“Unleash Your Creative Potential Towards Positive Shift”

Unleash Your Creative Potential
Towards Positive Shift

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Path to Innovation

Globally almost every culture idolizes inventors, creators, artists as sources of innovation.  We think of these as the privileged and lucky geniuses who wander out into the unknown and return with ideas that transform our lives.  We see magic in an imagination that inspires creativity.  We marvel at the special thinking that draws something completely new out of the unknown.  In our entertainment-driven societies, true meaning of innovation is becoming a cult. 

We are served in several ways by this perspective.  The one thing it does not do is to make us more innovative.  If the process of invention is magic, then we can admire it and be amazed by it, but we don’t expect to do it ourselves.  We let ourselves and our teams think of innovation as something that happens among the young, in high tech industries, on the coasts, in the artist’s studio, in any place or time other than our own.  Not here.  We might try to come up with something new, but we’re not surprised when we don’t.  It is magic, after all, and we can’t be responsible if we don’t have the magic.  We convince ourselves that real innovation is rare.  Breakthrough ideas are few and far between, so we cannot expect them from our everyday interactions. 

What if there is another way?  What if innovation is as common as avoiding a traffic jam, inventing a new a recipe, resolving an emerging conflict, or putting together a drop-dead outfit?  Many ideas from nonlinear sciences focus on novelty, how it arises and how it is damped or amplified by complex interactions.  What if we use these ideas to build new pathways into innovation?  What if we find ways to think about innovation that empower each of us to wander into the unknown and return with ideas that transform? 

The field of 21st C. Behavioral Research on Creativity draws its foundations from these nonlinear sciences.  One idea that might pull attention on innovation is co-creation.  It gives us an innovative way to think about innovation. Co-creation is a metaphor drawn from biology and ecology.  It posits that two entities can become entwined so that a change in one prompts a change in the other, and vice versa.  Classic examples from biology include bumblebees and flowers, antibiotic resistant microbes, orchids and moths. 

Here is the question: What if innovation is co-creation?  What if innovation comes from diving into the present and connecting in profound ways with the world rather than trying to step outside of it?  If so, then one becomes more inventive by engaging with others and with the environment, by observing carefully, asking provocative questions, and converting observation into action.  The process of innovation, then, becomes one of careful connection rather than lucky magic. 

Consider some common examples of innovation, and see what happens if you think of them as ordinary co-evolution rather than extraordinary flight of fancy.

  • Art Fry of 3M put together failed glue, a church choir, a bunch of hymnals, and the now-ubiquitous post-it note evolved.
  • The movie Social Network tells the whole co-evolutionary story of Mark Zuckerberg and his buddies developing and marketing Facebook.  That idea didn’t come from nowhere, it grew from observation and exploitation of patterns in university experience of their “here and now.”

It is possible to think of all of these cases in terms that anyone can replicate.  Maybe we won’t find an innovation to change the world as these did, but we can engage with our own worlds in ways that create surprising connections and uncover opportunity.  It isn’t magic, but it does take a very special kind of work.  Here are some of the capacities that feed into innovation as a co-creative strategy:

  • Observe.  Attend your environment and be willing to re-see things that you have been seeing till today. Wait for surprises to emerge. Don’t waste a good surprise.  Pause and wonder when something unexpected arises.  It may be the weak signal foreshadowing something important to come.
  • Connect.  Nothing is created in isolation.  The key is connecting in inquiry with the environment, with current and historical patterns, and with other thoughtful people. 
  • Question.  Our assumptions blind us to the world around and lock us into our long-held problems and belief systems with already known answers.  A good question can break through the expected to discover the possible.
  • Experiment.  Of course expectations based on past experience will make us question anything we haven’t experienced.  To see something new, we really have to see it.  Try a new idea out, see what happens, adjust and try again.  We call this adaptive action.     
  • Be patient.  Not every surprise is full of potential.  Not every experiment will end as expected.  Not everything will move directly toward new insight.  But something, sometime will.  Patience with self and others makes it easier to test out creative opportunities until the big one emerges.
About FLOW

We assist individuals and organizations with a focus on executive performance, leadership presence, meaningful work, organizational engagement, creativity and innovation.

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