 Communities Campaign is to reduce vehicle miles traveled; it is wrong to think we can all buy fuel efficient vehicles and drive more or build larger buildings simply because they’re 'green'.

Richard Florida was the lunch keynote speaker, and although he made the circuit a few times a number of years ago after penning the book The Rise of the Creative Class, it was the first time this writer had seen him speak. He has a new book out now titled Who's Your City? and his speech ran the gamut of topics from the current financial crisis to the role cities must play in providing the means for creativity. Florida opined that we are in the midst of a fundamental economic transformation and that the current worldwide financial crisis is not analogous to 1929, but rather to the late 1800s—the last time the world saw great economic system change. The change taking place now according to Florida is the move to a creative economy where the only real capital left is human capital or creativity. The old models of recovery are bankrupt and the only way out is through our communities. He noted that at the turn of the 20th century only five percent of the US was in creative economy; even in 1980 it was only 15-20 it is 33 percent. Creativity doesn't respect social has nothing to do with race, disabilities; etc. Rather than a “melting pot” he said we are now a “mosaic society” where an individual can keep their culture, their identity, and enjoy the culture and identity of others. Arts, culture, and entertainment are as important today as business, finance, and technology. In order to provide the means for fostering creativity, cities must provide 1) physical and economic security; 2) economic and civic opportunity; 3) leadership to activate the creativity; 4) open mindedness and being welcoming to all; and 5) quality of place including integration with the natural environment. And this just got us through lunch! I'll continue with more tomorrow including thoughts from Charles Landry and a historic roundtable discussion.


October 16, 2008

Day 2- Part 2

When I left off yesterday, Richard Florida had just given his manifesto of the way things are now and the way they should be. And, whether you’re a Richard Florida fan or not he definitely gives one something to think about.

Which takes us to after lunch on Tuesday and Charles Landry. Landry is known for his work on creativity and its uses and how city futures are shaped by paying attention to the culture of a place. He too has written books, his most recent, The Art of City Making focuses on how cities can be more "creative for the world." His comments reflected that belief as he noted that the art of city making in the 21st century is the art of living together. He said that there are many ways to look at a city but that first and foremost is its history and creativity. Having a strong arts and cultural heritage is synonymous with the creative economy. He noted that one of the challenges facing us is what to do with smaller 2nd-6th level cities. What is the emerging advantage when every city is chasing talent and being creative—it is values driven development connecting to a bigger picture. Cities need to learn to keep the best and reinvent the rest through capital assessments.

Landry also dug down into city organization providing a means by which cities must be open through a "creative bureaucracy" or one which is strategically principled but tactically flexible. One that is open to collaboration and partnership with its citizens and greater community.

Following Landry was a roundtable discussion which, for the first time, brought together the three people—Landry, John Howkins and Richard Florida—who for the past decade have spent their time writing and speaking about the creative economy, creative class, and creative city. The discussion was moderated by CEOs for Cities director Carol Coletta and a lively discussion ensued weaving together the thoughts of these thinkers. Some of the comments included Florida saying that the most basic right of any person is to be able to fully explore your talent through self expression and that cities must stop doing dumb things. They need to conserve resources, empower community groups. Reflecting on the current worldwide situation he noted that "a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” John Howkins noted that creativity needs freedom and that we need to be investing in people. Landry noted that we have to shift the rule system away from the plantation mentality of the industrial system.

As full as the morning and afternoon session were, there was a after-dinner session with representatives from Google, MSU, U-M and WSU as well as private business and Lansing Mayor and MML Board member Virg Bernero to discuss cities, universities, and talent. Nearly everyone agreed that all need to work better together at retaining talent in Michigan.

Tuesday CCS2 sessions were about as full as they get with concepts and ideas on how we need to move forward to secure a better future. And after hearing speakers for the first two days, one thing is indeed clear... the world economic platform has changed to one in which brains are the new capital, not brawn. Those cities, states, regions, and countries that understand this and put in place systems that will encourage creative activity and growth in their communities will grow themselves.


October 17, 2008

After two days of speakers and presenters giving us more than one "big idea," the last day of the CCS2 was drill down day as many session speakers were from organizations working on the ground implementing those very ideas that help to create vibrant cities. In the opening plenary session, Doug Rothwell (president of Detroit Renaissance) and Kelly Lee (executive vice president of Innovation Philadelphia) spoke to their respective efforts at working to create places that will attract young, talented people. That was followed by breakout sessions involving such topics as music and economic development, planning for the creative city, and race and the creative city. This last topic explored the challenges, triumphs, and lessons learned from urban, creative professionals as they worked through racial barriers to spur social and economic innovation. The luncheon speaker was Diana Lind, editor of the magazine Next American City which seeks to link young, urban organizations around the country in an effort to engage that constituency in a quest for more livable cities. The afternoon sessions included discussions on storytelling or how to relate the authenticity of a place; the future of creative expression for cities; creative industry incubators; and a session on the city's role in attracting and retaining talent, featuring League CEO Dan Gilmartin.

The final keynote speaker of the conference was Majora Carter. A life-long resident of the South Bronx, Majora spoke of her belief that one should not have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one, and acted upon that belief by founding the non-profit environmental justice solutions corporation, Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx). Her first project was obtaining a federal planning grant for the South Bronx Greenway Project which led to the first new South Bronx water front park in over 60 years. She has continued to work on projects to improve her neighborhood, one of the poorest in New York City. Since starting the Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training Program in 2003, an urban green-collar job training and placement system, she has since partnered with Van Jones on a national green-collar job agenda. Majora is a inspiration to anyone working to make their corner of the world a better place.

For me, this three-day conference re-affirmed my belief that communities hold the key economic prosperity. It helped to coalesce those ideas and strategies that will help me in my work with communities in Michigan. One thing is clear, public and private sector leaders and citizens must understand that a new economic platform is upon us—one that is based around knowledge and creativity, where human capital is the most important element. Those that do and who work together to put in place systems that will encourage creative activity and growth; these are the places that will grow themselves.

I'm glad to be part of an organization that is working with communities in Michigan to help them move forward. Join us.

AT OUR CORE: A Quantum Jump or Leap of Faith



Monday, October 13, 2008

Creative Roundtable Opportunity

Motor City Movie House to Screen Michigan Films on Sunday October 12th

by Creative Cities Summit

October 6th, 2008 Motor City Movie House at the Russell Industrial Center announces a new film series of local filmmakers. Starting Sunday, October 12th at 7pm and continuing every Sunday thereafter at 5pm, the screening take place at the 5th floor screening room in building 1 of the Russell Industrial Center.

The series is entitled "Talk To The Hand" presents local filmmakers and their work. This is an "open mike" night for the local film community. This is an opportunity for local talent to screen their work, get feedback from other filmmakers and to talk to the audience.

All screenings will be followed by a Q&A Session and after party.

The kick off evening will follow the Unconference which is taking place at MOCAD from 1:00 - 5:00pm on October 12th.

If you are a filmmaker who would like to show your work, contact Ed Gardiner at 248 346 8449 or at

Monday, October 6, 2008


Embryo at MCMH

A collaborative educational center at Russell Industrial Center for the Creative Community

Art, Film, Music, Dance, Fashion, Design,


  • Area rugs

  • Bathroom sink

  • Coffee tables

  • Conference Table and Chairs

  • Couches

  • Curtains: canvas dropcloths

  • Desks and chairs

  • Floor lamps

  • Folding chairs for events

  • Folding tables for events (6ft and 8ft

  • Plants, real and fake

  • Rolling carts for av equipment and for bar

  • Shower

  • Side tables

  • Small tables (30” rounds) for cafĂ© or events

  • Stage sections (4x6x18”)

  • Toilet

  • Trash cans: medium and office size,

  • Washer/Dryer


  • 3 compartment stainless sink

  • Air conditioners

  • Banners for parking lot and inside walls

  • Coffee set up (coffeemaker et al)

  • Computers, Laptop and desktop

  • Fans

  • Golf cart and trailer

  • Ice tubs/coolers

  • IKEA small kitchen package

  • Keg cooler or tap

  • Lighting fixtures for ceiling: Track on dimmers,

  • Magnetic card reader

  • PA System (amp, board, mikes, stands, cables)

  • Power drill/driver

  • Power saw

  • Refrigerator

  • Rope lights

  • Scooters/razors

  • Shower

  • Sign for outside in parking lot and on side of building

  • Theater lighting setup: par cans, dimmers, light board,

  • Video screens and projectors (coming) -- Starbright

  • Washer/dryer

  • Wastebaskets

  • WIFI connection (coming?) – RIC/comcast

  • WiFi Video Security package


  • Cable for curtains

  • Candles

  • Caulking for windows

  • Cleaning supplies and equipment (mop and bucket, push broom, vacuum,)

  • Curtains

  • Foam for sealing cracks

  • Glass or plex to replace broken windows

  • Heat retainer or something for windows

  • Paint for green screen

  • Paint for walls (multi color)

  • Plastic for windows: clear?

  • Replacement windows

  • Trash bags (var sizes)

  • Wood for moveable walls: 2x4, wheels, drywall?

  • Wood for window plastic frame: 2x4

Saturday, October 4, 2008