#Character Day: the Generosity of Tiffany Shlain

by Julie Anixter

#Character Day: the Generosity of Tiffany Shlain

We’re not exactly living in the most generous of times.  Bruce Springsteen summed it up recently when he said in his Jimmy Fallon-singing-to-Chris-Christie-as-the-Boss-duet, “it’s been high times on Wall Street, and tough times on Main Street.”

Economic growth, jobs, new skills, mindsets and business models, and a more enlightened society are part of the solution. But perhaps, and based on the wonderful little film I just inhaled, we might also remember that character is key – ours, and our nation’s – to our own well being amidst the challenges, and to the movement required to improve this messy world.

Where Were You on #Character Day?

Enter Tiffany Shlain and the Moxie Institute, who designated March 20, 2014 as #Character Day and gave away the latest edition of their Let It Ripple films: The Science of Character, “which focuses on the neuroscience and social science of how ones “character” develops.”  It’s scientific research disguised as a public love letter to our best selves, a gem of a teaching tool, and another milestone work of art from Shlain and the cloud filmmaking lab at Moxie.

Innovation Excellence believes in the power of spreadable media — we’re students of the the work of Jenkins, Ford and Green and their  book of the same name. Shlain seems to spend most of her waking hours (when she’s not taking her self-imposed Technology Sabbaths) creating it. Spread, share, ripple…she makes it easy for us to grab, grasp her big ideas and make them ours. The name of the series, Let it Ripple, says it all.

My favorite part of “The Science of #Character” is… to quote Shlain:

“There are a lot of new exciting conversations happening around character. One that I find interesting is that there are 7 strengths in particular that can be real game changers in academic achievement, success and happiness. Those 7 are optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, curiosity, self-control, enthusiasm, and perseverance. What about practical application?”

Shlain encourages us to stop, pause, and think: Is what I am about to do a reflection of who I want to be?

The innovation world is notoriously, thankfully, optimistic:  serious innovators are outrageously courageous, full of vision for what’s possible, defiant in the face of what’s not working, ready to pluck any problem as reason if not mandate for transformation.

We see legions of do-ers: practitioners, entrepreneurs, executives, educators, agencies running full tilt steam ahead to fix what’s really broken and to invent what just might be a whole lot better.

Tiffany at work

And then there are the artists. Thank God for artists!  They illuminate the process with their work, inspire our own work, and feed the creative impulse to play more.  Inspiration like this is not ethereal.  The demonstrable grit (another character trait) of Artist-Innovators like Tiffany, like Peter Thum’s transmutation of AK47’s into jewelry at Fonderie47, or Gregg Breinberg’s vibrant PS22 Choir on Staten Island, or Peter Gelb’s decade of the democratization of opera inspires us to make Innovation Excellence better, more visual, more purposeful.  We are especially thankful that each of them, and you, persevere against…resistance to not change it up.

Craig Hatkoff and Irwin Kula, founders of the Disruptor Foundation and the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards call this phenomenon “rapid meaning transfer.”  Their art helps us get the new idea all-at-once, and use it, to power our journey forward.

The 8 minutes that it will take you to experience The Science of #Character will show what rapid meaning transfer looks like — in this instance it’s what is now known about the science of character, in its most sublime, most spreadable, sharable package — thanks to the generosity of Tiffany Shlain, the Moxie Institute, and the enlightened sponsors who make it possible.

To join the conversation (still going on) from #Character Day and to access the amazing resources Moxie Institute has assembled,  you can jump in here to find a line up of diverse thinkers on #Character.

Tiffany Shlain is a 2012 recipient of the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards, and a Disruptor Foundation Fellow. She is the writer-director-producer of the Let it Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change film series, which employs a new kind of collaborative filmmaking she and her film studio call CLOUD FILMMAKING.

The series will include 10 short films over the next 4 years about important aspects of life that connect us. Each of these films is made collaboratively by inviting people from all over the world to send in their own videos. Then once the film is completed, her team offers free customized versions of the film to nonprofits to help spread their message.  She published a “Cloud Filmmaking Manifesto” for the Tribeca Institute Future of Film blog that outlines what constitutes a “cloud film.” Tiffany was invited to share this groundbreaking approach to filmmaking as the keynote for Tribeca Film Festival’s 2013 Interactive Day.

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Julie Anixter is the executive editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence. She also serves as the Executive in Residence for the Disruptor Foundation, where she is helping launch Disruptor Lab. She’s the co-author of three books including the Big Moo with Seth Godin. She speaks, consults and helps organizations get innovation into the water system, and to become cultures that can make a difference. Find her @julieanixter

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