An Analytical Approach to Creativity

By Kelly Murphy

Throughout my entire life I have never considered myself to be creative by any stretch of the imagination.  I have never excelled in the activities that are traditionally described as creative activities, such as arts and crafts, drawing, music, and don’t have the wild imagination that so many creative individuals do.  I received my undergraduate degree in computer information systems and accounting, and I am currently receiving my master’s degree in business analytics.  I am sharing this information because it provides a pretty good sense of my personality and how my brain operates.  I am very analytically minded, and make a lot of decisions in my life using facts and logic.  I’m the type of person who likes a lot of structure and order in my life.  I’m more likely to do things by the book rather than try to change something just for the sake of trying something new.

These are definitely not the qualities of a creative individual.  I, like so many others who share these qualities, have always just accepted that I’m not creative, and never will be creative; however, after further studying creativity, I’ve learned that this is not necessarily true.  There are, in fact, many different ways that anybody can be creative.

Most people have heard that the human brain is split into two hemispheres: the left side and the right side.  The left side of the brain is the analytical side and is responsible for things like facts, logic, and organization.  The right side of the brain is responsible for things like imagination, arts, and feelings. The right-brain is almost universally described as being the creative side of the brain.  This means that for people who have a dominant left-brain, the perception is that their brains just aren’t hard wired to be as creative as people who have a dominant right-brain.

I disagree with this idea.  I don’t think that analytical people means are any less creative, or that artists are any more creative.  Creativity can be viewed as having a unique way of thinking. I don’t believe that any one person is necessarily more creative than somebody else.  Everybody has their own way of thinking, which leads them to be creative in a unique way.  In fact, creativity can take on many different forms.  For example, creativity can be seen in an artist that is creating work that is completely different from anything anybody has ever done.  Creativity can be seen in a scientist who is so analytical that they are able to approach a problem, and solution, different from anybody else.  Creativity can even be an athlete who is always finding unique ways to get a defender out of position.  The scientist can be just as creative as the artist, and the athlete can be just as creative as well.

Creativity has more to do with personality than which hemisphere of the brain is dominant, and I believe that efforts to measure creativity quantitatively are flawed due to the fact that everybody has a unique creative style.  The best that we approach to categorize these different styles of creativity is similar to the tests that categorize an individual’s personality.

A study by Umed Singh and Jagdish Kumar, from December 2017, attempted to find a correlation between personality and creativity.  Their paper expresses my views on creativity.  The authors do not feel that creativity is this singular thing that can be measured.  Like me, the authors believe there are different categories of creativity, just like there are categories of personality, and they attempt to assess the relationship between creativity type and personality type.  The study looks at four different categories of creativity: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.

  • Fluency is an individual’s ability to generate numerous ideas.
  • Flexibility is one’s ability to come up with a range of ideas that are all very different from each other.
  • Originality is the ability to produce original ideas that wouldn’t be thought of by most people.
  • Elaboration is the ability to create a plan of action and implement it.

Personalities were tested using a NEO-FFI test, which looks at five scales of an individual’s personality.  These scales include neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.  Lastly, the survey tests respondents to determine their extrinsic or intrinsic motivation.  Ultimately, the tests of creativity and personality yielded 16 statistically significant results out of the 20 relationships.  The findings from this study support my original hypothesis that creativity has more to do with personality than anything else.

In addition to questioning whether there is one universal way to approach creativity, I have more questions that I’m interested in.  One major question I have is whether or not creativity differs across geographic regions.  The Singh & Kumar study was done in India, so I would be curious to see if the relationships between creativity type and personality type may be different in the United States.  As a United States citizen, I have taken a creativity test that measured on these same creative categories, and a Myers Briggs personality test.  My results from each test do not match the correlations discovered in this study.  My creative strengths, identified in the creativity test, are originality and elaboration; and the Myers Briggs test confirms I’m very much an introvert.  However, in the Indian study extroversion had positive correlation with both originality and elaboration.  Obviously, there can always be outliers, and I may happen to be one of them; however, maybe there actually is a difference between the personality and creativity relationship in the United States compared to India.

I’m also curious as to whether or not these results would differ by gender.  This study sampled only male students to avoid gender being a confound variable.  It would be worthwhile to run this same study on females to assess any difference in the relationships between creativity and personality.

So why does all of this matter?  Organizations constantly need to innovate in order to remain competitive.  A culture of creativity helps spur innovation in many organizations.  I suspect that hiring ‘creative’ individuals isn’t the most effective way for an organization to increase creativity and innovation.  This is because by seeking out traditionally creative individuals only, an organization may be missing out on individuals who think differently.

If an organization really wants to get the most out of their creative culture, then the key is to hire many people with different personalities who excel in each of the four categories of creativity: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.  If a company is looking only for people that they see as creative, then there won’t be enough diversity of thought to reach their full innovative potential.  For example, if the core of the creativity within an organization comes from individuals who excel in fluency, then there will be a long string of ideas, but the ideas will not have much variety.  This means that innovative ideas will be lacking within the organization.  If instead, there were a combination of fluent creative individuals and flexible creative individuals, then they would be able to build off of each other’s strengths, and get a high quantity of many different ideas.  The same can be said for when adding creative individuals who excel in originality and elaboration.  The more diversity that is available during the creative process, the more creativity that will result from the process.  Firms also need to ensure that they have people with different ways of thinking to ensure that you will have people who will consider all of the necessary questions.  Asking lots of questions, and asking the right questions, is a very important part of creativity.  For example, if all of the right questions are asked, then potential problems will be able to be addressed early on in the process.

My hope is that my blog has offered a new perspective of creativity.  So many of us have been convinced that we just weren’t meant to ever be creative, when, in fact, this isn’t the case at all.  There are many different ways for individuals to be creative, and everybody has their own creative strengths.  Each of the different personality types are creative in their own unique way; in fact, personality is strongly correlated with creativity.  Even if an individual doesn’t have the traditional traits of creativity, odds are they are still creative in some way.  With this new understanding of creativity, I hope that you’re able to fully utilize your own creative potential.

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New Technologies and Data Analytics in Health Care

By Hayley Lose

My capstone project focuses on the health care industry with respect to the opioid epidemic. After doing my research and analysis, I can see there is room for growth in data analytics in the health care industry.  My mom works in a hospital and it is really interesting to hear how technology shapes the processes she does daily. I wanted to look at more technologies available currently to see where gaps and opportunities are.

The health care industry can benefit from improved technology and innovation in regards to patient care, research, and staffing. The technology available now is working towards better patient care; however, there is room for analytical growth and development. Many tools and techniques are being used and developed, with lots of room for growth.

McKinsey and Company’s 2016 report on/ analytics and competing in a data-driven world identified the healthcare industry as capturing only 10-20% of the analytical value available. The biggest success for the industry is electronic medical records. Electronic medical records are being used — but not to their full potential as a result of patient privacy and regulations. Challenges in fully capturing the value from analytics include lack of incentives, data-sharing difficulties, and regulations.

The report suggests radical personalization as a potential for improvement. Radical personalization can shape the industry in two ways. The first is information asymmetries and incentive issues in the system.  With a complete patient view, incentives can be adjusted to focus on wellness and prevention. The second way radical personalization can shape the industry is by making treatments more precise. More effective outcomes will be a result of more precise treatments. Although with the new technology, there are great uncertainties involved including health care adaptation and research and development producing breakthrough treatments.

The necessity of data analytics and innovation in health care is apparent. Health care costs have been rising over 20 years so the need for data driven decisions is relevant. Physician decisions can become based more on data and evidence rather than professional opinion.

New Technology

New analytical techniques can assist the health care industry. An article in Forbes, by Mike Montgomery, reported that eCare21, a remote patient monitoring system, is changing the way doctors treat senior citizens. The monitoring system can be accessed through a phone app; it uses sensors to collect patient information through smartphones, Fitbits, and Bluetooth. The information collected includes blood pressure, physical activity, weight, medication intake, and glucose levels. eCare21 assists in providing real time information, so authorized caretakers and family to access the data. This information can be placed on a dashboard for doctors, caregivers, and families can see the results.

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Figure 1. Company Logo

eCare21 complete in the area of telehealth. Telehealth is the process of providing health care while eliminating geographical constraints through the use of technology. Telehealth, also referred to as telemedicine, can help relieve some current struggles within the health care industry.  For example, initial consultations and diagnosis can be communicated via videoconference. Wearable technology and monitoring can be done remotely so as data collection is happening there is room for analytics and personalized treatment. Analytics can work to predict medical events in advance. Furthermore, telehealth helps patients stay out of hospitals, thus reducing costs and improving quality of service.

Another device available for wearable monitoring comes from Cardiac Insight. Their device, called Cardea Solo, is a lightweight disposable electrocardiogram (ECG) to monitor a patient’s heartbeat. Through wearing the device, irregularities can be identified that could lead to serious heart problems. The main objective behind the device is identifying and monitoring systems that cannot be replicated in the doctor’s office. The device is small enough that it will not be noticed under clothes and is water resistant.  Cardeo Solo is inexpensive, making it highly accessible.

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Figure 2. Cardea Solo

Forbe’s article regarding hospitals in Paris using machine learning to forecast admission rates showed that four hospitals have combined 10 years of admission data to predict day and hour-level admissions (Marr 2016). External data sets were included containing weather, holidays, and flu patterns. All of the combined data is used on an open-sourced platform (Trusted Analytics Platform) because of the large amount of data. The article notes the importance of using a well-understood algorithm so that it can work over distributed systems. With the ability to predict patient admission, staffing adjustments can be made to reduce waiting times for patients. The prediction of admission rates could not utilize types of admissions as a result of privacy laws. Privacy laws are one of the largest obstacles facing analytics and health care.

Conclusion

These devices and many more are being created and improved constantly. The technologies I researched focus on different aspects that can improve health care.  There is room for more innovation and better devices to improve the health care system and patient health. The shift toward better technology presents the ability for better patient care and data-driven decisions.

A theme in articles I read was the difficulty in accessing patient data. While the effects of electronic records have been important, there is some restriction with the records based on security.

Works Cited

“The Age of Analytics: Competing in a Data Driven World.” McKinsey, http://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/McKinsey%20Analytics/Our%20Insights/The%20age%20of%20analytics%20Competing%20in%20a%20data%20driven%20world/MGI-The-Age-of-Analytics-Full-report.ashx.

Marr, Bernard. “Big Data In Healthcare: Paris Hospitals Predict Admission Rates Using Machine Learning.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 13 Dec. 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2016/12/13/big-data-in-healthcare-paris-hospitals-predict-admission-rates-using-machine-learning/#25953ef079a2.

McGrane, Clare. “Cardiac Insight Raises $4.5M, Wins FDA Approval to Launch Wearable ECG Sensor.” GeekWire, GeekWire, LLC, 15 Aug. 2017, http://www.geekwire.com/2017/cardiac-insight-raises-2-m-launches-wearable-ecg-sensor/.

Montgomery, Mike. “The Future Of Health Care Is In Data Analytics.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Oct. 2016, http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemontgomery/2016/10/26/the-future-of-health-care-is-in-data-analytics/#187e837d3ee2.

 

 

 

The Unfolding Saga of Cambridge Analytica: More to Come

By Ethan Arave

At the intersection of analytics and marketing there lies an intellectual arms race, an ever-intensifying search for more and better ways to utilize the vast troughs of data users offer up on various platforms to better target a product or idea. Public commentary focused on the balance being struck between privacy concerns and modernization of marketing in this race is relatively minimal, only really manifesting as the result of some perceived innovative breakthrough or as the result of some high-profile disaster.

For a clear demonstration of this cycle, one need only look at the recent ‘breach’ of Facebook user data by the UK based analytics firm Cambridge Analytica (CA). In brief, CA was the firm at the helm of several high profile political upsets in the recent past: namely Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign and the Brexit Yes vote. After their successful run of data-driven populist campaigns in 2016, CA was found to have been utilizing Facebook user data gathered with an app that claimed to be utilizing data for purely academic purposes but was, instead, provided to CA and utilized to build a bevy of political models. These models ranged from basic voter patterns and polling estimates, to the more nefarious sounding and modern ‘psychographic’ profiles of users, meant to capture a more holistic image of the voter and finely tune images to engage them. In examining coverage of CA and Facebook over the last eight months, covering a period between CA’s victory lap in two momentous campaigns through to immediately after public attention was drawn to the ‘breach’, I will outline the course over which the modern conversation on privacy and analytics takes place, and its immediate consequences.

CA and Facebook’s shared story is a complex one and several aspects are hotly contested as I write this, but there are some certainties that can be established to help scrutinize the ‘breach’ and its continued fallout. To start, while CA is far from the first company to utilize Facebook user data for political purposes, the main contention at the heart of the scandal is the lack of transparency with which that data was harvested. Perhaps the most notable distinction here is that, “… Obama for America did collect data on users’ friends,… at the time [this practice was] in line with Facebook policy… In 2015, Facebook changed the rules so that apps could no longer target the friends of users who downloaded them.”

That this would seem a minor distinction of policy rather than moral imperative, especially when separated by such a small span of time, is, for some, evidence that the CA scandal represents little more than an empty alarm being sounded by vengeful actors who disagreed with CA’s clients’ political views. There are also questions, stemming from Facebook’s own response, as to whether this constituted a breach of private data placing one or both actors in legal peril, or merely a distasteful disuse that requires minor corrections, as Facebook would argue. I make no claim to the nature of a ‘breach’ as it is semantically being argued, nor that this is an issue in a vacuum, completely separate from the 2008-12 era tools utilized by the Obama campaign. Instead, I am simply interested in documenting the narratives around CA and their rapid evolution: a story of data’s efficacy and power and the intellect of those wielding it giving way to a denunciation of all actors involved.

It all started with results. The causal impact of an analytical process is always difficult to establish, especially in as volatile a realm as politics, which makes an upset the perfect event on which to stake such claims. CA was not shy about their role in the Trump campaign; in fact they were surprisingly candid: this video, timestamped as the head of product for CA claims they didn’t have the time or funding to build a complex psychographics operation, gives a great deal of insight into how CA was viewed, and viewed themselves, after their victories. The head of product claims that, far from these more nefarious and new tools, CA built relatively simple models they validated on the Republican National Committee’s voter role data and checked against what is obliquely referred to as “Cambridge’s data” (presumably the data collected through the Facebook app). They also sought to impart that their data-driven ground game was impactful not for its complexity, but for its freedom from oversight (more on this later). CA were portrayed as both pioneering genuises and consummate, down to earth, pollsters, receiving the praise of both while deflecting the concerns of either (overreach and bad faith as data geniuses or a fluke victory as humble pollsters) with calculated corrections such as the CSPAN interview above.

Far from the media narrative at this stage being one note, there were warning signs, even in late 2017, that Cambridge might be in trouble, but then these were relatively minor claims, the sort of backlash one might expect for any firm that had made itself a target through its string of impressive successes. Perhaps the most striking example of this before-the-storm moment is this article, where the currently suspended CEO of CA speaks to prospective book deals and publishing on their momentous victory.

Then came the revelations. While The Guardian’s reporting was the match strike, owing to their access with an analyst who worked with CA, the nature of the story quickly augmented and spread. While CA’s CEO, Alexander Nix, was suspended for reasons unrelated to the Facebook ‘breach’, it’s difficult to imagine the suspension wasn’t catalyzed by the incredible scrutiny befalling CA at the time. Regardless of the publicity they’ve received, there are several narratives that have spawned about how the company looks in retrospect.  First there were those positing CA as an unbridled force, a malignancy on mankind akin to the creation of an atomic bomb, a force that will reshape all of politics to come for the worse. Then there were those who saw Facebook as near-sole bearer of responsibility, arguing that Facebook was priming the pump with a mix of negligence and short sightedness speeding toward this exact type of disaster. Finally, and perhaps most fascinatingly, are those takes that establish that the users are the ones responsible here; no amount of marketing should be able to sway people from their beliefs and, if it does, it’s ignorance on the part of those users and not the company’s responsibility to protect them. The latest wave of reporting to come out is noting the fallout, both financial and with regard to image, Facebook faces.

So what lessons exist in this drastic shift? It would seem a relatively straight forward tale: CA was found to have an illicitly gathered database which was only possible due to some amount of negligence on Facebook’s part. The story then is just a failure of these corporations to ‘behave’ within public expectation, or to provide a transparent representation of their goals and intent. But there’s more here, especially noticeable in how much fallout Facebook has faced publicly.  While it’s likely this will only be a momentary setback for one of the most powerful corporations on earth, it’s interesting to see how many narratives focus on Facebook as a social evil, claiming that the CA breach is only clarifying all of the negative relationships that already existed between Facebook and its users (and services that rely on Facebook).

For me, though, the most interesting story with little-to-no coverage has to do with that initial argument around this being an unstoppable negative trend in politics. In the aforementioned CSPAN interview, CA employees mention what is, to their minds, the most important piece of their operation: to show the voters whatever images got them engaged. It didn’t have to make sense, be especially focused, or even true and it might have been shunned by a less data-driven campaign; but CA went with whatever images most engaged users. This is a critical notion: that the images that activate our emotions are more important than any underlying message; and it connects directly to how these companies and the US government handle outrage in the modern era.

One might expect that the public outcry currently leveled at Facebook and CA would result in policy aimed at addressing the glaring data privacy issues brought to light, or at the very least in a discussion on that subject. And indeed, there have been some preliminary talks about Mark Zuckerberg testifying before Congress. However, as far as policy is concerned, the policies being passed at this moment tell a very different story than the images being presented.  The ‘Cloud Act‘, as it was passed, is exactly the sort of bill that those outraged by data breaches as violation of privacy would decry and yet, because it is detached from the immediacy of a stock fall or demonstrable impact, it has almost completely fallen from public notice. It’s still too close to this event to see its impact, but it’s unlikely that the practices CA utilized to propel political longshots to victory will see less use over time, especially with the narratives of the power and results established above. Similarly, Facebook is likely to posture more than actually change its bedrock model of offering up user data as its primary product.

In the end, unprecedented policy change will be necessary to retrofit America’s data privacy policies to match users’ expectations and, until that time, breaches and coverage cycles like these are more likely to reoccur.

 

How to Profile Friends and Influence People: A Field Guide to Cambridge Analytica-style Fuckery

By Jason Weiner

#DeleteFacebook might have trended in response to news coverage of how consultants for the Trump campaign employed data mining to target voters on digital media. The techniques and tools now made infamous by Cambridge Analytica are not, in themselves, trade secrets or proprietary technology though. In fact, just about anyone with a couple of data science courses could learn to employ them given a similar data set; the theory and practice are laid out in just a couple of academic journal articles.

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What is Code and Why Everyone Should Have a Basic Coding Proficiency

By Ashley R.

“Everyone should know how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.” [1] This statement from Steve Jobs, an American entrepreneur, businessman, inventor, and industrial designer, shares how literacy in coding provides individuals with intellectual advantages in the current technology-driven economy. Coding is a particularly complicated piece of art, but with modern civilization powered by software it is no longer acceptable to rely on other professionals in a technology-driven company. By learning basic code literacy, professionals will elevate their appreciation and understanding for technology. This piece of writing will further explore the details of programming as well as why employees understanding code will bridge the gap between business and technology.

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Can Creativity Be Learned?

By Elizabeth Sicheri

In every organization that I’ve ever worked for, there has been a struggle between ‘Quants” and “Creatives”.

Quants are known as individuals who rely heavily on logical thought and numeric input in their decision-making process, and Creatives are known for relying on their artistic talent in order to get their job done. By definition, these two schools of thought are at odds, and many cross-functional teams experience unnecessary conflict and inefficiencies as a result. Creatives often feel that the Quants are inhibiting their creative process by placing boundaries around them, and Quants often feel that the Creatives are making decisions on a whim.

Continue reading “Can Creativity Be Learned?”