Monthly Archives: February 2009

More Thoughts on Why I’m Coming: Harley DuBois

harleyheadshotEvery year hundreds, if not thousands of people come back from Burning Man and send emails telling us how their lives were changed by their experience. Every year I am re-inspired by their comments. Being able to be a part of something that promotes discovery, creativity and community is addictive. I look forward to sharing some of what I have learned and seeing what it means to you.

For the C2 conference I am hoping to explore two ideas in particular.

1. For the last five years I have been developing a training program for our staff (and this includes all volunteers) at Burning Man. I have found that the people I work with are extremely creative and committed to the concept of collaboration. At Burning Man we often sacrifice stellar execution and/or efficiency to foster one of our guiding principles , radical inclusion. This has created many wonderful opportunities to examine some of the paradigms we live with daily and reconnect with a sense of humanity that often feels missing in this day and age. On the flip side it has created frustrations when high performers have to dumb something down to meet the needs of their co-creators, or when the process saps the life out of the initial inspiration. I want to explore what skills it takes to keep inspiration alive and get personal needs met while co-creating.

2. A fascinating revelation I have witnessed many times at Burning Man is the joy that comes from creating with the intention of destroying what is made. Even to bare witness to this process affects people in many varying ways, but rarely is it not profound. It sets many of the reasons why we create on end and opens doors to new reasoning. There is also a natural progression from creation to destruction that resonates well with ritual. As people that work to create for others and are paid to do it, what would it be like to create just for yourself knowing you would ultimately destroy it?

I look forward to an inspiring conference.


Why I’m Coming: Michale Lang


Guiding an art hike in a beautiful backcountry area in the Canadian Rockies where I live.

I want to share this link with the C2 community.  It is a presentation about schools and creativity.

In a very entertaining British manner, this speaker contends that schools kill creativity.  I went to school for a very long time, so I need help!  After listening to this, I think that museums can also kill creativity.   I want to be part of stopping these anti-creativity trends by coming to the C2 Retreat.

The Whyte Museum is also on the verge of developing a new heritage gallery.  I will be working with a team to accomplish this (after we do some creative financing).  It would be great to work creatively from start to finish and I think that this workshop will be a wonderful way to move this process forward.

Why I’m Coming: Frank Binney

frankbinney2008Can there be a downside to mingling with smart, talented, diverse thinkers in a beautiful setting? As a newbie to NAME events I’m excited by this opportunity to make friends within my community of practice while exploring new ideas, insights and experiences.

As an interpretive planner for parks and visitor centers I’m particularly interested in ways to increase collaboration without diluting creative vision. And visa versa. Over the years I’ve occasionally worked with an exhibit team where collaboration enhanced funding, content and stakeholder buy-in, but produced a run-of-the-mill, uninspiring visitor experience. I’ve also worked with creatives who had innovative ideas for compelling exhibits (and had a few myself) but who couldn’t bring their vision to fruition through the collaborative process.

See you at Asilomar!

Why I’m Coming: Ed Rodley

ed_rodley1I guess there are three main reasons I’m coming.

1)   I saw the announcement and said, “Holy @&%!  This is just the kind of learning experience I’ve been looking for!”  I believe that, as professionals, we are responsible for our own learning. Constructivists say that we create our own meaning from our experiences.  Whatever your pedagogical leanings, chances are once you’re working in the field, you will have to take charge of putting yourself in situations where you can learn. That could be reading books, writing, reflecting, sharing what you’ve learned.  This workshop seems like a great experience to throw one’s self into! Being able to step out of the workaday realities of getting work funded and finished sounds like heaven.  Or, as my lovely and talented wife said, “You’d be an ass to pass this up, dear.”

2)   Creativity and collaboration come up over and over again in our internal discussions of what we want to encourage our visitors to explore.  We also realize that we don’t do a good enough job of providing it.  They also are harder to fit into the “we must fit in with the formal ed. curricula and frameworks” mindset that drives a lot of what we do.  I’m hoping that I can absorb some new ways of looking at the creative process as we practice it and take home some new ways to look at how we develop exhibits and maybe make different ones.

3)   I think that we as a profession tend to be too insular in where we look for inspiration.  I worked with lots of folks from Lucasfilm and ILM on our Star Wars exhibition, and it was stunning to see how similar our creative processes were.
We also worked with Pixar on a concept for an exhibit on creativity and collaboration (Does that topic sound familiar?) that further strengthened my belief that we had a lot to learn from other creative industries.  I made a bunch of trips to Emeryville to learn Pixar’s creative process and totally drank the Kool-Aid.  Improv and sculpting can make you better at whatever creative thing you do. It’s a muscle, so let’s exercise it!

Why I’m Coming: Matt Matcuk

matt_muskegonWhy am I coming to the C2 conference?
I want to come to the C2 conference to explore answers to the four nagging questions below:  three theoretical, and one practical.

The Theoretical
1.  Can your creativity really weaken/get brittle/atrophy/get saggy if you don’t use it a lot?
We’ve heard creativity is like a muscle that atrophies with disuse.  But when you start using it—in a meeting, at a retreat, when you sit down to work on a project that isn’t fettered by the normal bonds of your work—your creative ability tends to snap back to life, even if it’s been a long time since you’ve given it a work out.  Sort of.  I think.  Maybe?

2.  Do we get less creative as we get older, and if so, dad-gum it, why?

We spend more time thinking about layoffs/hairlines/mortgages/college tuition/crawling into bed at night (to sleep), than we did when we were younger. This is a capacity metaphor:  that your mind is like a warehouse/hard drive/5-lb. sack that can only hold so much.  And when we crowd it full of the frustrating drivel of daily life, we just don’t have a lot of space left for creative thought. But we’re discovering that the mind is more plastic than we thought, aren’t we?  When the unmusical study the piano we can see, in their brain scans, neural pathways suddenly swelling, splitting, interconnecting, and redirecting the traffic flow from the familiar, clogged expressways to clear, open roads.  Is it inescapable that we ossify?

3.  How do you know whether you’re scoring high on the create-o-meter or not?

On a particularly good day I might experience that pleasurable sensation of flow—when one idea sparks the next, and people’s contributions begin to bounce off, or build upon, each other. It feels good. But how do we know how much of our creative potential we’re actually using? How do we know how creative we are being? Do we assess the process—how well things went, or the product—how good the resulting ideas are? It may not be quantifiable, but we need something more tangible than “That was fun,” or “We came up with some pretty cool ideas.” Don’t we?

The Practical
4.  How can I help my institution benefit from the creativity that lurks within?
The museum I work for is one of the largest and well-established natural history and anthropology museums in the world.  The problem is that, for better and for worse, our size and our history have made us into something like the Ford Motor Company.  We make very good products, within relatively tight schedules, by using proven processes, and with solid, predictable results.  We don’t frequently win awards for having cutting-edge approaches, but almost everything we create goes over well with our audiences.  To do this, however, we’ve become risk-averse.  And creativity is usually risky: it means doing a thing in a very different way than it has been done before.  The more creative the idea/action is, the bigger the difference.  The bigger the difference, the bigger the risk. All of this, of course, is not because the people producing the work are uncreative—they are exceptionally talented, inventive, passionate, and intelligent.  The problem runs much deeper into the bedrock of our institutional culture. So, to drive the metaphor into the ground, how can I help our institution become less of a Ford and more of a Toyota?

Why I’m Coming: Ken Eklund

kenI see such a natural fit between museums and games. People arrive at museums and other community-oriented spaces ready and even eager to be transported and challenged; they already have their “game face” on. To me, museums are sitting on a gold mine – they have non-gamers who are lined up and eager to play!

The thing is, it’s rare that a game can just be ported across from the game world into a museum. As a designer of non-traditional games and gamelike activities and someone who’s worked in both cultures, I’m looking forward to many conversations at C2 about how the two should best work together. Games are in a renaissance, you know; they’re not just for kids anymore, and primed to spark some life-changing experiences and do some serious good in the world.

Why I’m Coming: Harley DuBois

harleyheadshotEvery year hundreds, if not thousands of people come back from Burning Man and send emails telling us how their lives were changed by their experience.  Every year I am re-inspired by their comments. Being able to be a part of something that promotes discovery, creativity and community is addictive.  I look forward to sharing some of what I have learned and seeing what it means to you.