no right brain left behind

ewan and i submitted three concept proposals to the NO RIGHT BRAIN LEFT BEHIND INNOVATION CHALLENGE – an open call for ideas to address the “creativity crisis” in america.

teams from all over the globe have responded, from creative agencies, strategy, design and innovation companies, to think tanks, schools, universities, and “ordinary” citizens. amongst those participating are frog design, syrup, saatchi & saatchi, wieden+kennedy, goodby, silverstein & partners, hyper island, redscout and eleven.

i think the response has been nothing short of tremendous while i’m hopeful that among the 300 ideas that have been submitted, there are at least a few that can bring about the meaningful change which many of us are seeking.

we were each given seven days to produce our best ideas, which are then submitted for review by a panel of education and innovation experts. for more information on the challenge itself, see further below.

we’d love for you to vote on the proposals, and hope that you’ll take our submissions into consideration.

here’s where you can go to see all of the proposals, including ours: NO RIGHT BRAIN LEFT BEHIND.

remember to express your love by clicking on the heart – that’s how you vote!

here’s our team page for the challenge, so that you can vote.

here’s a link to our website, to not only see each proposal but also many of the intelligence briefs and background documents, including interviews with teachers. it’s good stuff. really!

just remember to return to the challenge site to vote!

finally, here’s a direct link to the original IDEA BRIEF that forms the basis of the challenge.

thank you!


taking an earnest stab at this kind of innovation makes me appreciate how intensely difficult it is to solve a major problem in six days, let alone a month, a year or three years. it’s going to take all kinds of contributions and great clarity of purpose.

now, we haven’t had a chance to look at ALL of the contributions yet, but many of them have inspired us, and some of them have us asking questions. obviously, we have a bias towards certain ideas being stronger than others, but a sincere attempt has been made to craft an honest opinion of all of the ideas that our paths have come across. sometimes that opinion is quickly-formed, a hastily scribbled note based on a short-lived first impression, while at other times, the opinions have been more carefully considered. nonetheless, they are written out of an interest to see good work and are fueled by the high expectations that come with this challenge. hopefully, all of our ideas will live up to each our own expectations!

here you go, the initial responses.



easily implemented, easy to grasp, CREATIVE MORNINGS is an idea that asks that every school day starts with 15 minutes of open creativity during a period in which students are normally idle and getting settled in. i could see this one being talked about. sometimes simple is best.

i like the IN YOUR OWN WORDS idea by modea – asking students to create their own textbooks as evidence of the strength of their understanding and familiarity of a subject. is it right brain enough? the eternal question. it could be, depending on the students and the teachers.

that same agency offered TOGETHER WE (L)EARN MORE – an incentives-based initiative which i’m a bit less thrilled about. collecting points? well, we used it in of ours too… so, fair enough. it’s a trade-off. they also created CRACKING THE CREATIVE WINDOW, with a badge system that reminds me of foursquare and its mayoralties.

KIDtalks should get some traction. it’s an idea that’s easily understood and it has merit. it feels very derivative, obviously, so that makes it a bit less appealing.

saatchi los angeles proposed a deck of CREATIVITY CARDS (modeled after IDEO’s method cards – they are also similar to the drift deck from near future laboratory’s julian bleecker) to inspire creativity and (re)action. the idea looks nice, seems easily activated, and is not needlessly high-tech. this one might get some attention. yeah, it probably will.

i quite like simple and stout’s DESIGN SHOP – very hands-on. i could see it happening.

i like this idea, THE CREATIVITY BEE by banddigital, and ewan and i were thinking of something very similar – we actually asked ourselves last week, “is there something that we can create that is the equivalent of a national spelling bee?” it came up over after-work beers with a few colleagues, but we ultimately decided to focus on other ideas. now, it’s not just my ego that likes this idea, i do believe that banddigital has done a nice job of articulating their idea, and it’s good to see that it’s getting noticed. for us, the challenge with this idea was, how do you quantify creativity? and even if you could quantify creativity, such as the manner in which it will be measured for this competition, does it actually produce more creative thinking? i don’t know the answer to that one. when all of us involved with this challenge gathered around to hear the initial brief two weeks ago, there was a desire expressed by viktor venson, one of the organizers, to create a movement that feels similar in spirit to the olympic movement. i think that banddigital has taken several good first steps towards meeting that particular goal.

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i like how ZAAZ seattle offered limitations as a way of cultivating creativity – THINK INSIDE THE BOX. nice job. in fact, the more i think about it, the more i like it.

this idea is perhaps more a business school kickstarter rather than a right brain kickstarter… still, they want kids to learn by doing, and i think it might get some traction. not sure. TAKE THE BUS.

on the other hand, KIDSTARTER seems to offer more focus on the creativity aspect of kid development – but it still feels very business schooly.

i really like the subversive aspect of CHEATING IS ALLOWED, an idea by creature (from seattle) – the proposal calls for cheating, i.e. collaborating, which then makes standardized testing irrelevant (which it already is, of course). this is nice. thought provoking. is it fair to ask if it goes deep enough?

this proposal establishes a kind of creativity-based game, requiring students to determine the shortcomings and problems that their schools are facing, and then take a stab at resolving them as a primary component of the game. in KINGS & QUEENS OF CREATIVITY, you have to defend your “castle,” by being good at problem solving. not sure if the idea is strong enough as it seems to get more diffuse in the later portions of their brief.

nice idea by saatchi - RESUPPLY – applying sustainable or recycled products for kids to use as creative tools – but, at best, it seems too vague – leaving too much up to the imagination.

this idea very much reminds me of our “I’D CLONE THAT” concept (which we ultimately did not submit) – creating an online clearinghouse for teacher/teaching skill development and information. i think this idea might do well.

i like the role reversals in this proposal called THE POP-UP CLASSROOM – playful and thought-provoking.

ERASERS is both irreverent but also relevant. there’s a simple message – don’t fear mistakes – backed up by a simple solution – get rid of the erasers.

just like saatchi and saatchi‘s creativity cards, the METHOD DECK idea, from the bucket brigade, borrows quite heavily from IDEO’s method cards. good (original) ideas manifest themselves in many ways, i guess. it’s nicely executed.

syrup nyc offers REVOLUTION 101: teach kids to think like revolutionaries. introduce students from kindergarten all the way up to university-level and beyond to the works and contributions of geniuses and revolutionaries, in order to study their methods and innovations, expressed in a way that young kids can appreciate.

in some ways, THE SOLUTION SCHOOL from cole & weber is a bit like the problems period from the bucket brigade (see further below) – but here we’re talking about putting the kids’ collective creativity towards an ambitious effort to solve pressing global issues.

eleven inc. wants to teach creativity through math (where virtually all things add up to 11) – and i don’t see why not – the challenge is to find 11 solutions for each problem.

i like redscout‘s camera + word based creativity-enabler, A WHOLE NEW LENS. it’s an idea that is more or less ready to go.

another variation of a deck of cards is the FL!P classroom creativity cards, by the martin agency. it’s quite evident that IDEO has made a huge impression on many of the contributors. not that they own the idea, but i wonder how they feel about that? this one also offers a digital version of the cards – which i think is promising.

CREATIVITYCAMP.US by fallon feels a lot like the CREATIVE SCHOOLS MOVEMENT (whose idea appears a bit further below) – handing out monthly assignments for students to tackle by using right-brain approaches. file this under “not sure” as i like the way that literacyhead expressed their idea a bit better… as a footnote, it’s too bad that they didn’t actually buy the domain name that’s built into the name of their idea.

a quick comment about AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES: EXPLOITING OUR STRENGTHS from emily wright… i really like the proposal to turn ‘wrong answers’ into opportunities for students to get extra mentoring in the classroom.

A BOX APPEARS IN THE CLASSROOM by standard time is a community-focused solutions-based creativity kick starter that culminates in a national outside the box festival, which highlights final projects and the journeys behind them. the idea proposes to bring together teachers, teaching artists and their students, who are then invited to participate in a variety of creative challenges, which, in some cases, might directly benefit the local community. i like the idea, but i’m wondering about the selection process and if the idea is broad enough to include schools from lower-income neighborhoods. i’m also wondering how this initiative is going to be financed, as the brief never addresses that point. at the very least, the projects encourage critical thinking.

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these are ideas that seem like they belong in the same neighborhood as ours. unintentional, of course. file under “like minds think (somewhat) alike.” : )

bucket brigade put together really nice looking presentations, many of them seeking solutions that are quite similar in approach to ours. this one is very close to our invention hourPROBLEMS PERIOD = a period of class time dedicated to problem-solving, enabling kids to develop creative thinking skills and come up with child-driven solutions.

this one is also very close in spirit to our invention hour.

this particular one seeks to reframe the debate in a way that’s similar to the education amnesty but the literacyhead team does take it a bit further, so maybe it’s unfair to put them in this category. the CREATIVE SCHOOLS MOVEMENT ultimately wants participants to spend a month learning about a real world problem and then acquire a variety of skills in order to tackle the problem on their own through monthly collaborative competitions. i like the gist of the proposal, though it gets a bit bogged down at times by its own wordiness without offering too many specifics. i’m also wondering if it is really useful to try to measure the value of an idea in the manner in which they are suggesting? the problem with some competitions is that they don’t always encourage creative thinking… sometimes they merely encourage participants to game the competition so that they can win. how do we move beyond that?

i think our version of the RIGHT GAME articulates its vision a bit more effectively than this version of game-creation.

CREATE ANYTHING by kiba kiba books also feels very much like a kindred spirit to the invention hour… coincidences, of course. i’ll come back to their idea – to do a more careful analysis and comparison.

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i think mentoring is important. this idea by wolff olins new york seems nice enough but it feels like it falls a bit short in the ambition department (which is not to say that i question the team’s integrity or honest efforts), while here’s another one that could use a bit more muscle.

good ideas, good questions, but very vague. where’s the leadership in these “WHAT IF” questions? what if they sat down and drafted an implementation plan for their idea?

cute idea but not necessarily visionary: RIGHT BRAIN (holi)DAY, even though i love the idea of staging this on thomas edison’s birthday.

if they had spent a bit more time generating a clear articulation of their idea, then this one could have been pretty interesting.

not in love with the execution of the idea, but it takes an unusual subject matter – daytime drowsiness – and tries to play with it in THE DREAM SCHEME.

i don’t think anyone would mind losing a popular vote to an idea that truly inspires us but it is quite another matter when a slick commercial wins a beauty contest – which is what appears to be happening with LET’S GO. the idea is essentially a commercial masquerading as a documentary – if only the no right brain left behind initiative kicked off with this video produced by advertising behemoth draft fcb, because that’s where this contribution would be best applied. it would have been a very nice way of starting off the challenge.

initially, i didn’t feel the urge to write a response to LET’S GO because, while it’s a heartfelt piece of storytelling, it didn’t offer a noteworthy solution nor did it have a unique point of view. re-hashing the innovation challenge’s BIG IDEA is fine but does it really advance the cause? on one hand, yes, one could argue that they re-formulated the assignment brief better than the organizers themselves, and thanks to their video, their contribution seems to be the leading vote-getter – but that’s kinda too bad. i might be wrong. i’m happy for fcb draft because their feel-good story will bring them benefits – but in truth, their response to the challenge would have been more suited for the opening presentation rather than an idea submission for the challenge itself – and, ultimately, there’s a risk that this takes away from the earnest contributions that other teams have to offer. oh well. less a sour grapes issue, and more an example of where i’m mostly interested in seeing that the best ideas gain the most attention.

PLUMB from sew creative out of california feels vaguely like an online matchmaking service. that may not be fair, but it does want users to build a profile based on a variety of factors so that students can both be evaluated by teachers while also forging connections to mentors. the idea brief states that “plumb measures factors rather than assets…. allowing students to understand the importance of factor development…. for example, the most influential factors of being a musician will vary quite a bit from those of an attorney. children should be given the opportunity to understand this and set forth on a smart, informed life path and having the ability to adjust it along the way….” the brief goes on to suggest that “true intelligence” can be measured. as i’ve voiced before, i have my doubts about how much energy we should apply towards measuring creativity, even if the intention is good. well, the intentions are always good, aren’t they? that said, i appreciate the desire to connect students with mentors while establishing an online social network to achieve this does offer real value. their company website is also kinda fetching.

i think the HAVE A BALL TEACHING idea put out by the marketing store could benefit from further development. the strength of the proposal is found in its simplicity, which means that it can be put to use right away – but the details of how teachers are going to teach through various forms of ball-play are not sufficiently spelled out. it left me asking questions. on the plus side, i like how yet another team sees the value of sharing their lessons by establishing an online resource for the benefit of all teachers and students.

the institute of noetic sciencesWORLDVIEW LITERACY PROJECT wants to put a mapmaker’s modus operandi into practice – which is quite interesting – as it aspires to the noble goal of giving each student a voice of authenticity in the classroom. by allowing students to speak from their own experiences, the idea brief argues that they are able to explore differing worldviews, hence worldview literacy. i didn’t quite buy the argument. i think the ambition is valuable, and yes, broader perspectives are absolutely useful but i’m not sure how this cultivates greater creativity and, specifically, greater right brain creativity.

asking kids to enter a sanitized version of SECOND LIFE seems a bit too simplistic. don’t kids already have access to it, and are we really engaging their creativity by using this approach? editor’s note: after hearing from one of the creators of this idea, i should clarify that the idea wasn’t meant to “literally use a second life-esque computer game, but to structure a teacher-student-peers relationship with real-life simulations and feedback loops — sort of a classroom choose-your-own-adventure…”

the idea behind LIVINGBOOKS, offered by tribalddbnew york, is to allow schools to have access to the most recent content of education publishers, so students can be taught with the newest media, at the lowest cost (assuming that they have computers or digital notepads). it’s good that they’ve taken budget into account, but the idea is a bit vague on details, while promising remarkable results, and i’m curious to hear more about how publishing houses would be so willing to release their content at such great discounts.

platform proposes an informal kind of noble sampling (or plagiarism) as the foundation for their idea, SECOND STORY. using their own words, albeit slightly out of context, they ask “why teach children to write something that no one has any interest in reading? kill the essay… instead, sample works from the greats and rearrange them into something entirely new—your version of the story.” as a teaching tool, i see the value in this – and it’s certainly an approach that many filmmakers and artists have employed – but it feels fraught with danger. i’d use it as an exercise but not as the basis for an entire course. i think that platform is thinking the same thing, as they intend for this idea to “jumpstart [the] creative process.”

it’s a bit amusing that while SECOND STORY proposes borrowing ideas from an established masterpiece, THE BITTY PROJECT pins its ambitions on original storytelling. the strength of the idea is that classrooms upload individual stories to a shared website for feedback and peer review from students who come from a broad spectrum of grades, geographical locations and interests, establishing what karla valenti describes as “creative thinking through collaborative storytelling.” on one hand, students can contribute to a story with multiple parallel streams and divergences, creating a compelling and complex work. on other hand, the collaborations could descend to mob rule, resulting in a finished work that appeals only to the lowest common denominator. i don’t see anything in the brief that suggests a way of favoring one over the other.

austin outfit cass avenue has an idea called ideaBOX that reminds me very much of MISSION:SUMMER from perkins+will. they are both mobile educational laboratories packaged inside of catering trucks. cass avenue‘s is bio-diesel fueled. cute.

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lovely images, but i have no clue what the copy is trying to communicateeditor’s note: thanks to the comment below, i later found out that this idea, called mission:summer, ”takes its inspiration from the nostalgia of the ice cream truck and the trendiness of the socially powered food truck. its goal is to bridge the summer between academic years with mobile, partnership-powered trucks where students can connect with local arts/cultural institutions and explore new projects and hobbies.”  ok. this makes a huge difference. and the idea is quite good, i think. it’s too bad that the final idea didn’t make it onto the NRBLB’s actual idea page. while one can get the full details to their idea here, one can vote for their idea here.

i’m wondering why they chose to create a video. i can’t even tell if it’s serious.

i don’t see the execution. i know that sounds harsh and perhaps unfair but i have no idea what they are trying to convey.

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all in all, quite a lot of inspiring contributions. cole weber of seattle put in some nice ideas, in case we failed to mention it.

all of the work offered by GSDM austin have catchy visuals and the same applies for perkins and will.

i like the provocative thinking behind some of BBH global‘s idea names – and i’m curious why they haven’t received more attention..

by the way, there are some excellent team names in this competition, not to mention some individuals who’ve entered as one-person operations. a tip of the hat to those who fly solo, such as emily wright, henrik dufke, and leah in minneapolis while i commend the left’overs of new york, engine company 1 of san francisco, and d.c.-based BYO consulting for delivering a smile on account of their excellent choice in handles.

difficult as it may be to address this problem, in 500 words no less, i applaud all of the teams for taking their best shot.

this open competition offers a very timely and relevant opportunity for people from all walks of american life to take up the challenge. as evidence of that, one need look no further than this request for proposals for an innovation, science and research facility and campus put out by the new york city economic development corporation. we need real thinkers to create the curriculum for the future, and it needs to happen now. i would love nothing more than for any number of the lessons taken from this challenge to be applied to the development of the kinds of institutions mentioned above. if you want to apply your talents, their deadline is march 16, 2011.

as stephanie critchfield wrote on her company blog for band digital“yes this is a competition, and we want your vote. but in the end, the best idea doesn’t just win a contest – it solves a crisis in our schools. there are a lot of smart and well thought out ideas on the website. we encourage you to check them out and vote for the ideas that you think do it best.” i couldn’t agree more. voting for ideas allows for an audience to be heard – and that’s valuable – even though there’s a substantial risk that the popular vote will more likely be decided by one’s ability to get out the vote rather than the idea that proves to be best… but so it goes. i have faith in the selection panel and look forward to seeing their conclusions.

congratulations to all of the teams for their contributions! i look forward to see the results! please vote!

12 thoughts on “no right brain left behind

  1. Thanks for mentioning our ideas: In Your Own Words, Cracking The Creative Window & Together We [L]earn More. Coincidentally, your Invention Hour was one of our favorites. Congrats on all your hard work!

  2. thank you and to you as well. would love to know which other ideas you really like (that is, other teams, of course). thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hey WUD,

    It is great to see your work and perspectives into the challenge. I also love the “pop-up classroom” idea, “Class cloud” and too many more to name here without feeling like I am missing some. The point is – good things happen when creative people get positive and solve problems.

    Wanted to direct you to our actual submission “mission: summer.” The ice cream truck image and “days of summer” entry was actually our progress post, meant to be an inspiration and illuminate our process. Our linked, descriptive idea submission got caught in the system and hasn’t been fully corrected yet. We were a bit frustrated with our hard work not being posted that we set up a site here: Check out the slide show.

    Essentially, mission:summer takes its inspiration from the nostalgia of the ice cream truck and the trendiness of the socially powered food truck. Its goal is to bridge the summer between academic years with mobile, partnership-powered trucks where students can connect with local arts/cultural institutions and explore new projects and hobbies. They use place as an inspiration and act as on the ground units to inspire students (7-15) to explore, move, create, etc. We like that they are customizable and scalable. And we probably just wish we had one growing up.

    Hope this makes the idea more clear. And… on a personal note, I tried the xBox Kinnect this weekend… truly awesome and blew my mind. So bravo for using it.


  4. Hi Christian,

    Thanks for mentioning our ideas! We’re with you — Take the Bus. IS kind of a business school kickstarter, but we think that thinking about simulating real systems — in this case, businesses — is a super creative way to get those right brain neurons firing. We believe things that are “business school-y” aren’t the end all be all for creativitiy, but we do think that they can be a valuable component of a complete and creative education.

    Also, I should clarify that our “Second Life” idea wasn’t to literally use a Second Life-esque computer game, but to structure a teacher-student-peers relationship with real-life simulations and feedback loops — sort of a classroom choose-your-own-adventure (and see what the consequences might be) type of thing. The Second Life reference was a bit of a joke. Oops!

    Finally, we’d like to say that we loved your Invention Hour idea! Really wonderful stuff. Best of luck!

  5. hey jonathan, thanks for stopping by and clarifying a few things. i’ll add an editors note to the “second life” idea – while i should apologize for being a bit harsh. i know that everyone worked hard on their ideas – and i don’t want to give the impression that i take that for granted.

    thanks for your kinds words for “the invention hour.” we’re happy to contribute to the bigger discussion and hope that we’ll have a chance to offer more. time will tell.

  6. Imitators? Wow, nice way to make a first impression. Perhaps you imitated us, since we’re already putting it into action….haha :D Check out to get inspired of what “anything” or “something” looks like.

    If you’d like to collaborate with Kiba Kiba we’d love your help – maybe two companies (and everyone else on your list of imitators) who have a similar genius ideas should work together to make it happen so the children can benefit? I’m being serious – we are ready to expand and looking for partners. :)

    PS Thanks for doing a more careful analysis and comparison of CREATE ANYTHING!: We are looking forward to reading what you come up with and hope it’s nicer than “imitator” as we believe wholeheartedly in, and love, what we are doing – and think we were first! :)


  7. hey melanie, thanks again for your comment. i’ve updated accordingly.

    jessica, i’ve changed the “imitators” category header – because it gave the wrong impression that i am suggesting that teams copied our ideas. the imitators header was always in quotes, to convey a bit of irony, but said irony was obviously not getting across. i can assure you that we had neither heard of your team nor your team’s idea before we sat down and worked on ours, and as you can see by the various reinterpretations of IDEO’s method cards, there were many teams coming up with ideas that share startling similarities. i tend to think that this is mere coincidence, but then again, i might be naive.

    i look forward to having time to check out the CREATE ANYTHING idea more carefully. i shall put on my scrutinizing glasses. : )

    thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. (laughing) I like the ZEITGEIST addition – yes we are all thinking of the same thing at the same time – so why not all work together to make it really happen? Hoping lots of results come out of all this energy around creativity – the children need us – and I for one need some help helping the children. :)

    I also had never heard of you or your company or team before this so ditto on that and I was also teasing around a bit so I hope that came across. :D Our left brains are overtaking our right brains. (gasp!)


  9. excellent. yeah, we formed a team just for this challenge. i agree about the spirit of collaboration… i’d love to see more of that coming out of this and, at the very least, i’m glad that we’ve made this connection. have a great friday afternoon!

  10. I recently stumbled upon this review and wanted to thank you for you have obviously spent some time going through the ideas and thinking about their feasible applications. I also appreciate your feedback on my idea, The Bitty Project and just wanted to take a moment to address your stated concern; namely, that the stories would descend to content that appeals to the lowest common denominator.

    First, the intent is not to generate masterpieces or to use this tool to identify the next generation of bestselling writers. Rather, it is an opportunity for children to express themselves through writing, precisely without judgment. So much of what hinders learning today is that children are judged by certain academic standards and are not given free reign to explore and take creative risks.

    Second, as we mentioned, this is a tool that would be used as part of a classroom curriculum, as a teaching resource. Teachers currently cover storytelling as part of their K-8 curriculums. We are simply facilitating this learning by introducing collaborative experiences through digital media. To the extent teachers are able to manage the content of the work they cover with students today, they would likewise be able to manage it on our site.

    Finally, one of the critical components of what makes this such an ambitious proposal is that it provides a peer community for content-development. We are no strangers to this kind of discourse (e.g. Wikipedia) and there is a much value to be had from creating a vast global learning network such as this.

    I hope this helps clarify some of the misunderstandings you had from your initial read of our proposal. Unfortunately, being limited to 500 words is hardly enough space to communicate the vast potential of what we deem to be a very powerful and valuable tool.

    Thanks again for your thoughts on this.

  11. Thanks for the update, WUD. I was fairly frustrated when it got caught in WP purgatory (although the presentation was already loaded) on Sunday evening. And then when the presentation/picture weren’t embedded properly and update delayed, it made it difficult to really understand the concept as a passing reader. The “progress report” was intentionally abstract and meant to showcase a lovely tool I enjoy for collecting inspiration – Pinterest. Whatever way it falls, NRBLB is a great conversation and I look forward to putting some ideas into action sooner rather than later! Cheers.

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