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Free Course Through Stanford

Posted Oct 13 2012 5:34pm

This week I wrote my column in the Saipan Tribune on Tina Seelig's " A Crash Course on Creativity ," which is being offered free, online, starting October 17.  I think that many problems we face as a society have to do with problems in thinking (the other set of problems have to do with problems with morality, but that's another column).  Chances are that you, your family, your community, also face challenges, and creative thinking is at the foundation of working through these issues.

Here is my column

Free class through Stanford

David Khorram, MD
By David Khorram, MD
Special to the Saipan Tribune

We face a lot of problems in the Commonwealth. Heck, we face a lot of problems in the world. But of course, we feel our own problems more acutely, and since 1997 when the Asian currencies were devalued, it seems we started on a downward skid that we've been unable to recover from. Economically, things have gone from bad to worse, and a whole host of non-economic woes currently strike at the morale of the community. It seems like everyone is just shaking their head, a bit bewildered by it all, and not sure how to pull out of any of it.

In my mind, there are a few things that need to happen. First, we need to stop relying upon a limited number of people who fill our institutions to solve our problems. There is an unlimited reservoir of problem-solving ability within our neighborhoods, and ultimately, we need to take ownership of the challenges we face, and set out, in families and neighborhoods, to put our minds together to make things better.

This may sound airy-fairy. You know, “let's all work together, and the world will be a better place.” It sounds like fluff. But it's not meant as such. The idea of taking ownership is centered on the idea of removing ourselves from a role of passive recipients to active protagonists. As I perceive it, the predominant perspective of the problem is that “if the government would just get its act together, everything would be fixed.”

There is legitimacy in the desire to improve efficiency and eliminate corruption in our institutions. But we need to frame our problems differently. If, for example, healthcare institutions are not working as I wish they would, what can I do to improve healthcare (or the need for healthcare) in my family, in my neighborhood? The solutions I come up with are heavily influenced by how I frame the problem and the questions I ask. We need to learn to ask new questions, to think differently, which essentially means, to think creatively.

Part of our “stuckness” has to do with limitations in our thinking. I feel it myself, because, well, I don't have any concrete answers, other than the need to think differently. How do we do this? How can we think more creatively?

Well, as it turns out, creative thinking can be learned. I've been stunned to find that Stanford University offers a five-week “Crash Course on Creativity.” It's available online and it's free. It requires minimal time-between one to five hours a week. The course is taught by Tina Seelig, the executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. I've listened to a few of the lectures, and it's all about learning to think about problems creatively. The course starts next week, Oct. 17.

Over 24,000 people from around the world have enrolled. Wouldn't it be great if another 20,000 people signed up and they were all from the CNMI? If nothing else, this kind of participation would shift the conversations in our community, as we learn to think about the problems we face, and become proactive agents of change as individuals, as institutions, as a community.

If we all take it upon ourselves to dedicate the next five weeks to learning to think more creatively, then there is a greater possibility that we can gain insights that will help resurrect our community. As long as our thinking remains unchanged, our slow slide continues.

All you need to participate is an Internet connection. “A Crash Course on Creativity” is an amazing opportunity to augment our most important resource-ourselves. Sign up at If you want to just casually watch a few of the lectures, visit my blog,, where I have posted links. ****
David Khorram, MD, is the medical director of Marianas Eye Institute . He is listed in “Guide to America's Top Ophthalmologists.” He is the author of the book, World Peace, a Blind Wife, and Gecko Tails , which is available through Amazon .

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