Sunday, January 25, 2015

What do you have in mind?: The question of how to stir up the interest inside you.

Our main topic for this discussion is "How to achieve maximum efficiency during education." We have got into several things related to the topic, such as 'Flow', or breaching a little bit further while you know your limits. (Sorry, I forgot the specific term..) However, there was something different in my mind for where to start for our discussion on this topic. I was rather interested in how things would start us to achieve the efficient outcome, not only for education, but for anything that we might get into. I believe that getting absorbed into something requires a spark of interest at the beginning of the thing. Of course, the spark of interest doesn't always lead to getting the flow running inside one, but the flow itself cannot exist without the initial spark remaining in the heart of that person. I want to discuss a little bit about how this interest gets inside you, and how it leads to the 'motivation' process which gets us into the flows.

Unfortunately, the way I think about getting the spark of the interest in something is rather very personal: everybody has different personalities, and in my opinion, the unique personality of people influences how people get their interest in various things. To make it a little bit more simple, there is no one straight method that can be applied on anyone in this world to generalize the factor of people getting interested in something. However, that does not simply mean that the trait of getting the interest cannot be generalized. Although specifics might differ between individuals, I think there would be some ways that would be similar among people about how they get their first interest on something. I wish to discuss with our group some general characteristics or traits of how people get interested in things.

One of the things I have spent a lot of my time during my short, 25 years of life is playing games. I know, it sounds a little bit childish and immature. To be honest, I did not have too much time during last semester to get the 'flow' running through my veins for gaming, and I don't think I would have too much time for this semester either. However, I certainly think that gaming was one of the few things that really got me into flow when I was absorbed in it (and I mean like 1~2 years constantly while I was actually aiming for international tournaments, not for like a 1 hour game.) I started playing game casually when I was around 12 years old. I guess it was because not only all other friends around me played, but also most of the kids in Korea played it. (I believe the game was named Starcraft: Brood War. The trend was sensational in Korea since most of the male teenagers, and even university students at that time played the game.) However, the playing was casual. I was just average among my friends, and did not show any special talents. However, things changed when I got into the end of my high school years. Pro leagues in Korea were getting tremendous attention from people. Playing game was considered a waste of time (it still is in Korea among adults.) to the 'authorities' before, and that mattered for me. However, after the internet easing the access of the materials of pro players who actually escalated the level of the games into a 'state-of-the-art' level, it pulled me strongly into the rhythm of flow. I would say I was interested in games for many reasons, but if I have to choose the main reason that I played games just like others, it would be peer-pressure to get along with friends. However, the reason that got me into a flow was viewing other talented players showing their insane skills of the game itself.

Just like my example, there would be a lot of reasons for many people who get their interest in something, and if lucky enough, getting into the flow for their own reasons. I would like to hear from others some reasons of how they got their interest in something, and how that interest (under what circumstance) got into 'the flow' itself. Your personal experience, as well as other examples you have heard would all be nice to talk about.

P.S. 1) I initially wanted to introduce the 'content theory', especially from 'Herzberg'. However, the amount of this blog post would get too big, and I gave up the idea to introduce the whole thing inside this post. I personally think it's worth reading at least once to get the grasp of how scholars view this type of topic in an academic way. The works are limited into workplace situations, but nonetheless I think it can be applied in various situations with a little twist of the contents. (Yes, that work will be more troublesome than your graduate thesis.)

P.S. 2) The 'chicken or egg' problem that Professor Arvan mentioned on 01232015, I am still thinking about it. I should have mentioned it on this post, but I'm having some serious thoughts about it. If I can come up to a conclusion of my own before the next meeting, I will be sure to share my thoughts with all of us.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


It seemed to me we hit a nerve in the discussion yesterday when the topic turned to grades and your grade aspirations.  Please know that I am not aiming to cause you discomfort.  But I do see my role as in part provoking you to challenge your own preconceptions.  Once in a while discomfort will be the result.  I hope that we can not shy away from topics for this reason, but also that we don't go out of our way to bludgeon ourselves.

Related to this let me make two different points.  One is to tie the experience to our course and, in particular, to Argyris and Schon Models 1 and 2.  Model 2 is difficult to implement, precisely because discomfort (or worse) will happen from time to time when doing it earnestly.  We naturally want to self-protect from those experiences.  The self-protection, however, encourages Model 1.  That is the challenge.

The other point is about being bothered and what that has to do with motivation.  I really like the quote below.

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?
Ray Bradbury (1920 - ), Fahrenheit 451, 1953

Farenheit 451 is a work of science fiction.  It offers a dystopian vision of the future.  (But since it was written 60 years ago you might consider it a vision of the present made in the past.)  The title itself is a reference to the temperature at which paper burns.  I know you're all incredibly busy.  But some of you have indicated you still have some time for pleasure reading.  Maybe Farenheit 451 should get onto your list of what to read.  I think it would engage you.

And here is one sidebar.  Yesterday I mentioned the Index Number Problem in reference to considering GPA as a performance measure.  Since you are all economics students, you should be aware of the Index Number Problem, even if you don't make it an object of study.  Part of the intellectual benefit of studying economics is to learn there are limits to our social constructs.  It is a valuable lesson to learn.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Flow and Creativity

In our last group discussion Professor Arvan mentioned an interesting point that under what circumstances people would be creative and whether it’s possible to make everything, including those seemly non-creative, routine work, becomes creative work. At that point it reminds me of what I’ve learned about creativity in one of my Psychology class. And also I looked up the reading list and was interested in the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi. I simply searched the author and found his talk on TED really inspiring.
According to the concept given in my psych class, creativity is something relevant and original. And when we say people are creative, we often talk about divergent thinking, which means the thoughts expand outward to different directions. Then I realized that creative people have the right characteristics to make them get into the flow and create. First is intrinsic interest. So people who are engaged in creative work are not motivated by other rewards. (And in fact, extrinsic rewards would distract people from achieving their best, according to experiments.) They do things out of interest and enthusiasm. The second important thing is that they have extensive knowledge and skills, which acquired by long-time patient hard working. As Czikszentmihalyi mentioned in the video, it takes whole 10-year practice to make someone to be an expert in one field. Thus expertise enables people to have more opportunities to be in flow and be more creative because they have more extensive knowledge on hand to use.
Czikszentmihalyi actually defines flow in the video. He described it as a state when “challenges are higher than average and skills are higher than average. … you are doing what you really like to do ”. So I try to find the time when I was in flow and doing creative work. One thing came up with me was that I picked up playing piano recently. I actually started learning piano when I was five or six. After few years practice I did well and got some certificates, which I believe the purpose was to make me more competitive in future education rather than interest. Then when I was nine I just dropped it. After all these years I did try a couple of times when I was in high school but I gave up due to the time occupation. This winter break when I tried to pick up piano, it was so difficult for me. And I didn’t remember a lot of music theories and skills. The frustration held me some time but I still tried to keep playing every day. The reason is that there is some piano music pieces I really love and I missed the feeling to playing piano for a long time. Because it was out of interest, when I practice I do feel one hour like five minutes. Then I’m sure that I was in flow. The process might be frustrating and challenging, but it is pleasure. This kind of pleasure and satisfaction is different from the feeling when you are relaxed lying on the coach, watching TV and eating ice cream. It is flow because it makes me reach a higher level, and makes me creative and work hard at the same time. But I could say that when I was young, practicing piano didn’t bring me into flow. At that time all I care is how much time was left and when can I finish and hang out with my friends. The same thing could be quite different to the same person.

So there’re some questions we might discuss and think about. When do you find yourself in flow? And do you have totally different experience with one thing? Do you think it is possible to make non-creative work into creative? Maybe interest is a key point to make people be creative and flow. In terms of searching for what you really want to do, what do you think about two approaches? Find your interest first and then search for what interest you, so that you have better chance to be in flow. Or you accept first and then try to develop interest later to be in flow? And if you have any other ideas you want to talk about please comment as well.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Some Places from which to Launch an Inquiry

While I do want you students to take control of our discussion, I was not happy with my own role in yesterday's conversation.  There was too much looking to find what we should be doing.  So a day later it occurred to me that I've already got in the can a lot of stuff that might help you to begin to pose your own questions.

One of those is a reading list I made several years ago when I thought I'd be teaching a class on leadership.  (That never materialized.)  There are books and essays on the reading list and I thought some of the essays we might consider and maybe even discuss one or two of the books.  So I went in hunt of that list.

I surprised myself by finding this essay - meant for publishing on my blog but which never made it there.  I don't remember why I didn't publish it then.

     How can we encourage students to be more creative about their own learning?

I wrote this sometime after teaching the 2013 version of Econ of Organizations.  You might consider that essay as my motivation for the discussion group, with some further ideas about what needs to be done to realize the goals on creativity.  Incidentally, many of the links in that essay are to works on the reading list.