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My Favorite Readings in August: The Creative Process Illustrated, Cycling Across The USA & PhD After 40

31 August 2014

Photo by Golem13.fr

Some of the tweets shared in this post feature memorabilia. Hence this photo of Paris in the summer with a photo of 1944 (click to see 49 more)

This month marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris. The photo on the left is one of many others that the blog Golem 13 has published on June this year, morphing old photographs into the exact same photo – 70 years later. A great project.

This month, I’ve read many interesting things about innovation, academic education, creative inspiration, object conservation or patriotic dedication. The very last tweet wraps up the post nicely with another Paris-themed illustration, an animated one.

In this article, global oral care marketing director at Procter & Gamble, describes how crowdsourcing helped the company in its innovation for the launch the world’s first “connected toothbrush,” the Oral-B PRO 6000 SmartSeries brush. He launched an unbranded contest on eYeka, asking the community to imagine how a connected toothbrush could help diagnose potential health problems and change peoples’ lives for the better. “[Crowdsourcing] immediately exposed us to a rich tapestry of possibilities and answers concerning what people really wanted from a connected toothbrush,” he writes.

That’s anecdotal, but I saw this Suffolk University ad in a newspaper a couple of weeks ago in Boston, and the slogan bugged me. “For students who believe college is a privilege, not a birthright.” it says. Is college a privilege our a birthright? Is education a privilege our a birthright? If you consider both equal, or at least equivalent, I would have phrase the ad’s phrase reversely: “For students who believe college is a birthright, not a privilege.” But maybe it was just my French bias, because in France education is universal and should be accessible to all, not to a provileged elite. Note that the text below the ad clarifies the meaning a bit, it starts with “At Suffolk University, we don’t care what your family name is” and ends with “our students are too busy blazing their own trails to follow in anyone else’s footsteps.” I understand a bit better now, but I still think this advertisement is weird.

What does the former CEO of advertising agency Ogily & Mather, Shelly Lazarus, (“business trailblazer, Advertising Hall-of-Famer” and current board member of Merck, G.E. and Blackstone) recommend to people who want to build their own brand? In this article, Lazarus shares her thoughts on what “brand” really means in a career context, and why simply being yourself may be the best strategy of all—for women or for men. I couldn’t agree more, and hope that it may lead me to a CEO position eventually 🙂

This is an interview of Keisuke Itoh, a Japanese animator who won a video contest on eYeka recently. His video, called “Old Umbrella,” won first prize in a contest sponsored by Japanese insurance company Metlife Alico. The brief asked to tell us a positive, inspirational yet realistic story about how a little help from others can unexpectedly lead to a dramatic and happy outcome, and his animation is a beautiful Wall-E-like story of a lone roboter who finds a roboter friend in a oment of desperation. In the interview that I share here, Keisuke Itoh explains that his inspiration came from his own life: “My work “Old Umbrella” was inspired by a very personal experience of mine as the worn-out robot in the animation is myself.” Read the rest, it’s very interesting.

Anne Sexton, the American poet known for her highly personal verse who suffered from severe mental illness for much of her life, had a scrapbook which chronicles her developement in the summer of 1948 (she was 19 years old). A bit of research taught me that other famous people, like Mark Twain, also scrapbooked during parts or the wole of their lives. In this article, have a look inside the young poet’s life 16 years before she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967 for her book Live or Die.

That’s a very cool book (or a photo of one of its illustrations at least). I finally had time to sit down and go through The Creative Process Illustrated: How Advertising’s Big Ideas Are Born, written by two advertising professors Deborah Morrison and Glenn Griffin (one of the retweeters above). The book represents a rare and remarkable look at the minds that fuel the ad industry, from creative directors to art directors and advertising copywriters, illustrated with these peoples’ representations of the creative process. The book also provides a theoretical section, breaking down models of creativity. What I learnt? That creative people procrastinate a lot and that there’s no recipe to have creative ideas, it’s all a mix of things that happen to you and that pops up in your mind at one moment in time. Routines didn’t really emerge.

This a very cool piece of memorabilia I saw at the permanent exhibition of the Paris Musée des Lettres et des Manuscrits (Museum of Letters and Manuscripts). It’s a typed letter by Albert Einstein who warns about the potential dangers of atomic energy, which he helped to develop (Einstein did not directly participate in the invention of the atomic bomb, but he was instrumental in facilitating its development. Read more on E=mc2: Einstein’s equation that gave birth to the atom bomb to learn more). I don’t know if his call for funding got accepted or rejected, but I think that it’s exemplary for a scientist to have this civic mindset to educate people about the dangers of the consequences of one’s own work.

Shameless sel-promotion tweet. Earlier this month I received my very first printed piece of academic work. The book International Perspectives On Business Innovation And Disruption In The Creative Industries, Film, Video and Photography, which examines how disruptive innovations are reshaping industry boundaries and challenging conventional business models and practices in the creative industries, contains our chapter about crowdsourcing in video advertising. It feels good to see it on paper.

In the same vein of the previous tweet about the creative process (illustrated) here’s a cool article about the routines of some famous people. The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman, who is also author of a book about happiness, explains that Benjamin Franklin spent his mornings naked, Patricia Highsmith ate only bacon and eggs, and Marcel Proust breakfasted on opium and croissants. He says that there are 6 patterns among the famous creative people whohad routines: they were morning people, they could have (unrelated) day jobs, they walked a lot, they sticked to schedules, the abused some substances “strategically” and they worked in a variety of places. Not all of them had weird habits like Schiller.

A Utah-based entrepreneur, business consultant, and university professor, Michael Galuser, put a new spin on the American road trip this summer, biking 4,000 miles cross country and talking to entrepreneurs. On June 2nd, he and his team (young entrepreneurs and a film crew) embarked on a 100 city, eight-week cross-country bike ride from Florence, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia, to interview 100 entrepreneurs in a variety of industries. Fast Company spoke with Glauser after he recovered from his trip about what he learned along the way. The videos are very cool to watch!

What are the problems worthwhile solving? What should researchers apply their brainpower on? In a letter dated February 3rd 1966, theoretical physicist Richard P. Feynman wrote to a former student of his, Koichi Manom, who was not satisfied with his work situation after PhD graduation. “With you I made a mistake, I gave you the problem instead of letting you find your own,” Feynman says. Read the rest of the letter, which nicely explains that every intellectual or creative worker should chase her/his own aspirations instead of following someone else’s path.

If you have 30 minutes in front of you, or if you can make some time up, read this Snewden interview which appeared in Wired the month. The Most Wanted Man In The World (by James Bamford) is a thrilling article, very nicely laid out and illustrated, about the American whistleblower who basically put his life on hold for the sake of freedom of communication and individual liberties. “It’s really hard to take that step—not only do I believe in something, I believe in it enough that I’m willing to set my own life on fire and burn it to the ground” he is quoted in the article, which continues: “But he felt that he had no choice. Two months later he boarded a flight to Hong Kong with a pocket full of thumb drives.

Another cool The Guardian article: Academics Anonymous: ‘Why are you doing a PhD at your age?’ written by an (anonymous) 42-year-old PhD student from (somewhere in) England. “If you begin a PhD in your early 20s, there’s a strong presumption that this represents a career choice. If you begin a doctorate in later life, this is often interpreted as a desire for intellectual stimulation, rather than an ambition to secure employment as a teacher and researcher,” he explains.  I know a couple of PhD students around his age, and they do it for a variety of reasons, but the number 1 reason is that they did not feel intellectually challenged enough in their regular jobs, and were looking for a very personal and enriching life experience. It is not easy for all and can lead to rather desperate situations, but it’s always a radical choice. I liked this article.

This one is much more visual! The artist and visual designer Yang Liu, who was born in China and now lives in Germany, created minimalistic visualizations using simple symbols and shapes to convey just how different the two cultures are. By growing up in two very different places with very different traditions, she was able to experience the differences between the two cultures first-hand. The blue side represents Germany and the red side China (or eastern culture).

If you already know Burning Man, you probably won’t learn much in this article. But if you know it only partly, or if you’re just curious to read about the phonomenon, read on to find out about this unique event for which “Burners” spend thousands of dollars preparing for this money-free event. The article draws a parallel of the “weird economy of Burning Man” and the emergent collaborative economy: “Just as the desert community cannot fully escape capitalism, neither can capitalism remain untouched by the ‘gift economy’,” the article says.

I have been using Mendeley, which I would describe as “the iTunes for academic papers” for years now. Giant academic social networks like Mendeley, but many others too, have taken off to a degree that no one expected even a few years ago. A Nature survey explores why, and uncovers how academics use these networks.

A French start-up called Ornikar is battling French regulators to make the driver’s license more accessible. Founded by Benjamin Gaignault and Alexandre Chartier (who comes from ESSCA business school and founded the brand Mr Chat L’heureux, of which I wore a t-shirt on this photo), are trying to break into the driving school business using computer technology to match teachers and students across France and to offer cut rates. Another platform, basically. But they are not having an easy time. The other driving schools have sued them, saying their innovations break the rules. Here’s the whole NYTimes article about Ornikar.

That’s not a “favorite read” it’s more a “favorite watch” of the month, which I found through Fast CoDesign. “Paris Through Pentax” is a short film by French filmmaking studio Maison Carnot that shows the bustle of Parisian streets (the trains rumbling through Gare du Nord, spring afternoons spent people watching over a croissant, and lovers skipping down the steps of Sacré Cœur) all through the viewfinder of a classic Pentax 67 SLR camera.

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