January 23, 2014


January 23, 2014 Photo (023/365):  "One"

It's difficult to feel creative when the polar vortex prevents you from really exploring. The walls of work and home feel restrictive. Everything seems so cold, gray, and uninspiring, yet it's easier to stay inside, distracted by work and routine, repressing the urge to see differently, to think differently. 

Outside my window, this singular icicle stands out against the tangled branches. It is attached and structured, yet its unique form continues evolving independently. Inside it seems to be bubbling with potential for continued growth. 

The beauty of the icicle amid the chaotic tangle of branches reminded me of the book I finished reading today, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie. The Hairball is a metaphor for the traditional business model, "a tangled, impenetrable mass of rules, traditions, and systems, all based on what worked in the past--that exercises an inexorable pull into mediocrity".  MacKenzie's insightful and entertaining book offers ideas for avoiding the loss of one's creativity and vision, techniques to resist getting sucked into the "Giant Hairball" of corporate life.

Although the book is primarily intended for business people, it begins in an elementary school where the author is shocked by how young students seem to have lost their inventiveness and even their willingness to admit their creativity. As an educator and instructional coach, I view the book as an endorsement of the "Genius Hour" philosophy. Students and teachers need time to work on their own passion projects; to read and learn and create something that will contribute to their own education and success while also benefiting the organization. I recommend Orbiting the Giant Hairball to educators who crave Genius Hour time, as well as to administrators who want to nurture teachers' and students' innovation, and in turn, increase their productivity.

Finally, recognizing people's need to be creative, to explore, to take risks, to learn and to grow, to write their own verse, Apple's new iPad Air commercial features Walt Whitman's "O Me, O Life"  (recited by Robin William's in Dead Poet's Society). The commercial gives me goosebumps! Earlier this winter, I challenged my American Literature class to think about what their verse would be. We may not have a Genius Hour (yet?), but our ten-minute "Trust the Gush" writing activity allows us the freedom to express ourselves without restrictions, to awaken and foster our own creative geniuses!  "What will your verse be?"