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Great Brains in (n) types of design – a quick draw review on ‘America is Rotten & China is Awesome?’ July 19, 2010

Posted by @Karen_Fu in China, creativity, Innovation, USA.
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[pic source: www.gmtmag.com/en/]

I read this article: ‘America is rotten and China is awesome?’ by G.E Anderson at the Forbe’s website just a while ago; and felt compelled to write quickly about my 2 cents on innovative & creative thinking. I’ll zap it straight to the point.

We all know we need to know enough and have solid foundations in our subject areas. Yet we also need to know how to quickly think via various channels in different scenarios. From an outsider’s immediate point of view, many American students seem to lack the former and the Chinese students lack the latter. Having taught both nationalities before as a teacher tells me that certain curriculums need to be changed.   But that again, it has always been difficult to say how and why because I always feel difficult to put in my comments especially when I do not come from a big country. And that coming from a tiny young one makes everything all the more difficult.

Americans, like many other Western countries, tend to have more creative minds that could twist and turn to create ideas of thoughts, innovative solutions etc. But having lack the depth in both Math(s) and Sciences is going to stunt them in the near term and we can start to see the effects even now, where a lot of foreign students who have graduated in the States are now working in the US developing niche products and services. All this new preference for the humanities and the arts by the Americans come from somewhat a natural distaste for numbers & physics. I also suspect that it has a lot to do with affluence where looking towards the arts where social sciences would be more interesting to learn than fomulas in math(s) and the sciences (especially Physics and engineering sciences). Natural sciences, however, doesn’t seem to be much of this kind of problem. However the reality is many advancements in technology, typically with the ones that directly affect us in phyical life, requires one to be superior in these subjects.

Chinese students, on the other hand, are masters with numbers and logical thinking. Too again with many other Asian countries and typically with Russian students, where mathematics to them are like playing magic with figures.They are not uncreative but they do not appear to learn how to sit and think of other ways to come up with new solutions. Everything appears to have evolved from similar or the same common base. I attribute this problem to the way the society and economy works. When you are striving to get out from poverty to become extremely well off, the first thing you need to do is to just follow the path that will send you fastest to sucess. And that does not often allow you time to think and try. In certain instances, daring to think in a different path may be a personal economic risk, where your time and effort may be grounded to a far less profitable result. From another flip point, countries which are industrially established in the east, still tend to carry on the safe path of thinking where you focus on the safe path to climbing up the social ladder. Creativity is often set aside after you attain your financial freedom, which is exactly the formula to stunted creativity as it is better to start early and have it in our living surroundings.

In the States or indeed in the west as a whole (bearing in mind the different cultures in the west) have more accessibilities to innovation as far as the culture of free thinking / sources of various information goes. Free, also as in the freedom of  not having to worry about the basic needs — as in the society allows you the luxury of time and money to truly try different things in store.

Personally, I do not have a preference for whom is going to be the super powerhouse of the future. I think if you were to clear your minds a little, thinking a little far a little, the optimal that will keep the world sane and healthy is to actually not have any single super powerhouse in innovation. It simply isn’t healthy. Creativiity, in my opinion, depends on a rich array of experiences that we can share under the common umbrella of the skies, where different creed, people etc will offer you various insights of true wonder that our own cultures may fail us in seeing what could be the best solution. We cannot be benifiting anyone, if we think true innovative thought must come from a certain part of the world.

Great brains, in my modest opinion, is one which is not only solid in the fundamentals of as many subject areas possible; but also in the way it develops over time to be fluent in the nth number of ways to come up with solutions despite under any circumstance. (politically, economically, socially etc). Innovative thinking has to make the world as one, where it shows sensitivity to the rest of the world and other people’s needs. You can’t do this when you start to brand one another, or trying to sit somebody off.

So in a way no one is exactly rotten and no one is exactly awesome. We have everything to share and learn from everyone. And the brain that has the ability to sort nth number of problems has got to be also a brain that is very open to all.

Quick draw at one go. Doubt a lot of people would read about it. But I thought I might as well hit the keys since I have been interested in such topics for a long long time. I don’t believe in certain stigmas and a crazy few dogmatc thinking egos. My approach may somewhat look slow, but it has gained me a lot of invaluable insights and train me to think fast.

Got lots to say but I really need to pop into bed. Its 2.25 in the morning ! — Karen Fu, some little nobody sitting on the equator, in front of her PC, smattering away from tiny Singapore.

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