We had the good fortune to be invited by Creg Schumann of the Minnesota Agile Community to come and speak to his group about creativity and innovation.
We titled the talk Getting Creativity Right in a Dynamic World where we dig into the pressing questions of our creative reality including:
- What is creativity?
- How did we come to have so many false assumptions about it?
- And how can we get back to a real creative practice in a dynamic world?
- The history of creativity as a concept in the West is short, and overly focused on humans, individuality, and ideas.
- How did this come about? Why is this a real problem to the development of transformative creative practices? What are some concrete practices we can use to move beyond the limits of this approach?
The presentation is followed by a lively discussion that dives into a new approach to creativity for today's highly dynamic reality.
Transcript: Minnesota Agile Community: Getting Creativity Right in a Dynamic World
Note: Lightly edited for readability...
[00:00:00] Creg Schumann: Alrighty. I'm Craig one. I'm one of the people on the board of the Minnesota Agile community. Gosh, I found out about Ian and Jason some time ago and it was following the LinkedIn stuff and then they put out a book and then so I get the book and read through that.
And I'm just when I was talking with them about doing some sort of a, an event with us, it was like they spoke. You can introduce it and, but tell people why you were interested in this work. And I, think one of the key words that you put in your description was Western, right?
The concept of creativity in the Western world. And I go back to just, oh gosh Edward C. I. E. D. Orientalism. I look at Foucault and, a lot of the writings there. And how we took a look at the Caucasus area and as a colonialist popping in there and doing all sorts of really odd things, right?
And it was like, gosh Yeah, never thought of it in that way, right? Around creativity and it's yeah when I look at creativity, early America, right? You go back to the 1880s and then and so forth. And there was the arts and crafts movement or the mission a thing.
And I look at it's okay, but that's maybe for me something that actually was creative. I look at the rest of our U. S. history. It's have we really been that creative? I don't know. But at that point, it was really the. Craftsmanship and so forth.
So that was really interesting. So that's, I built all of the furniture in the house. So, that's why I was very interested in, on, on that creativity and some many writings of like bringing things back to nature and whatnot. It's and there was there some crafts thing, like how do you like look at your environment around
you. So thus it's a very different way to look. So that's why I'm interested. And so welcome Ian and Jason, so I'll hand it over to you guys.
[00:02:23] Jason Frasca: Craig, thanks so much for inviting us and that really great introduction. It's a pleasure to be here. This is Ian Kerr. I'm Jason Frasca. We're co-founders of Emergent Futures Lab.
We're a strategic innovation consultancy based in New Jersey Science just outside of Manhattan.
And and we focus on two questions that really drive all of our work.
What is creativity and innovation and how do you innovate? And seems like it's fairly obvious questions, but I think there we go.
It gets, I think, at the heart of what you were what you were introducing there, Craig, which is there, there's a history of creativity that should be examined. And so the title of our presentation and talk today is getting creativity right in a dynamic world.
Yeah. It's we'll do a short presentation here and then open it up for discussion and really very interested in feedback, thoughts, questions, pushing it and involving this with us.
[00:03:35] Iain Kerr: And just to start, what we mean by saying getting it right isn't in the sense of the correct and final definition, but like, how do we make our historical models of creativity meet effectively meet? How we understand the world to be today. That's highly dynamic, highly changing. And so that's where we'd like to begin.
[00:04:04] Jason Frasca: Let's start with that first primary question, right Ian? What is creativity? What do we even mean by creativity? And so here we have the Oxford Dictionary definition of creativity. The aspect of intelligence characterized by originality of thought and problem solving right and the production of ideas and objects that are both novel and worthwhile so rooted very much in intelligence...
[00:04:34] Iain Kerr: ideas so if we deconstruct this model really fast.
And I think this is very pervasive. When we talked to, in general about creativity it's about. We're assuming we're talking about humans individual humans. We're talking about the location, it's in the mind, it's in the brain. That's where intelligence is seated. That's where thought's seated.
And the goal, the primary goal, the driving of all creativity is ideation, some type of novel ideation. And as Jason was pointing out, you can really see that in the Oxford English Dictionary, but that in practices everywhere. So how did we come to this approach? And I think this is a really important part that we could imagine that this and I think a lot of people do that this approach to creativity is just we have it because it's true.
It works. It's real versus. Understanding that everything has a history. It comes from somewhere, and Craig, as you were mentioning Foucault is famous for doing these genealogies, and the genealogy of creativity, the creativity we're talking about, goes back to the Greeks and early Christianity and where the Greeks understood that anything to be true had to be unchanged.
Thank you. So not dynamic. And if it was dynamic and changing, it couldn't be true. And so there had to be something outside of change. And early Christianity picked that up and turned that into this model of primary or originary creativity or creation, which is what God did. And God was outside of what was made.
And he had ideas and then he just made it. So Let there be light, and there was light. He molded and shaped passive matter into form and breathed spirit into it. And this gives us the God model. Where it's beginning with ideas, it's beginning outside of the world, outside of dynamics. Where you put the idea into action and practice and you impose it upon reality.
So creativity begins with ideas that are then imposed on reality and matter. This is this God model. And we see that when we talk about creativity today, we're essentially translating this model and we have all of these. the same patterns, practices, processes, and logics where we imagine it's happening in the mind where we're separate from things.
And we can as a CEO, look at all the things that were brainstormed and say, which is the best idea and then command people to do it and make it et cetera. So being simplistic about it. We see that we've taken this model and brought it down to earth.
[00:07:49] Jason Frasca: So if we break the God model down to a process, it's typically four steps prepare ideate plan and make right.
So the creativity models that we're all familiar with generally follow this. process, right? Ideate, plan, make, design thinking adds the initial step from the Greek of inspiration to empathy, right? We have a reframing, we have analysis, we have trends, but they're all genuine, genuinely following the same process.
Ideate, plan, make.
[00:08:30] Iain Kerr: Now, the first problem with this. Is that ideation is in is highly conservative ideation requires images and representations and concepts and language. And those are always referencing things that already exist. And if something's radically and genuinely totally new, there's no words for it.
There's no concepts for it. There would be no image for it. So this ideate plan and make model. has no way of actually leading us towards the genuinely new. The second fundamental problem and really what we're trying to discuss today and develop methodologies and approaches and techniques from is that this approach has no place for dynamics of any kind.
[00:09:24] Jason Frasca: So what about a dynamic more than human emergent worldly creativity? Reality is astonishingly creative. So
There was a space for the creativity of galaxies forming right life emerging matters self organizing. And even dinosaurs becoming birds or the assemblage of systems and forces materials environment practices that give rise to human flight, like all of the variables that Kitty Hawk embodied.
[00:09:59] Iain Kerr: So this is I think for us the really big question is like. We need to in a way bracket out our historical models of creativity, understanding where they came from, their limitations, and in a way start from, start anew from where and how we understand the dynamics of reality today. There's a wonderful quote that I want to read that's slightly lengthy from Evan Thompson, but I think it gets at many of the things that are critical to Our approach to creativity, but I think any approach that's really trying to deal with the dynamics of reality and Evan Thompson says nature doesn't consist of basic particulars.
It's not made up from the bottom up with atoms that build up but a fields and processes. There's no bottom level of base particulars with intrinsic properties that upwardly determine everything else. There's no essence, right? Everything is processed all the way down and all the way up.
These processes are irreducibly relational, and I think this is really critical. It's not like that things are just connected. But the relationality between things changes what they are, and you can only understand them relation. There's no other way. They exist only, as Thompson says, in patterns, networks, organizations, configurations, or webs.
Phenomena at all scales are not entities or substances, but relatively stable relational processes. Since processes achieve stability at different levels of complexity. While still interacting with processes at other levels, they're all equally real and none has absolute ontological primacy. We can't say this is the essence of something, this is the source, this is the ground.
We have to deal with things in this multimodal, multiscalar, relational, emergent, dynamic way it actually is. And The heart of what we want to present today and hopefully discuss is just contrasting the 20th century Western model of creativity that we've introduced with what we think would be the key principles of an alternative.
And I think what's important by contrasting, we're not trying to oppose. I think there's many useful things in the 20th century model when you're interested in developmental change versus qualitative change, but I think it's very useful to contrast them.
[00:12:55] Jason Frasca: And I think we'd agree that this is a work in progress, right?
Presenting these to facilitate a conversation. We're very much interested in your feedback as we go through this list.
[00:13:07] Iain Kerr: So the first is just to say that the primary place of authorship when we say who made this, or how is it coming into being, or who's the real agent behind it, classically, we think of that as being a human.
But I think even when we're talking about human things like Kitty Hawk, we're talking about a self organizing event. That's something that's self catalyzing itself into being that takes over as a whole. So the next set of things we want to just quickly go through is like what's the primary orientation and focus and in a certain sense, what should it be, or what could it be if we move away from the Western model?
[00:13:55] Jason Frasca: Yeah. So I, the Western model is very human centered, right? Brain focused.
[00:14:00] Iain Kerr: So the first thing is to just. Become far more relational and think eco systemically
[00:14:07] Jason Frasca: and that would suggest there's mindsets and individual transformation that's taking place right in the old model
[00:14:14] Iain Kerr: and I think mindsets again, one of these foundational ideas like somewhere down there is this essence we have to just let go of mindsets individual focus entirely and think of a much more than human relational agency.
When you use things and do things and have practices, other things are happening that are irreducible to your mindset or your beliefs. And the general consensus is ideation, idea driven creativity. And I think we've already gone over that. It's we have to move to a much more experimental, worldly creativity, where we're doing things and we're looking for exaptive possibilities, unintended.
radical repurposing that could lead elsewhere.
[00:15:03] Jason Frasca: Yeah. And, most are stuck in this knowable, sayable representative approach to creativity, right?
[00:15:10] Iain Kerr: And the problem, I think the real problem even when you have the kind of Donald Rumsfeld consultant saying the unknowable unknowns, it's still imagines that.
There's something out there that could be known, but if it's genuinely emergent, it's not unknowable. It's non knowable till you make it. And we need to focus on how we bring things into being rather than knowing and not knowing,
[00:15:41] Jason Frasca: which leads us to this atomistic linear and sequential approach, right?
We'll demonstrate more of that later, but.
[00:15:47] Iain Kerr: Yeah. So how does creativity act in a nonlinear and emergent myth, right? And we're, stuck in this causal relationship. Everything's causal. So it's about enabling constraints, and I think constraints are emergent properties of systems that give a shape to something, and how, as innovators, do we work with those?
Do we help them come into being, and then use them?
[00:16:14] Jason Frasca: Yeah, and coming back to that Godmode the form imposing, I'm going to impose my will on a static linear reality.
[00:16:22] Iain Kerr: And the, why aren't we, and I think this was great, Craig, where you were saying with building things by hand, like you work with the agency of materials and I think that's fundamental shift is, what's, how do we see agency in everything?
[00:16:42] Jason Frasca: And the idea of outcomes and solutions, right? That's denying the agency.
[00:16:47] Iain Kerr: Absolutely. It's like starting at the end and thinking you could work backwards, right? Rather than having, letting the process determine and lead.
[00:16:58] Jason Frasca: We're very hung up on things, right? Things centered, the thing itself.
[00:17:03] Iain Kerr: Yeah. And and there, I think that's where we imagine like a model of creativity.
That's contextual, it's co adaptive. We're being changed as we change something and the whole ecosystem is what's actually evolving. It's not that thing out there we're calling the product or the solution.
[00:17:26] Jason Frasca: And the very anti creative approach to purpose in advance, right? Like not allowing yourself to be made by the experience.
[00:17:35] Iain Kerr: Yeah, and I think that this is related to what we were saying before, but if you've thrown something out in advance if you're a futurist, if you're imagining what it'll be, you're extrapolating from the present you're already determining where the end will be rather than
allowing some co emergent process to happen.
[00:18:00] Jason Frasca: And then the ever popular paradigm change, right? We've got to change the paradigm. And I think this is an important one. If you look closely at what we mean by paradigm, usually it's like some big ruling idea that underpins something. And if you could just change this underlying idea, and this is how Donella Meadows talks about it, then everything would change.
It's the great lever. But it's not, we're just, that's falling back on that God model, that there's some mystical deeper thing when change happens. Because of structures change and there's really interesting research on this understanding it as a type of epicycle, where it's like a system butting up a system and pulling things along.
So this is, gets us really at the shifting our orientation and focus to a different orientation and focus, one that's much more relational, dynamic, ecosystemic, giving agency to things so you could talk about, there's like an ethos behind these two things, and the the Western, 20th century Western creativity's ethos was all about, It's like being right like I'm going to be this thing and predetermined.
Yeah, maybe if you want to just go through that whole yeah sure versus becoming right or no oh you want to go to the whole left sure
so being differenced in degree iterative change to universal problems. Of course, there's empathy and empathizing with others essence seeking, getting to the source of something transcending judgment, good and bad, right?
There's always this good and bad, negative search for better and identifying universal needs as if anything were truly universal. And then the narrative of. Sense making. These are all rooted in the 20th century.
[00:20:10] Iain Kerr: So how do we develop an ethos that focuses on becoming, that believes in emergent ontological difference, like something genuinely, totally, radically new could happen rather than merely a variation of what exists.
And I think that calls for diplomacy rather than empathy, which is to say, like, How do you negotiate between genuine differences you can't empathize in the same way you have to speak for difference, you have to not erase it and I think the other is rather than thinking we have to find the source and start there, how do we stay in the middle how do we invent a creativity that doesn't try to get Back to the beginning, the roots, the source, the cause, and all of these linear silver bullet ideas, but understands that we have to be in the middle and in the middle is imminent.
It's things emerge and. I think judgment has to come from the middle of the process rather than outside, like that we have some kind of transcendent ethics. And instead of being universal what's a matter of concern? What do we, what does a group of people think is something worth considering?
Being curious about, engaging, rather than claiming that it's universal. And that sense making isn't about storytelling. But it's about how we make sense as we're emerging with the new. How do we turn it into meaning as it comes into being? So then we could think of if you have an ethos and a orientation what are the, some of the primary types of actions and methodologies and approaches that we could have to an alternative creativity if we looked at.
What the 20th century approaches are.
[00:22:34] Jason Frasca: Yeah, so the Western creativity starts in the idea plan make I think we covered that a bit before essence directed digging for the essence of our action, trying to pull things apart, get to the center again it's constantly trying to get to some core. Belief understanding world expanding, but it's resolving, right? It's always, it's trying to end the thing as if there is an end to anything. Model building. Scaffolding, continued linear approach the iterative plan and acting on iterative plans step by step, and then prototyping, the making of the thing that to see through our vision the answer is the end.
[00:23:28] Iain Kerr: And I think this is where It gets to the core of how we would like to approach creativity is like, it should start with engagement. It's not starting removed, but it's starting by doing being with probing, testing and disclosing what are the underlying, not underlying, but the emergent patterns why are things happening this way?
Could we block those? Could we do something different? Could we disclose unintended consequences? Appreciate it. Possibilities. Could we follow those? Could we use them to make co shape new worlds into being? By staying in the middle of it, right? By being attuned to things, attuned to what's emerging, what's happening, what's unexpected, by following.
And I think for us, we like to say that in creativity, You don't lead but you follow, which I think it's very antithetical for a lot of people where you imagine you have this great vision and creative people are visionary, but I think it's the opposite, like you don't have a vision, but you have a way of co emerging with something and what you have is a method of blocking and threshold seeking and being responsive to what's coming up that's new and different.
And this is done through probing where you, can only understand the system that's dynamic by poking it and so it's not like you're prototyping we like to call these like pirate projects where you're doing something, not because it's the answer, but it's an effective way of allowing things to start to emerge.
And then you can attune to them, you can follow them, you could push something you can block something. So it's a totally different ethos and set of actions, right? Yeah.
So then if we think of where do we locate ourselves for a more worldly creativity and in contrast to the 20th century in the 20th century located itself and.
[00:25:52] Jason Frasca: Yeah yeah. We can start by the individual, the brain, right? That's the creative individual. The creative person is in their head, thinking up new, great ideas.
They're locking themselves in a studio or a boardroom with all of the answers. They're not engaging with the world. There's a visible network of opportunity that they see. And it's generally the dots, let's connect the dots between the network. We have paradigms. We have human nature and psychology, the objective, subjective reality, and spaces of conversation, articulation, right?
So there, we're just dealing with it right here inside an imposed reality, which is not a genuine reality.
[00:26:43] Iain Kerr: Yeah, it's pitch to me your best ideas, and then we'll decide. Yeah. Right here. I should do that with everyone. Yeah. And I think for us a worldly creativity begins with an understanding the human from the inactive approach the inactive approach says that we're embodied.
It's not happening in our brains. It's because of our bodies. That are embedded in an environment that they're inseparable from so we're already extended and embedded and our tools are shaping who we are and they're making us and all of this as a process is co shaping a world and a person, and it's also an inter subjective person thinking is happening out there in the middle between environments tools, others.
And I think when you look at stories like Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers, you really see that their ideas aren't coming from them, but from these actions and spaces. So it's a worldly ecosystem. And we could call that a task space, like we've made up an ecosystem and we're tuning to it, like Kitty Hawk to the winds, the sand dunes.
To kites and gliders and tensions and forces and we're trying to hold that together so it has a propensity and a direction that we can work with and the whole of it is, much more like a medium. In the way Marshall McLuhan talks and it's taking on its own life. It's becoming an epicycle that pulls more things into its process of emergence.
And I think this idea of Foucault.
But just instead of thinking of human nature, psychology, like, how have we become how we are? We can actually look at the history of these ecosystems and forces that make us this type of being. So that's a bit of an aside, but I think it's a useful tool to get away from this idea of there's some fixed essence to the modern idea of the self which gets The niche construction spelling would be good and active agent we're interested in.
Being in the world, ongoing engagement, that there's no thinking separate from making, right? And there's no being separate from an ecosystem. So that brings us to the last one which is just thinking a bit about the tools and the methods used, right?
[00:29:36] Jason Frasca: Yeah, so we, if everything's in the head, we have to free the mind, right?
It's problem solving realize novel ideas. Ideating, developing, prototyping. These are the methods, tools, approaches that are generally taken in the classicalist sense.
[00:29:54] Iain Kerr: And free the mind, or Edward de Bono type things, like where we'll focus on getting more divergent thinking to happen and But we really need to flip that script entirely and move to where practice is, like how do we co evolve with the unintended?
So how are we not obsessed with their ideas, but Unintended things are happening. How do we go with them in this exaptive kind of approach, and that the goal is not to solve problems, but in fact to make new problems that would lead to new worlds emerging so the focus and the tools are about developing new worlds in distributed ways, materials, tools, environments, habits, practices. How do we pull those together? How do we probe things so that we get feedback? How do we get feed forward happening from that probing? How do we stabilize that? And that's really for us, the core of an alternative model of creativity or approach to creativity, I should say.
So the last thing we want to look at really fast is it's not just these Concepts, but the way we visualize things is really holding us back or keeping us within this kind of linear approach and the so the 20th century side of things we got ...
[00:31:34] Jason Frasca: some common visualization tools right to help us with our creativity.
Like the nesting dolls. We have onions, both of which are getting at the essence of something, the search for the essence of something. And then we have the iceberg model and we pyramid everything, right? Like top, lop the top off. Let's get to the bottom of something. What's underneath it all. What's driving it, right?
[00:31:57] Iain Kerr: Yeah. And it's usually something like a mindset, right? Core human need. When we really need these kind of visualization tools and practices that are about relationally determinant networks, emergent ruptures, dynamic fields and emergent conceptual landscapes.
So there's a few others that we see.
[00:32:28] Jason Frasca: Yeah. The Western creativity is based in linear approaches, right? Even circular is linear, right? Our loops are still linear as well. Boxes would have you the glasses we have different perspectives. But it's really separating us from a dynamic reality.
[00:32:48] Iain Kerr: An active model, looking at strategic process diagrams webs, all of these things, I think, are really critical in the shift.
That's a lot. You know that's 50 different things. So we thought we, we try and come up with a short list of heuristics like rules of thumb that are generally helpful in imagining a much more dynamic worldly creativity. And the first would be to consciously and actively refuse the ideation first approach to creativity, we have to understand the God model and its sway over it, and that takes practice for sure. It totally does. Yeah, we
[00:33:38] Jason Frasca: catch ourselves all the time. Yeah. And then develop a process orientation as a dynamic, as dynamic as reality, right? Like this whole dynamic reality we've been expressing requires a dynamic approach.
[00:33:54] Iain Kerr: Yeah, and I think there's got to be some kind of experimental feedback between how we understand things like emergence, exaptation, and then how we put those into practice.
And I think part of the, a big part of the ethical conceptual shift is. Starting by embracing that reality in the entirety of its creative. It's not like humans and creativity go together, but the world around us is fundamentally creative and our creativity is a practice of joining that ongoing process and bending it and shifting it, but it's not it's the world out there and then we're creative here.
And attuning your interests, right? To surf the self organizing. And that's really this idea. If the world's creative, how do we connect with it? How do we join it? How do we surf in it? And in this way, sense and perturbate propensities. We're poking things, stabilizing novel things, looking at unintended possibilities.
[00:35:07] Jason Frasca: Embrace the doing thinking. Be active, responsive. Responsive and open to what emerges, right? The probes you were describing earlier there. They're creating ripples with in reality. It's rippling back surfing with it as you just described, right?
[00:35:22] Iain Kerr: Yeah. So we like to say no thinking, but in making it and and really feeling that.
And so to remember that thinking is extended thinking isn't happening in your head. It's happening in the world. Even if it's just you thinking your thinkings in the world. It's relational, it's extended, it's coming from habits and practices. So how sense that, like really sense and work with that, the ecosystem that's leading to a what an emergence of thought.
[00:36:03] Jason Frasca: And then actively disclosing and blocking the dominant patterns, right? We can pay attention and research the underlying logics behind and histories behind how things have been and why they are and why they are taking place the way they are so that we can actively not do them, right? So that we can create new things to follow the unintended possibilities, right?
[00:36:26] Iain Kerr: And I think the blocking is really good if we can't. In that ideation sense, you can't ideate the new because you can't know it. It's impossible to know something new, but we can know what we don't. And I think that's the power of blocking something where it's a refusal, but it leaves open what will emerge.
It's just stopping you. It's an enabling constraint and falling into certain patterns. that leads to an experimental methodology where you're looking for ways to disclose unintended affordances and possibilities, this kind of exaptive technique.
[00:37:11] Jason Frasca: And then keep qualitative difference alive, let the new be the new if in the exaptive technique, applying blocking we tend to fall back into our old habits and patterns of what we know what we're comfortable with, and so we like to say, keep your difference alive.
[00:37:27] Iain Kerr: I think that's the most important is the agency of the new is really weak in, in comparison with the the forces that are keeping things stable. And how do allow the new to be new, how do you keep difference alive. It's an active process of nurturing and being that the supporter the agent of difference.
So the other part, I think a lot of times we think about creativity from this God model implicitly, like we're creating something out there. But when something's radically new, it's changing you. As much and it's changing the organizations you're part of. It's betraying the past. It's allowing something else to happen.
And I think that has to be an important part. So often we talk about like prototyping or safe to fail experiments. But at some point radically new things are co emergent, like we're changed and there's no thresholds across. There's no going back. And I think that's important to understand and to embrace and to nurture, right?
[00:38:57] Jason Frasca: And then collectively develop and trust, feed forward processes. And I think this gets at the epicycles you were talking about before, then allow them to pull you in and carry you
[00:39:06] Iain Kerr: forward, right? Yeah. And I think this gets to the last one, if you will be changed, the entire system and logic is changing and you're participating in that emergence of new worlds.
And I think this is really critical.
[00:39:23] Jason Frasca: And agency needs to be widely distributed. It's beyond you, right? It's this relationship between everything, right? That's generating opportunity.
[00:39:34] Iain Kerr: Yeah, it's in, across matter, tools, concepts in the entire ecosystem. In that, you need to recognize, deliberately and carefully recognize and actively give agency to non human actors.
And I think this is really hard where... We're so deeply entangled in our ideation models. That we see the world as passive and it's hard to give a sand dune credit for flight. It's easy to give the Wright Brothers credit. But it's the relational dynamics that really matter. And that's the next...
[00:40:22] Jason Frasca: Yeah, it gets right into the ecosystems and not moonshots, right? So Pierpont Langley was... moonshotting, right? He was literally shooting his plane into the, over the river to hope it flies, but we know it was crashing right in, versus this ecosystem the Wright brothers were creating. Not the moonshot, I've got the idea, I'm going to impose it and make it happen, but Working with an entire ecosystem, the winds, the dunes, the sand for soft landings, and oh, birds fly around sand beaches, right?
You can actually observe while you're experimenting.
[00:40:55] Iain Kerr: And I think for us there's a, another bigger part of that is. A lot of people come to us as innovation consultants and they're like, help solve this problem or help us with this one idea. But what you need to do is produce help bring into being an ecosystem that would spontaneously generate innovation.
And I think that's what in these really interesting stories, like the Wright Brothers. You're not trying to do a one off thing, but build the ecosystem. And that's really where the focus needs to be. And part of doing that is to give people eight different types of agency in the process.
And I you if, everything is changed by an emerging innovation, can somebody change their job title? Can somebody change their job role? Can organizations pivot and evolve with it? Or is it just none of that's possible? It's and I think that's often the case and that's why we have these ideation driven models is because there's no adaptive possibility of the entire system.
Okay. Oh, sorry. That's okay. Which is just to say that it's about developing ecosystems and the assemblages of sand dunes, prevailing wind, certain types of kites, things, and holding it together as a process that would have its own agency. And that's really, I think for us, these are the heuristics the beginning of a heuristics of a worldly dynamic creativity.
[00:42:53] Jason Frasca: That concludes our general presentation, but we want to open up for discussion. Just have a QR code if you're not familiar with our work. If you snap that, that'll take you to a webpage, which goes. Further into all of these, this, the idea of the God model, the myths behind them and suggestions on how to circumvent the myths that we all get wrapped up in with this traditional classical Western 20th century creativity.
And then if you want to follow along with our work on a regular basis every Friday morning, we publish a newsletter. So at the bottom of that page, there's a place to sign up.
[00:43:36] Iain Kerr: Hopefully, I think when we really sense the dynamics of reality as we understand it over the last 50 years, it does change everything about how we engage with creativity.
And I'm going to turn off our slides, and I think we're like a nice small group we can have a really interesting discussion.
[00:44:22] Kris: This was a really amazing I'm still processing trying to think of questions.
[00:44:28] Malcolm Ryder: Do we need an icebreaker I'm happy to be the one.
[00:44:33] Iain Kerr: Break some ice.
[00:44:34] Malcolm Ryder: Okay I don't know whether this is anything more than an observation but Thank as you, as both of you guys already know I pay pretty close attention to your work and your expressions and I spend a lot of time challenging them as a way of, it's not a refinement process. It's like.
I have a better grasp of what you're talking about intuitively than I do if I try to express my understanding, say, in a practical mode.
So I look at what you're talking about, how you talk about it, as a bridge or as a translator or transformer for me. And so you guys are very gracious about taking feedback and I send stuff back to you online or offline that sometimes it's a bit ambiguous about whether I'm getting it or whether I agree or disagree.
But the back and forth is really the heart of the whole thing. So 1 thing I noticed just during your presentation, because you do have that great. Left right. Ab Western 20th century worldly contrast is all the things that reminds me of just in terms of experience. Without saying that this one example is the best one or the most important in my career, I had a phase where I was both the head of product development.
And the head of customer and technical support. And many days, what that meant was I was talking to somebody who did something completely unexpected with what we gave them and for them, life was anxious and agonizing and they wanted somebody to make it work the way they wanted to use it. So I had a lot of people working for me and we always had to tackle it from two different perspectives.
And one was how are we going to get this customer out of trouble? But the second one was. What did we just find out that we haven't thought about before? And for anybody that's been in that position as I was, you find out hopefully sooner rather than later that you can't solve their problem and you can't solve your problem either, unless you try to work on both of them at the same time.
So they become two faces of the same thing. But one of them is very much about economics and competency and productivity. And that's going to be over on the left side of your diagrams, generally. The other side is far more cultural. And my special challenge was to find an alignment between those two things that was acceptable to whoever was higher than I was on the food chain.
And when I start my own company, which I've done several times, I still have that problem, but there is nobody higher on the food chain.
And I'm an artist. I'm a trained artist, an educated artist, I'm a critic, practitioner and everything. And when I go to work, my natural predisposition is on the right side of what you guys talk about.
Which makes my day mostly about how do I use what I already know and understand as an artist to provide something that is measurably productive or effective or economical or whatever for so many people in the world that I have to have relationships with, even if they're just transaction.
And that's one of the reasons why I spent so much time drilling down on what are we trying to do when we even say the word creativity what's. What's the meaning that we're trying to convey? And I think one of the biggest differences in the meanings is that generally when we say creativity we're trying to share ideas about value.
And the value system that's in place on the left side of your diagrams is very different from the value system that's on the right side. To me, it's not necessarily that creativity is different on both sides, but the value system is very different. So if I'm ahead of, I'm just go ahead. Sorry. Go ahead.
[00:50:07] Iain Kerr: Yeah, I think those are great observations for us you could think of the left hand side being really good at change in degree and creativity where it's developmental and the right hand side being really good at change in kind where it's Disruptive it's qualitative difference and part of the problem, which I think you're identifying is like that the value we've centered or our practices and how we understand things and how we do things on the left hand side.
And we value that and we don't, I think, to a large degree, historically, we've not even seen that there is a right hand side. That like that the radically new is possible in a certain sense and that genuine difference, not difference in degree is possible necessary. And we blanketed over with concepts like universal human nature.
Whatever it might be, we're it doesn't see difference, genuine difference. And so for us the emphasis moving it over from being to becoming, to being able to explore radical change is both like this value shift, but it's also, I have to say, it's a really important part is it's very a practical thing in the sense that.
If we keep on doing the same things we're doing, we're going to get roughly the same results and the types of change we need are qualitative and we're not exploring that qualitative side to the degree that's really necessary. And we're not really. And we're trying to do these radical changes with very linear approaches.
And I think I, that's just how I would, what I would throw out, and I see Olaf, you've got your hand up.
[00:52:30] Olaf Kuhlke: Sure, yeah, I just wanted to share some observations and also some, Questions that are related to it. I used your book in my class last year. I taught an innovation course at MCAT here in Minneapolis and two stories about that and also a family story that kind of relates to, I think, one of the biggest.
difficulties with the approach. And that's not saying it's a I like your approach very much, but I just want to convey some of the difficulties of teaching it, one of the biggest issues with this new, with this approach that you developed is that I think from my perspective, students and people in general have a really hard time with embodied cognition and understanding. We're so I want to almost use the swear word here. We're so damn detached from our bodies that it's really, hard to quote unquote, feel into things, which is in so many ways required.
Off that. And so what I did with the class actually, it was to start every single class of these 15 weeks. We have a, we have three hour block class. So we have a fair amount of time to talk about stuff, but I felt that embodiment exercises and actually getting in touch with what you feel and how you interact with things.
is really important to get the hang off this approach. So other core example I want to share is my mother in law and my father, they both have a medical condition. That's exactly the same AFib. My dad follows the approach of my body will tell me when something is wrong and when I need to take a specific type of medication, and I'm going to just listen in.
and interact with that medication in a specific way. My mother in law wears one of these like a smart watch. And every time her heartbeat just barely goes up, she chalks it up to an episode of AFib. My son's in EMT, training to be a paramedic. He assures her, this has nothing to do with AFib, this is just your heartbeat.
Bracing because you're nervous. And I have to put a 12 point lead on you. So her interaction with the machine completely skews or changes her perception of what is going on with her and her body and her heart and so on so forth. And the affordances coming from that are fundamentally, she limits herself in terms of.
diet, chocolate, alcohol, various other things that my father still enjoys in moderate measures, but they have the exact same condition. But the interaction with the machine, with this thing that she wears, is changing the way she perceives her illness, the way she perceives life in general. And so to me, that sort of was, One of those moments where I was like, I'm getting it now, like it's this interaction with the stuff around us that we really need to pay attention to.
So I just wanted to share that.
[00:56:04] Iain Kerr: Yeah, that's really good. I think Olaf your first observation is really, true. And it's the same. Across the board when we do anything with either teaching at the university here or with clients, and we've actually tried to move all of our professional engagements from things like lectures, which are disembodied speaking, have you to highly embodied workshops.
We're almost right off the bat. We're doing something experimental with matter, collaboration, and we want people to sense that the novel concepts that are starting to emerge in the process, if you ask them who had that idea they realize that nobody did. It didn't come from a brain.
It came from the doing. It came from the materials. It came from the, distributed network of people. And at the end of an hour the 1st hour of working with people. We've got them to the beginnings of what you're talking about, where people are like, okay, now I can see.
That it's not things aren't starting here. They're co emerging in a world through my actions, which I think is really great with your second point, like where you've got to two people, but they're working with their environments and their tools and their concepts differently, and a different set of affordances emerging in a different mode of being alive, right?
And I think this is really critical. It's not, yeah. Like you can't get that if you're not doing things. And so for us, all of our, I think our teaching is we try to do it through some type of engaged, really fast practice to begin with. Because otherwise just listening to us talking myself, it's it's a lot of Conceptual stuff.
But once you do something, it's totally different.
[00:58:52] Dan Nietz: So I'd love to jump in on that. First thought is that your sharing today just brought me back to the conversation we had in January, just meeting you guys and seeing your work out in the world and projecting a certain level of stature on you guys and success. And then just being really struck by all the note taking you were doing.
And I, I feel it's a compliment, but it's part of my learning here, just to say that you're really embodying, I think, the thing you're trying to talk about, which is you were, I'm a brand new person in your life. I'm sharing my experiences and you're being affected by me is how I now see that experience in hindsight.
Not that you were just really polite or strategic about your note taking that it was an actual embodiment of, but then to the point you just made Ian, if I'm honest, the thing I was hoping for this evening was what I would call like the living form. Of the work and I don't know if there's anything that we can do together to have that classroom experience like you're talking about.
But it's it sounds exciting to consider that. And at least ask if that's possible.
[01:00:01] Iain Kerr: It's very we've done some virtually. Yeah we, tried a lot of experiments during coven to work with in embodied ways. And I know, Olaf, we did 1 with MCAD. Which I think was reasonably successful and it would be interesting to try it.
But our thought today was just to put out like where, what we're thinking about, and and see where it lands with people and what kind of discussion. But Dan, it would be, It's definitely the living form is, what's really critical and, I think everything for us comes through doing these things with people rather than just talking about it.
[01:01:01] Jason Frasca: It makes the talking about it a whole lot easier, right? We experience we have we can throughout that whole list, right? We can point to specifics. And we always ask everybody, could you have thought of these outcomes and invariably most say no. And then someone will say, yes I, so perhaps Dan some maybe we do some organization of a virtual version with the caveat of, it'll be good, but not as great as physically in the same room.
[01:01:40] Dan Nietz: I'm with you. Yeah. I'm not trying to put a lot of pressure on the moment for either you guys or for the other folks here in, in zoom or whatever, but
[01:01:50] Iain Kerr: I think the really great part about doing things in a room, like to get at this kind of embodied, extended inactive, what have you, is you, feel, sense, see the intersubjective dynamics.
Of a room of people and things and tools and time and when you put it on zoom, there's none of that kind of peripheral vision, tacitness because you're doing a task and you look down and you do the task and then you share it back with everyone, but there's no it's not rubbing off on each other and there's not an So It's very hard to have a group dynamic, which I think is really critical to see a lot of these I don't know if people are familiar with this wonderful book called Cognition in the Wild and it's anthropologist who's looking at, he takes an aircraft carrier, the bridge of an aircraft carrier, As where cognition is in the wild and what he wants to show is how the bridge as a whole, the machines, the people, the choreographed inter interactions, that's thinking, that's cognition, as the whole.
And so when we do workshops, we want people to sense that the entirety of the room is the thing that's doing cognition in a sense doing thinking. And a lot of that dissipates, like profoundly dissipates in Zoom. And that's the real challenge. That's good learning right there. Yeah,
there's like just one fast point like we've in universities, you're measured by class size and like small class sizes equals better. And we actually have to sometimes fight to have 30 people in a class. And for us once you've got 30 people in a class and they're working together in these dynamic, Ecosystemic manners, you've got emergent thinking happening.
If you have six people, it's much less so. I think that's also part of these workshop settings. Get people to see that collaboration is inherent in all reality, and it's critical to creativity.
Other questions or thoughts or feedback criticisms, and I'm holding back. To leave room for Angela, Cheryl, Erlin, Chris, any tickers?
[01:05:25] Jason Frasca: Cheryl unmuted.
[01:05:30] Cheryl Anderson: I'm still really trying to absorb and come up with questions. I it's a lot. Do you think some of this has to relate to left brain, right brain thinkers, as far as the challenges for getting people to work in this way?
[01:05:51] Iain Kerr: Yeah. I guess the first thing to say is it turns out there's no such thing as left brain, right brain.
But that aside I think there's people in different environments and practices and habits and histories some people I think are closer to these practices. I think people who make things, who use their hands, Maybe Craig what drew you to it is you can't ignore things and their agency when you actually work with them.
If you try and I don't know, sand wood or shave wood against the grain or across the grain, shit goes south quickly. It goes very and maybe that's interesting, maybe it's not, but that the material... In relation to your tool and where you're trying to go. It's got a voice. And so I think for me you really see I find that people who are more engaged with doing things often have an easier time understanding this or people who do very embodied things.
It could be anything from playing sports dancing, rock climbing, but where the, again, like the tool, the others the field, the rules are all collaborating your embodied state to do something. So I think all of those, the other point I'd make is like trying to shift your own habits and practices more towards those things, like taking up team sports or activities like rock climbing or something, like whatever sits well with you or making things like Craig was talking about, furniture working with materials, and there, I think, cooking, like we we always fantasize.
That about doing our workshops all around food. This food is one where you have so much emergent feedback. So much dynamic. So I think people who love cooking in the sense of not like following a recipe and getting a strict product out, but Being in the kitchen and experimenting and uttering understanding processes and how you could deviate and change them and hack them.
I think all of those things help and the people who are closer to them are often. Intuitively grasp what we're getting at better.
[01:09:01] Jason Frasca: I just add that those that are intuitively grasping are generally abstract thinkers as well, versus linear thinkers tend to struggle with these concepts. It takes longer for them to become one with them.
And we've seen this time and time again at every level from university undergrad through professional. If you ask the room, who is grasping this? Are you an abstract thinker? Are you a maker? And they generally will raise their hand and those who are struggling to grasp and need to work through it more more intentionally, they tend to be the linear thinkers.
[01:09:44] Iain Kerr: I think it's more, it's they're, you're part of the, in shaped by your ecosystem, and People who have fallen in love with their kitchen are shaped by like a dynamic nonlinear ecosystem. And I think if if you're the boss of a corporation, and every day you show up and you're asking people tell me what your idea is, and you're just evaluating presentations and giving directives, you're in an ecosystem that is embodying and inculcating these linear practices you're talking about, right?
And going to school from K through 12, and then to college, you're being inculcated by an ecosystem of linear, linearity, and like ends are already existing, knowledge is pre given. So you're like habitual structures to use Olaf's word that he didn't say, you're, are fucked.
[01:10:53] Cheryl Anderson: No that's really helpful, especially with the cooking example, just because I'm a person who doesn't ever use a recipe.
I just open the refrigerator, look in the cupboard and start putting stuff together. And the, probably the more interesting thing is that I'm a vegetarian and my husband isn't. So I make things for him without actually being able to try them. Or necessarily even knowing what that meat tastes like because it's been so long since I've eaten it.
I make a casserole that has meat in it and I'm totally winging it.
[01:11:35] Malcolm Ryder: We'll be right over.
[01:11:39] Iain Kerr: It's really beautiful where you know if you go to like our list of things where we're talking about consciously refuse ideation first approaches you're doing that. The moment you say I'm not a recipe person.
Yeah. Not going to have an idea called. Lasagna XYZ, and I'm not going to follow a linear process to it. And you're developing a process orientation to dynamic reality, where you look to your fridge and you're like what speaks to me. Yeah. And you start one thing and it leads one way and you're like, okay, now I thought it was going to be this.
And I dunno, it's not. And so now I have to follow it and run with it and co emerge with it. My I'm changing as I do something I'm learning new muscle memory. And so I think you could translate everything we said really well through cooking. And then abstracted out and you would get similar concepts to us that you could bring into your own innovation practices.
[01:12:58] Cheryl Anderson: Yeah, that's really helpful.
[01:13:01] Creg Schumann: Reminds me of the story of grant is the chef for Alinea in Chicago, one of my favorite restaurants ever. If you've not been. Make a reservation now for about a year from now, but anyway, or more but he I have known him for, many years and he had contracted jaw cancer, right?
And I was going through my own cancer journey at the time. And all of a sudden with jaw cancer, you start to not be able to taste. And we just the jaws connected to the whole sinus cavities and everything else. And he's going, how am I going to be a cook without being able to taste?
And yeah, it was just, it's and all of a sudden he goes, I don't have to taste, I have people that will taste for me. Perfect. And that whole feedback, right? I'm going to do a thing that I know or understand that is interesting, possibly. So is anyone familiar with Alinea?
[01:14:03] Dan Nietz: Yeah, like a Netflix special or something, right?
[01:14:06] Creg Schumann: Yeah, they've had all sorts of things. Yeah, an amazing food thing and Instagram and whatnot. But yeah it's just, they do some really cool things, and for Grant to keep coming up with these ideas, he doesn't have to taste right. So therefore he doesn't have to worry about it.
So just try something and somebody else will tell you, Oh my God, that's horrid.
[01:14:31] Iain Kerr: Documentary we love and we often share and workshop and unpack a cult from El Bulli, similar type of restaurant called Cooking in Progress. And there's a great moment in that where Ferran, the head chef is they're in their experimental phase where they close the restaurant, they go in their lab, and during the six months when they're in their lab the, rule is no dishes.
They can't think of how to make a dish. Like no end products, just like we wanted to discover new approaches, new techniques, new methods. And for Ron says this one moment right now, we have no, I have no interest in what it tastes like that comes later. And I think this is really like an important insight.
It's really deep that if you start by have putting your value. Ahead of it, like it has to taste good. And I know what good is you will never discover a new way of being alive and allowing that's what we were saying by imminent values or ethics, like that it's something has to be allowed to emerge in the process.
And like, why are we fixated on whatever the palette of flavor we have Why don't we like intensely bitter things or whatever it might be or bland things and so I think it's a really important insight. And that's also what we're talking about with blocking.
If you block something, like we, we won't consider flavor or taste we won't consider X, Y, or Z, it pushes things into new, open, unknown trajectories.
[01:16:42] Jason Frasca: Yeah I think we alluded to it in the list earlier as well, right? Suspending judgment. Yeah, there's no good. There's no bad. There's just possibility. Yeah. Yeah.
[01:16:53] Iain Kerr: That's really for creativity. The judgment is is this actually different? And then later you can figure out what does it mean? But early on, the useful judgment is not good, bad, as you're saying, but is it different? And then how do I keep that difference alive?
Yeah. Long enough that I can discover. Its ethos, its logic, its world.
[01:17:24] Malcolm Ryder: So maybe that's also getting close to conversation about agency again. And you can arguably be one of many different kinds of agents yourself. You could be a facilitator you can ex consciously exercise certain types of influence. And our habit again comparatively mostly a Western thing is that The importance of influence is very much within the context of control and being asked or advised to give up control is a scary thing for most of us who've been educated in the Western world.
But if you do think a little bit more about agency, and in particular. Maybe a bit selfishly, I'm asking, what do the two of you want to, how do you want to characterize agency? I think I already know how you do it, but I think it's also changing.
[01:19:09] Iain Kerr: Yeah, okay. I would say like the first important thing and not very consistent about it, which maybe is what you are noticing but agency never.
A adheres to a thing, but it's comes from the, relational context, right? So and maybe a more useful word is like propensity. The like when wood meets a saw and an arm in relation to someone thinking about furniture, there's certain propensities that are more likely than others.
It's not and, the agency is, relational so I think say you're driving on a freeway, you can change lanes, you can speed up and slow down and you could say that's my agency. Really you don't have much control on the freeway. Your degrees of freedom are incredibly limited.
And you're an outcome of the system at that in, in a non negative sense of the term you're if you're going to stay alive, yeah, even if you're going to die, like You don't have a lot of agency over your death. Like you can try and crash into, I don't know, another car or a tree.
You're going to be unconscious and all sorts of people are going to come with giant scissors or pliers and lights.
[01:21:06] Jason Frasca: I think that I would actually add a caveat in that one, which would, it would depend on the density of the traffic. Yeah. And all those so that's going to.
[01:21:14] Malcolm Ryder: Agency, so it's very conventional. Yeah.
[01:21:20] Iain Kerr: And I see often like, in organizations, we think I don't know, the boss or somebody, a manager they like give a directive and that's where it's about leadership and but they are also like an emergent property of the system. They're what we would call their agency is like an epiphenomenon of the organizational logic and the organization as a dynamic entity has leadership or agency and and I think we play more with the propensities and possibilities are part of nudging things.
But it's Olaf was saying with his exam, your example of the watch, like your mother in law she might imagine in some sense, she now has agency over her condition, but she's co shaped subject of the ecosystem and now responding to it in ways that are ecosystemic responses.
So that's I think innovation is you're playing with those things, but it's like hard to often grasp where the agency actually is and part of it, like attunement. Part of following part of probing is to get a sense of propensities, possibilities how systems give feedback, how you could push and nudge it into a different state.
Are and so I think this is where, like, all of these concepts become active tools. In a much more engaged experimental way of doing things. So you're not thinking so much like about Agency in the old fashioned sense, like I have agency. I'd like to see this. I'm going to try that. But you're trying to figure out the what's the dynamic system.
Where could where's its edge that if I, if we work in some way, it'll tip into a different state. How does it feedback? You Olaf's example was really good for that.
[01:24:12] Malcolm Ryder: Yeah, that's you really, it's a challenge. I think for organizations and for individuals and organizations to wrap their arms around.
I don't know how much time you have left, but I wanted to tell you one more really short story. Just to see what you recognize in it. This is a sports thing. I don't know who cares about American football here. Much less who's played. Okay oh, yeah. All right. Okay. I'm gonna make it a three minute story.
I used to run back kickoffs and punts. And in the stands, what the crowd wants is they want the ball carrier to be a hero to exhibit really exceptional individual talent and overcome all odds. And it's high drama. And every now and then somebody shows up who actually can pull that off.
But most of the time, that's not the way it works. Most of the time, if you're the ball carrier and you bring that ball back a significant distance, it's because your teammates have been doing things to try to influence the other team into doing things that create opportunity for you. That's like a hundred percent of what's going on.
And so what that means also is that you can run back a kickoff or a punt a thousand times in a row. And regardless of whether it works or not, it doesn't go down the same way. Twice. Every time you do it, it's different. And it's all about creating these influences and exploiting them. But as the ball carrier if I get way up the field with the ball, I wind up getting all the credit for it.
The reality is that in that role. I don't even exist unless those opportunities are created around me by all the other people who are out there.
So that's what creates my success. That's what creates my identity.
[01:26:48] Jason Frasca: I think what you're saying, Malcolm there is a different perspective, which is, I think, some in the stands are watching to see the punt returner, kick
returner get crushed by... so You know your perspective
but there's a reason why tom brady or eli manning will buy their offensive line Rolex watches for christmas right because their success is dependent upon the thankless job of the Five people in front of them protecting them or a running back
Who runs for the the brushing title, he will buy his offensive line new cars because yeah.
First of all, no recognition, although they do get much more recognition than they used to. But it's. There's certainly a tremendous amount of agency going on the field. And I would also argue the exact same thing is happening in traffic. So if somebody else and followed closely, or had the need to drive with great intensity for some emergent reason there's a trip it's all the same exact sort of things, where there are influences happening, you're You know beyond your control and also in your control it's fascinating. Ball carrier, driver it's a, it's totally dynamic situation of which you with the center, let's just say the ball, right? Don't really have a significant influence.
[01:28:31] Malcolm Ryder: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for indulging that story.
[01:28:37] Jason Frasca: We'll talk football another time, but for a whole night.
[01:28:42] Creg Schumann: Hey, cool. We are at our end of time. So thank you Jason and Ian for having a conversation with us and giving us some
really fun things to think about.
[01:28:55] Jason Frasca: Thanks for having us.
[01:28:56] Cheryl Anderson: It's really great.
[01:28:57] Kris: Yes. Thank you very much.
[01:28:58] Malcolm Ryder: Yeah. Good to see you guys again.
[01:29:00] Iain Kerr: Yeah, it's super good to see everybody and to talk and develop thoughts and all of these things with you and hopefully there'll be more. All right. Cool. Thanks for coming out. Have a good game.