The creativity paradox: How can you recognize what is new if it has never been seen? For the new, when it first emerges, cannot be recognized for what it will become.
Because all of our tools for recognition rely on the old -- existing concepts, habits, and cultural archives.
Too often radical novelty is never even noticed or ignored as trivial or stupid. new creative developments are simply hard to see.
Think of the drip in painting, by Jackson Pollock and others -- the drip had always been there, for thousands of years painters dripped. Why did no one follow it into a new paradigm of art until the mid 20th century?
The creativity paradox cannot be solved. But it dissolves if we change our basic assumptions:
- Novelty is not a human-generated phenomenon -- but a fundamental quality of all reality
- Creativity does not arise in our heads. Our practices first entangle with creativity at the level doing -- tacit action
- Thinking does not begin when there are clear concepts -- it begins in embodied, embedded, and extended collaborative doing and sensing. (Not “I think therefore I am”, but “we do therefore thinking emerges”)
- Novel concepts emerge slowly from novel doing in novel environments (at first you won’t be able to see them because they won’t exist).
- Recognition and identification of novelty come later as a novel world is stabilized.
Early on in the emergence of novelty, the creative process does not rely on recognition or ideation but on doing, joining, and following experimentally. The drip began to lead when painters were willing to stop Ideating over it and co-emerge with it into the new.
No one recognized the drip as revolutionary -- because it wasn’t. There is nothing to recognize as different until it emerges differently as something possibly radical. Before that, it is a drip.
What is hidden in plain sight is the fact that nothing is there but the open possibility for things to become otherwise. If you want to see something new you have to co-evolve it, and with it, into a new becoming.
We wrote a short piece exploring the creativity paradox that brings together many relevant themes for a new paradigm of creativity.
How do you challenge the creativity paradox? We'd love to hear - share your thoughts on this LinkedIn post.