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A QualitEvolution is intended to capture positions and experiences as a participant in the evolution of the Quality profession into the 21st century. From its origins as the brainchild of Corporate Industrial Statisticians, our profession has transformed and evolved to incorporate and adapt to the demands and expectations of our modern existence.

The scope of the subject matter within A QualitEvolution extends to the furthest ranges of quality, business transformation, management science, and quality issues especially pertinent to the members of ASQ in Canada.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Walking With Steve Jobs Toward Improved Creativity

In an article within the "Financial Post" business section of the Canadian newspaper, the National Post, there is a very interesting article relating the benefits of walking to creative thought.

As cited within the caption, "Taking a long walk was Steve Jobs' preferred way to have a serious conversation".

This aligns with the ethic of "Management By Walking Around" (MBWA), which was promoted by the legendary Peter Drucker, reinforced by Tom Peters et. al, and translated into Japanese as the "3Gs" (Genga, Gengutsu, and Genjitsu, which translate into “actual place”, “actual thing”, and “actual situation”).

The Lean practice of "Going To The Gemba" supports the creativity of initiatives like Kaizen, not just because people are immersed in the environment where the actual work is performed, but the very act of walking stimulates the necessary creativity needed for problem solving and continuous improvement.

The article backed this up with historical and scientific references.  Intellectual icons like Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Charles Dickens, and Ludwig van Beethoven were referenced within the article as examples of historical figures whose tendency for long walks contributed constructively to their respective compositions and publications.

A recent study by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2014, revealed the comparative results of participants when taking Guilford's Alternative Uses Test.  This is a test used to measure creative thinking by coming up with alternative uses for everyday items, and scoring these uses across multiple evaluation criteria: originality, fluency, flexibility, and elaboration.  A summary is provided below:


Guilford's Alternative Uses Task (1967)

(For more information, contact Gayle Dow, Indiana University)
In Guilford’s Alternative Uses Task (1967) examinees are asked to list as many possible uses for a common house hold item (such as s brick, a paperclip, a newspaper)


Name all the uses for a brick:

  1. A paperweight
  2. A doorstop
  3. A mock coffin at a Barbie funeral
  4. To throw threw a window
  5. To use as a weapon
  6. To hit my sister on the head with


Scoring is comprised of four components:

  1. Originality - each response it compared to the total amount of responses from all of the people you gave the test to. Reponses that were given by only 5% of your group are unusual (1 point), responses that were given by only 1% of your group are unique - 2 points). Total all the point. Higher scores indicate creativity*
  2. Fluency - total. Just add up all the responses. In this example it is 6.
  3. Flexibility - or different categories. In this case there are five different categories (weapon and hit sister are from the same general idea of weapon)
  4. Elaboration - amount of detail (for Example "a doorstop" = 0 whereas "a door stop to prevent a door slamming shut in a strong wind" = 2 (one for explanation of door slamming, two for further detail about the wind).
*You might have noticed that the higher fluency the higher the originality. This is a contamination problem and can be corrected by using a corrective calculation for originality (originality = originality/fluency).


The comparative results from the study showed an 81% increase in the creativity scores resulting from walking.  This is a remarkable outcome, which is supported by current business leaders like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Square's Jack Dorsey, who employ walking as a catalyst for deeper thinking and conversation.

I encourage everyone to walk and be mobile, not just for the inherent health benefits, but for the positive effects on creativity and composition.  This very article was composed following my habitual aerobic exercise on an elliptical trainer at a nearby YMCA.

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