LearnBytes episode #8 – Lara Kirk – Think like this for creative problem solving

25 November 2020
Samantha Garrett

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In this episode

In this episode, Samantha is joined by her colleague Lara Kirk and a special furry guest!

In her race against the clock, Lara shares a beautiful quote on the definition of creativity and why knowing something is guaranteed to succeed would hinder, not help, her creativity.

We also hear how Lara stimulates creative thinking with students and adults by encouraging them to think like designers, creators and inventors.

You can connect with Lara on Twitter @lara_kirk.

Links from the episode

Lara’s podcast recommendations are Stuff You Should Know and The Infinite Monkey Cage

Creativity quote from Osho

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Samantha  0:02  

Hello there and welcome to LearnBytes, the show that delivers byte-sized pieces of wisdom so that you can learn how to increase your efficiency and productivity, embrace your natural creativity and lead with impact. I’m Samantha Garrett from Using Technology Better and joining me on the show today to share their wisdom is Lara Kirk and Huxley. Hi Lara, hi Huck!

Lara Kirk  0:24  

Hi, he’s biting, he’s LearnBytes, see? 

Samantha  0:29  

Ooh he is, and he’s the first doggy guest on LearnBytes. So I’m so excited, so yay. So, Lara is actually one of my amazing colleagues at Using Technology Better. She’s a technology trainer. And Huck is a dog. Clearly. I don’t think he does technology training. But um…

Lara Kirk  0:48  

He’s my support crew 

Samantha  0:49  

Support well, particularly probably while you’re working at home, he could definitely have some publicity for you in the video. Lovely. All right. So Lara, you’re here to talk today about creativity, which I’m excited to hear your thoughts on. But before we jump into our eight questions in four minutes, I thought you’d like to share a little bit about what you’re passionate about, and a little bit about yourself.

Lara Kirk  1:12  

Cool. Okay, thanks, Sam. I’m excited to be here. I think we’re going to have a good time. And the fact that you welcomed Huxley into the call as well, is always something I appreciate. Umm so yes, I’m Lara and I live in beautiful Queenstown in New Zealand. I grew up here. And it’s a pretty amazing place to live, it’s a pretty amazing place to grow up, lots of outdoorsy things and opportunities for you when you’re growing up. I am super passionate about travel and meeting people and going to weird places. I didn’t do the normal travel thing when I went overseas to teach, I did some pretty strange things, which is awesome. So I was a teacher for 14 years and I’ve been working with Using Technology Better for the last two and a half. And it’s been a pretty amazing ride. Did I get that right Sam? You look like it..

Samantha  2:00  

No, I’m sure you did. I haven’t, it’s not like I am keeping count. I was just like wow, that time. Like it’s just amazing how quickly it goes. But it does feel like forever. So yeah,

Lara Kirk  2:09  

Yeah, so um, so loving working with this team. And, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today is creativity, which is something that has really, for me, the team has allowed me to develop a whole lot more of to working in this job. So I love it. I love working with teachers and with students and enjoy a bit of the corporate stuff we do as well, but here in New Zealand, we’re slammed with education at the moment, which is awesome. And what else do I like, I like to walk my dog. And I’m lucky because there’s some amazing tracks around here. And really really beautiful. I have far too many house plants. So I spend a lot of time trying to keep them alive. As well as the pets. And yeah, spending time with my family, my friends. And yeah, I don’t know, that’s kind of what I do.

Samantha  2:57  

I think that’s great. Because I love the fact that part of what you’re passionate about is keeping your plants and your pets alive. I mean, I think that’s a good goal for anyone to have.

Lara Kirk  3:05  

I think so I think if you’re gonna have living things in your house, you should try to keep them alive. 

Definitely. Definitely. And just so you know Huck has settled beautifully over your left shoulder in the video so, you could 

In a sunbeam. 

Samantha  3:19  

Okay, thank you Lara. That’s really awesome. So, as you know, the show is all about bite sized pieces of wisdom. So you’ve got four minutes, eight questions on creativity. And then if you finish in the time before the timer goes off, you, you can either ask me a question, or I’ll just ask you more questions. And I’d love to hear at the end to what the weirdest place you’ve been to or taught in is. So keep that in mind. Yeah, it’s not a standard question. Cool. All right. Are you ready if we set the timer?

Lara Kirk  3:50  

I am ready Sam. 

Samantha  3:52  

Cool, all right, let’s, I’m going to hit start. First mobile phone and current phone?

Lara Kirk  3:59  

I had an Alcatel One Touch Easy. I had to Google that. But they were the ones that were very cute. It’s such a nice looking phone, and it was white, and I loved it. And I currently have an iPhone 8 Plus, also in white with the rose gold back and uh yeah, I really like it. But I didn’t know that it was an iPhone 8 plus until I went into the settings and looked look that up for this phone call. Just an iPhone. 

Samantha  4:20  

We’re always helping people learn, what can I say?

Lara Kirk  4:23  


Samantha  4:24  

How would you define creativity? And what do you think the key dispositions are that creative people actually display? 

Lara Kirk  4:30  

I think questioning and being curious are absolutely key. Being innovative, and generating new ideas is what it’s all about. I’ve actually got a quote here that I wanted to read out because I think it, to me, it really sums it up beautifully. So it’s from Osho. “To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty. You want to bring a little more music to it and a little more poetry to it and a little more dance to it.” So I think that’s really beautiful.

Samantha  5:00  

We’ll talk more about that at the end. Yes. Oh, that’s so gorgeous. What is the biggest myth about creativity you’ve come across?

Lara Kirk  5:07  

I think that you either are or you aren’t creative. And I know that there was a lot of research around left brain, right brain one side being creative, one side being logical, but there’s more and more showing that that is not actually the case. Um and that creativity can be developed and grown and enhanced. And I know this personally, like being artsy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re creative. And to be creative, you don’t have to be artsy. They’re not the same thing. They’re very, very different things. And I think digging into that people realize that really quickly. But it’s not so much surface knowledge, when you think about creatives.

Samantha  5:41  

When, where and how do you express yourself more as creative, creatively?

Lara Kirk  5:47  

It’s a hard word!

I think, and that was a really good question. But I think when there is a good challenge or the opportunities really open. So when there aren’t a lot of confines around what the task is. Um, so thinking big picture, like, what if there was no barriers to this, what could it be, and then, and then we’re looking at any barriers around that afterwards. Um for me, being in a nice environment is quite important. I quite like things to be neat and tidy. So like I said, I’ve got lots of plants in my house, there’s lots of art in my house. So having a space that I feel comfortable in, I’m yeah, very spatially aware with that kind of thing to

Samantha  6:25  

Alirght you’ve got a minute 30 left and we’re up to question five. Biggest barrier to creativity?

Lara Kirk  6:31  

Um, busyness. So in education, that means a packed curriculum where there’s no time for flexibility, high demands in terms of assessment of what you have to get through, and life busyness no time to stop and think and appreciate what’s going on. Our brains are working so hard all the time.

Samantha  6:47  

So what strategies have you used to try and overcome that busyness in creativity?

Lara Kirk  6:51  

um, I think I think carving time out for movement, just a walk, or whatever it is, or time to sit and think. I’m really lucky, because in my job, I have time to be creative. And that’s a big part of what I do. So since coming into this job, I’m way more creative and I don’t need to actively seek out those strategies anymore. But as a teacher, making time, dropping something, because you have to drop something to make space for something else. 

Samantha  7:16  

Interesting. Okay, um, book, podcast or video that you would recommend to our readers, or our readers, we don’t have readers! To our listeners or our watchers.

Lara Kirk  7:25  

We might, they can have closed captions on.

Samantha  7:27  

They might be reading the transcript true. 

Lara Kirk  7:29  

Totally. So my two favorite podcasts, and I’m a bit of a science geek, so it’s Stuff You Should Know. I love it, because they just talk about really random topics, but it’s so interesting. So in terms of engaging creativity and curiosity, that one’s awesome. And The Infinite Monkey Cage is another one of my favorites, as well, very, very sciency and love it.

Samantha  7:49  

Interesting five seconds, what creative project would you dedicate your time and energy to if you knew it was guaranteed to succeed?

Lara Kirk  7:55  

I probably wouldn’t do it. Because if it’s guaranteed to succeed, I wouldn’t have the motivation to do it. So for me, it needs to be a challenge. But if I was to say that it’d be something that will help others and serve a purpose, and tied into my passions, and also helps me to learn.

Samantha  8:10  

Wow, that’s so interesting Lara, I love that. So, the motivation comes from knowing that it could fail?

Lara Kirk  8:18  

I was thinking about I was like, guaranteed to succeed. You know, you wouldn’t have to be as creative if it’s guaranteed to succeed. If you have to, if it’s a challenge, then you have to think about lots of alternative ways. That it could be meeting the needs or whatever it is. If it’s guaranteed to succeed, you might choose one or two things that you initially think of and go with that path, rather than really dive deeper into what it is you’re trying to achieve.

Samantha  8:44  

Yeah, that’s a really, really interesting way to look at it. Thank you and it’s so, I actually really love asking that question, because there’s so many different responses. And it really gets you thinking differently. So yeah, thank you Lara, that’s awesome. I just wanted to go back, I would love it if you would reread that quote, because I think that was so amazing.

Lara Kirk  9:03  

Sure. To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty. You want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it. 

Samantha  9:17  

Mmm. That, that’s so beautiful. I just wanted everyone to hear it again. And we will actually put that, a link to that too in the notes. Because I think that just gets us all really thinking, too, particularly what you were saying about the whole creativity and artsy thing being like, together. It’s actually not about that at all. So, yeah, that’s beautiful. Um, thank you, Lara, is it anything you wanted to add to anything you said?

Lara Kirk  9:38  

I think along those lines, like something I’ve been thinking about a lot is creativity in areas that aren’t necessarily known for creativity by people who aren’t working in them. So even like, sorry, I’m gonna keep bringing a bit to education a little bit because that’s where my heads at, but, you know, mathematics is not something that people would naturally think it’s a creative field. But it absolutely is because you’re creating solutions to problems and different ways to solve things and finding lots of different ways to go about it. So it is problem solving. And to solve problems, you have to be creative. To find solutions, you have to be creative. So, creativity very naturally, I think we all think of it in terms of the arts, or language arts, or history and culture and all that. But it’s actually through everything we do. And developing that creativity. ‘What’s another way you could do that?’ is really important. And I guess one tip I would give to teachers, if they’re looking to do it, and it’s something I often do when I’m in classes, is to tell your kids, we’re going to think like designers, creators, and inventors, with everything that we do. So designers, creators, and inventors are constantly thinking, what would happen if? How might I? I wonder if? And so as a teacher, when you hear those questions, that’s the moment you go, yes, we are on the right path. And you go for it, and even as people working on projects as adults, those questions will help you to find lots of other possibilities, and hopefully lead you to something, I guess, a solution if it is solution finding that you’re working on, or something that is really new and unique. 

Samantha  11:12  

Yeah, and that comes back to the key dispositions that you said at the start around curiosity, curiosity and questioning, it’s exactly what you just said, by thinking about that designer, creator, inventor. So that makes sense, completely links that together. So brilliant. Well Lara, I did, I did say I wanted to find out what your most interesting place was. So we will do that. And then once you’ve told us that, I would love you to let us know where people could find you or connect with you if they want to find out more. And maybe see pictures of Huck, I don’t know. Cool. So I just thought to the people listening to the podcast, I’m sorry, you’re not gonna see gorgeous Huck in the podcast, obviously, but you can check out the YouTube video version and you can have a nice little doggy treat there.

Lara Kirk  11:53  

Maybe the cover photo for the podcast should have Huxley in it as well. 

Samantha  11:57  

Oh, I think we could do that. Totally. We’ll make sure that happens. All right, wrap up.

Lara Kirk  12:04  

I was very fortunate that I spent a few years teaching overseas. And I went down a different pathway than one of the standard sort of London ones. And I taught in international schools in the Middle East, and then in Ethiopia for three years. And then Thailand for two years. I guess during that time, I traveled to some pretty awesome off the beaten path places like Yemen and Madagascar, and lots of spots inside Ethiopia as well. And yeah, there were so many, but um, probably one of my favorites to look back on probably is Yemen. It was, at a moment in time where things were relatively peaceful, and Sana’a, which is the beautiful old UNESCO World Heritage Site city there, is one of the most stunning things I’ve ever seen. And as a kid, when I dreamt of travel, I dreamt of feeling different being somewhere, like actually feeling different. And that’s probably the strongest place that I almost felt transported back in time. Um, and it’s really hard to, look at photos of it, because it’s just these incredible mud brick buildings that they put the next layer on for the next generations of families, so you get the skyscraper looking things. And they’ve obviously, Yemen, there’s been a lot, a lot of sort of fighting and war and you know, some pretty horrible stuff going on there. So I feel really fortunate that I got to go there and see that, and it was stunning. And the culture and the people and everything was pretty amazing. So yeah, so very lucky to have gone to those beautiful places.

Um yeah, I don’t know there was some pretty, I’m struggling to remember them now. But yeah

That’s OK. That’s enough. 

Lara in here 20’s was very intrepid. 

I don’t, I love that you said it makes you feel feel different. That’s, that’s so interesting. Really. All right. Now we better keep this bite sized. So, so I’m gonna wrap it up. But where can peoplefind you Lara, before we go?

Um, I will actually need to look at what my Twitter handle is. But if I could, we’ll put it on the screen.

Samantha  13:58  

We’ll put it, it will be on the screen.

Lara Kirk  14:01  

I think I think it’s just @Lara_Kirk. All of my stuff pretty basic. Like, yeah, Instagram is mostly Huxley. So if that’s what you’re after Lara Kirk on Instagram. And then I’m on LinkedIn, and yeah on Twitter as well.

Samantha  14:17  

No worries. We’ll put all the links there and fantastic. All right, Lara, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your dog with us today. I’m very appreciative.

Lara Kirk  14:27  

Thank you, Sam. Loving the series. You are doing an awesome job.

Samantha  14:30  

Oh, that’s lovely.

Lara Kirk  14:31  

If you’ve got recommendations for people for Sam to interview on this send them through to her.

Samantha  14:36  

Oh yeah totally, that’s a really good point. Yeah, if you do if you think you know someone who has got really interesting things to say about any of our key three topics of creativity, the leadership, efficiency and productivity totally get in touch with me and hook me up with them and we can have a chat and get them on the show. I’d love that. Thank you Lara, good thought 

Lara Kirk  14:54  


Samantha  14:54  

All right. So that is it for today. So if you have enjoyed the conversation with Lara and enjoyed seeing Huck, then you might want to subscribe to the Using Technology Better YouTube channel or of course, if you’re listening to the podcast version of the show, you can follow us so you get notified about all the new episodes. Now if you’ve not already signed up for our fortnightly newsletter full of efficiency and productivity and organisation tips, then the link to that is below. So that’s it for today but I will see you again soon for another byte-sized piece of the learning adventure that is life. See you then. 

LearnBytes is brought to you by Using Technology Better, we’re all about tech training delivered differently. If you want to solve your tech frustration and become more confident, efficient and productive with the tools you use every day, then head on over to usingtechnologybetter.com to get the training you need to be awesome.

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