Over the past year or so I’ve been trying to be more mindful of the media that I give my time to. It has been interesting, as I’ve realized that I was spending a lot of time hearing/reading/watching very similar synopses of the exact same information. This effort has driven me to look for longer-form media sources once I’ve received the headlines of the day—it has also led me to understand that I could drop about two hours of news coverage a day and still not miss anything substantial… but I digress).
This search for longer forms of edutainment has been a lot of fun. I’ve ended up doing a lot of searching with my kids, which has put me onto some interesting topics that seem to be mostly medical in origin. During one of these searches (“why are some thigs gross and others are not?”), I found a program called “Hidden Brain.” I followed that by listening to other podcasts in the series and one seemed to explain something that has kept me involved in SPAR3D for more than a decade now.
I love hanging out with creative people. I came to surveying and reality capture technologies from a fine arts background, and I am convinced that one of the reasons that I have stayed with it is all the creative people that I met. My initial assumption was that so many of us were creative because we had to be—reality capture was a new field, there were no university courses to prepare us and the only way to move forward was to experiment. I knew that many of us had creative hobbies or side hustles, but I assumed this was just because this field, being new and experimental, was a draw for types that were already creative.
While all of that may be true to some degree, there’s new research that suggests that those of us in reality capture may have been pushing each other to be more creative in ways we didn’t even understand.
I’m (obviously) an advocate for conferences. I think it’s because when I first got into this business, there were so few of us that a conference was the only place I could go where I didn’t spend the entire night trying to explain what I did. From the very beginning, these shows were worldwide affairs, as the production chain for lasers, hardware manufacturing, and software design stretched around the world. This, it seems, may have been a boost to our creative abilities. The sense of belonging to such a small, specialized group led to deep connections (as in deeper than Facebook friends) between many of us that crossed cultural lines. As it turns out, this is a key indicator of success on tests for creativity.
Psychological/sociological studies have shown that the students who demonstrated the most creativity in lab tests are those that have the most relationships with those from cultures or countries that differ from their own. In fact, the deeper the relationship, such as romantic versus casual friendships, the better the performance during testing. These tests showed a boost in creative problem solving could be quantified simply by having those students think about those cross-cultural relationships prior to testing! These results held true whether the scientist tested for convergent or divergent thinking.
One of the most interesting studies into this phenomenon was by a group from the Columbia Business School led by Adam Galinsky. By looking at surveys of US J1 Visa holders, they were able to examine correlations between, one, the frequency of contact maintained with friends from the US after the visa holders returned home, and two, the instances of creativity within their industry. If the theory that cross-cultural relationships boosted creativity held tru, the probability that these individuals returned home to create new business practices or launch entrepreneurial ventures should have increased over the other visa holders. In fact, it did. Those that maintained the closest relationships with their American friends were the same that exhibited more creative business practices after returning to their home countries.
So, as much as I view this as quantification of what I already felt about the value of conferences and maintaining those relationships I think I may be short-changing myself by sticking to those in North America. So many of the most interesting contacts that I’ve made at these conferences have been those from Europe and Asia that made the trip to the US. Perhaps it’s time I return the favor. After all, I can use all the creativity I can muster.