Creativity Hides Everywhere All Around

Where does creativity hide? Creativity hides everywhere, all around us. Because nothing is what it is -- and everything is what it can do.

Affordances and what else can a coffee mug do?
Creativity hides all around us

We have an infinite source of possibility in everything, everywhere.

But how do we access it? Where can we find it? Because it feels like creativity hides from us at the moments we need to access it most.

How Do We Find Where Creativity Is Hiding?

The short answer: By getting experimental and inventing new practices, tools, environments and forms of embodiment — new assemblages if you will.

We wrote a longer article Creativity: and what else can it do? addressing where you can find creativity. Which led us to thinking a bit more about the pivotal role affordances play in all innovation.

Here’s the big concept:
If you approach everything from a conceptual place with language, and ideas, actual things become a word and the word becomes a definition. These words are far easier to bring into a boardroom and speculate with-in a creativity session.

But what of the thing itself?
That coffee mug you are holding as you read this is not simply what it IS: a “coffee mug” which could be replaced with a definition or other mugs. It is also everything it does and could do. It is every action that it affords us:

  • It can trap and release spiders back outside.
  • It can hold the contents of pockets as one sorts the laundry
  • It can cut out cookies or biscuits
  • It can hold a cracked egg to gently lower into gently boiling water to poach an egg

What is this thing? It IS a cookie cutter. It IS a spider trap. It IS a coffee cup. And more importantly it IS everything that it affords us and we will do with it in the future that we do not know and cannot not even conceptualize.

An affordance is an “emergent opportunity for potential action.”

Something becomes a coffee cup, when we discover and stabilize a set of affordances as a fixed object. But the infinity of affordances never goes away.

Not only do they never go away, they are never accessible by any other means than experimental engagement. You cannot brainstorm or speculate them into existence at a distance. They are purely relational and only emerge in action.

New novel affordances literally do not exist prior to their emergence in action. We cannot know what that coffee cup you are holding could become. We know that it has the potential for the radically new. But without action, there is nothing but the next sip of coffee. And this is why creativity appears to hide from us.

Why Are Affordances So Important to Your Creativity and Innovation Projects?

Because they provide us with an endless supply of novel possibilities. Affordances push us outside the bounds of what we can ideate (anyone that’s ever been a part of a brainstorming session has experienced these limits) to a bountiful realm of infinite possibilities yet to emerge in action. Harness affordances and you will find novel differences – which will open new pathways and hint at new paradigms.

So what affordances have you uncovered today that you never would have “thought of?” Share below – we’d love to hear more about this from you…

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

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