Unleashing Imagination - Rethinking the Boundaries of Creativity

We had the good fortune to appear on Mickey Bahrat's podcast The Hidden Heroes of Tech - Unleashing Imagination - Rethinking the Boundaries of Creativity. Mickey is a good friend and colleague focused on disrupting sales cycles through creativity. We enjoyed a truly stimulating conversation with him where we explored: what is creativity, how do you innovate, if creativity can be learned or more importantly, can creativity be taught? (YES!), reflected on the future of human creativity in an increasingly AI-driven world, and more. Yes, we swam in the pool of theory, and we dove into the deep-end of practical real world examples too… Bonus - Mickey was loaded up with some personal questions - and so now the world knows Jason has eaten eggs almost every day for 35+ years, he doesn't believe basketball is a sport (watch the video for the excellent argument), and Iain's favorite food is the one he's never tried before. If you give the YouTube video a watch below or give the podcast a listen. Please let us know how any of this stimulates your work.

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Transcript: Unleashing Imagination - Rethinking the Boundaries of Creativity - Podcast Interview

Note: Lightly edited for readability...

[00:00:00] Mickey Bharat: Hello and welcome to this podcast episode are the hidden heroes of tech. This is the show where we shine a light on the brains behind all the successes we see across industries. It takes more than text to get a product in front of a consumer. People from sales go to market strategy, marketing, finance, operation, and of course, the techs, and in some cases, people in academia, we talk with those.

We don't know much about, and hope to learn some nuggets of wisdom. Our sponsor for this episode is therevenuedoc. com. Welcome to today's episode of our podcast. I'm thrilled to introduce not one, but two extraordinary guests who are at the forefront of innovation and creativity. I'm just waiting for them to ring the doorbell to the studio, but let me tell you a little about them as we wait for them to join us.

First, we have Ian Kerr, a visionary designer and co founder of Emergent Futures Lab. With over 20 years of experience across diverse fields such as architecture, ecology, and creativity studies, Ian is a, Ian is dedicated to transforming interactive, Intractable. I can't even say it in track, intractable problems into opportunities for world making as a quote, as a co director of the mix lab at Montclair state university, he fosters innovation on every scale, blending design, ecology, ecological research to create brand groundbreaking solutions.

God, I'm not getting this tongue twisting introduction. Today, but here we go. Joining him is his colleague, Jason Frasca, also a co founder of Emergent Futures Lab, and a professor at Montclair State University. Jason's work is focused on the question of how to innovate, offering a holistic systems based approach through their award winning innovation design approach, IDA.

With a rich background in entrepreneurship and marketing. Jason has guided numerous fortune 500 companies and startups in developing radical innovations. Together, Ian and Jason have pioneered methods to rethink creativity, invention, and change, helping organizations navigate disruptive transformations.

Their combined expertise and passion for fostering innovation make them the perfect duo to explore the future of creativity with us today. Oh,

that must be them. Let's dive into this topic today. Hello, Ian. And hello, Jason. Welcome to the show.  

[00:02:53] Iain Kerr: It's great to be here. It's great to see you again mickey.  

[00:02:56] Mickey Bharat: Hey mickey. Thanks for having us. Yes I had a tongue twister of an introduction for you there and I don't mind admitting that to my audience Question to you.

Did I miss anything off that introduction that you'd like to add or you think I got wrong?  

[00:03:10] Iain Kerr: It's great to have a tongue twister that makes it easy for us to be Missing things so that was perfect.  

[00:03:20] Mickey Bharat: I thought it was great. I enjoyed it Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. I don't correct my tongue twisters because it just keeps the authenticity of the show and it shows The audience that you know, we're not setting this up for the audience particularly It's all you know as we go real time.

Okay. So on to today's topic. So today's topic is unleashing imagination Rethinking the boundaries of creativity now We've spoken in the past and we've talked about can creativity be taught Can you learn it yourself? What is creative in how to creativity and how we do it and when we first met if you recall I work at aws and I was doing some work with some of our sales people and my question was You know, how much does creativity really come into the work we do in everyday life?

And this is what's brought this question up. So i'd like you to give us a brief, teaser to the topic because before we get into the crux of the topic I want to get into a little bit about you guys But can either of you share a bit of a teaser, you know in 10 15 seconds. What are we talking about here?

[00:04:28] Iain Kerr: Sure creativity. Isn't really a human function. It's part of reality I think for us, this is one of the most important big things. It's like creativity is happening all around us. It's happening in our body from the big bang through evolution, mountains forming plate, tectonics, human invention. It's everywhere.

And we participate in it.  

[00:04:53] Mickey Bharat: Oh, that's interesting. So Jason, what are your thoughts?

[00:04:56] Jason Frasca: Yeah. It's something that we engage and participate in as opposed to being within us, right? I think that's maybe, the common misconception of creativity is that it's within people it's within people more than others as opposed to, This engaged reality where creativity is taking place all around us and we're participating in  

[00:05:23] Mickey Bharat: okay, that's interesting it sounds complicated and I think that's a great teaser for the topic and I've certainly got some questions for you but before we get into the topic do you mind if I Help the audience get to know you a little bit better and ask you a few personal questions or questions about you That'd be okay.

Yeah. Awesome. Okay, right really easy one. So what did you both have for breakfast today and why  

[00:05:50] Jason Frasca: I had two fried eggs and a couple of waffles I've eaten eggs for breakfast almost every morning since I'm 14 So does that contribute to your smartness in any way? definitely not but it does help to get a little fat and a little in the brain and Get things lubricated and rolling.

[00:06:08] Mickey Bharat: Oh, awesome. What about you, ian?  

[00:06:11] Iain Kerr: I'm just processing how many eggs that is. It's like the room is full of eggs. My, my breakfast today, which is my breakfast most days. And, and it continues throughout the day is coffee. Coffee, so I wake up I grind some beans pour some water on them and I just keep going like that till nightfall.

So coffee's the is the breakfast of choice  

[00:06:44] Mickey Bharat: That's okay. And what does that do for you having coffee? Constant stream of coffee does that give you superpowers somehow?  

[00:06:54] Iain Kerr: No, we talk about this a lot too, because we joke a lot about these things and, I coffee is often thought to dehydrate you, but it turns out it's actually hydrating.

So I don't drink like super strong coffee because that just, that's a little too much. I start shaking. So I just have, like Jason's drinking some water now. I just drink coffee. And and I, like waking up really early and work working on things that require deep thinking And so and I know jason does too the morning is like before all the stresses just jumping into it for me is great so it's like it could be four or five in the morning and it's nice And quiet and the birds are singing and you've got a cup of coffee and you can just do something  

[00:07:48] Mickey Bharat: So eggs for lubrication and coffee for hydration that seems like a great combo You've got it Okay so I like to ask this next question of my guests how are each of you doing for real?

So let's start with you ian what's your real mood today  

[00:08:06] Iain Kerr: real mood? i'm, it's a beautiful sunny day on one side I'm, really happy and this is really wonderful. Always talking with you and then the other side We're moving like apartments. And so it was like hectic packing a lot of boxes and things.

And then the wifi went out. So then I had to come over to my partner's office here, this architectural office. And then, Like we needed this insurance certificate or something to be able to have the movers in the other building and haven't gotten it. So there's all these things. But, I think there's something really great about that.

Like, where you can tune in and out of the level of density of things happening and. And I think that's often part of our work is like zooming in and out.  

[00:08:56] Mickey Bharat: So what how are you feeling though? You've told me everything that's going on in your life. , , what is it? Are you feeling great about all that?

It doesn't sound, yeah,  

[00:09:04] Iain Kerr: it's super exciting to move we're moving to like a new spot and so there's a great adventure to it, right? My emotional state is Is there's a little stress of the things but like a general like forward looking happiness  

[00:09:22] Mickey Bharat: Yeah, you don't come across as somebody who ever gets stressed, but i'm sure you do Jason what about you?

How are you feeling today?  

[00:09:32] Jason Frasca: A little better than yesterday. It's been a tough week. My vertigo came back Last weekend. i'm basically sleeping on a merry go round And when I get up the rest of the day is about trying to walk straight and not hit anything not walk into anything. But today's a little better than yesterday so that's nice.

[00:09:53] Mickey Bharat: Yes. Okay. That's good. Okay. Okay next question So i've got a question for each of you. When you go to interviews for places like mckinsey or boston consulting or Places like that. They always throw a question in which Helps them understand how does somebody think? So I've got one of those types of questions for each of you.

So here's the first question. And this goes to Jason. So if you had to pick one superpower to fly or to be invisible, which one would you choose and for what reason?  

[00:10:27] Jason Frasca: It would definitely be flying. And it would be flying because I think it relates to one thing that I enjoyed doing very much, which is driving and driving fast.

And so leaning into the dynamics of flight and and turning and and getting somewhere efficiently and fast and in an exciting way. I can't think of anything more I would love to be able to do if I had a superpower than to fly.  

[00:10:58] Mickey Bharat: Awesome. Awesome.  

[00:10:59] Iain Kerr: Awesome. I can see that.  

[00:11:02] Mickey Bharat: Guy is on the move, you know quickly getting from A to B if you could shoot for the stars You'd be there for sure.

Okay. So Ian question for you. This is a bit of a problem solver You've been given an elephant and you can't give it away or sell it. What would you do with the elephant?  

[00:11:21] Iain Kerr: That's a great question. I think like elephants are so fascinating, like how they have like language and community and culture and all these things.

[00:11:30] Mickey Bharat: How would you know that? How would you know that?

[00:11:33] Iain Kerr: This would be the part to me that I think I would just be like, okay, I'm going to go back with you wherever you came from so I try and figure out is this an elephant from somewhere in Asia or is it somewhere in Africa? And I'd go on this journey with the elephant back to its community and its family and its culture.

But in doing that, I think it would be super interesting because I'm always fascinated about what is it like to be another creature? What type of living thinking being is it? And to just try and connect with that. And the great part of that is if McKinsey asked me that and I'd never want to work for them, this would be the perfect out because I'd be gone for years, into elephant world.

So I would be very appreciative.  

[00:12:27] Mickey Bharat: So you're saying you would make the elephant your companion and you'd go on a life journey with your new companion  

[00:12:33] Iain Kerr: Yeah, it would be like my elephant teacher.  

[00:12:37] Mickey Bharat: Okay. So would that be a potential next partner the elephant?

[00:12:43] Iain Kerr: It would be like that it definitely there's something like really Interesting about these kind of creatures, and figuring out how to be in dialogue and  

[00:12:57] Mickey Bharat: that's interesting So you're the first person that's not tried to capitalize on using the elephant, you know in some way to personal benefit you actually befriended it and made it a friend which is interesting.

Speaks volumes to who you are next question, And this may be something that you both jointly can answer or individually have separate ones. So what is your spiciest opinion that most people disagree with? And it doesn't have to be about work. It could be about childhood. It could be about career.

It could be about family.  

[00:13:35] Iain Kerr: I could say one about our practice and Jason, if you're thinking about some spicy about something else, that would be cool. I think with our practice is key to it is that creativity is not in the head. It's not so that's something I think we get classically a lot of people push back on  

[00:13:57] Mickey Bharat: How is it spicy and how does it create?

[00:14:03] Iain Kerr: I think often when you go into situations that we do, there's always a few people who are like, I'm the creative, I'm the genius, and I've got it all in my head, I come up with ideas, I people have told me since I was three that my ideas are super creative and unique, and then we're looking for how creativity emerges from experimenting and doing, and that it's much more collective and collaborative.

And those people tend to be, feel like their ego's getting deflated. And so there's a tension there that we have to always negotiate.  

[00:14:42] Mickey Bharat: So who are you, butting with on that point so what are they saying to you?  

[00:14:49] Iain Kerr: They're usually like, they're definitely the people who like they might be, think of themselves more artistically, which they might be they, might be the ones in the company who are considered to be literally a creative, and that's their job title, their area in, in marketing, and They, tend to take longer to come around, but for us, the results are, what really pull people in so it's just try it out.

If it's in a low risk situation, first as like an exercise or a game or workshop, we pull people in and they see it's not as threatening.  

[00:15:36] Mickey Bharat: So you basically. Telling people who think they're creative that they're not really as creative as they think they are.  

[00:15:42] Iain Kerr: It's definitely, that's what we were saying all the time, but in a, in, in a, in an expansive way, which is like you can be far more creative when you start experimenting and collaborating with things and people and systems.

So don't. Don't jump off a bridge because we're saying this rather it's lean into this. It's great.  

[00:16:11] Mickey Bharat: I can see that. I can see that okay. Jason any, additions to that or difference?  

[00:16:17] Jason Frasca: I'm going to get a different one altogether. Mickey, go for it. Basketball is not a sport. Okay. I'm not disqualifying any anybody that plays basketball.

There's certainly athletes or most of them aren't, but it can't be a sport. Any, nothing can be a sport that professionals are being paid tens of millions of dollars a year to do that a two year old can do. So if you can just merely just drop a ball on a basket. That's not a sport.

Like everything else is a sport. Hitting a golf ball, a baseball, hockey, football, cricket, soccer, on and on, right? Those are sports. There's a two year old cannot do the equivalent of a professional athlete in the same way. But a two year old can just merely put a ball in a net the same as any basketball player.

Until they raise the net to 12 feet and we eliminate, height as the mere qualifier for being a professional basketball player it's not a sport.  

[00:17:28] Mickey Bharat: That is quite spicy if you ask me  

[00:17:34] Jason Frasca: Yeah I hope there's a lot of basketball, viewers out there. I'd love to hear from them on this.

[00:17:39] Mickey Bharat: Yeah. No definitely I want to try that with some basketball fans and see what comes of that and if they Take a baseball bat to my head i'm going to point them to this. This episode

Awesome that's interesting. That segues us quite nicely into the main topic so back to today's topic and we touched on some of the things in that last question. Rethinking the boundaries of creativity now when we first met And this is over a year ago now, maybe I can't remember I remember coming to you guys.

I met you through another person And I just reached out and here was what my concern was. I had been tasked with helping to redesign how salespeople engaged customers and one of the things I was teaching the sales rep is how to formulate, a point of view for a customer that the customer hasn't thought about yet and that required them to the reps to go out and Do some research and go without asking the customer what they think what do was that was a sales rep think?

about What the customer should do and It was something that I grew up with and I won't go into some of the details But I was I felt really natural and been able to join the dots very quickly and go. Okay customers doing This by the public research i've done. I think they could do something different and when I came to teach it I found almost everybody Got to the point of where I could teach them how to go and do the research But when they got the information, they didn't know how to put it together into Another point of view and that said that started to make me think well, what's wrong here?

And actually before I met you guys, I was trying to work out what's not right and Eventually got to the point. Which my own conclusion was creativity. Can I teach creativity? Because it's you've given somebody the paints, the brushes, but, and the paper and the, picture that you want them to draw.

But they don't know how to draw it. But they know they need to do it and then they say to me you show me how to do it. And I went on this mission to learn about teaching creativity and i'm gonna say I was slightly upset and Disappointed in your answers because it was the truth and I want to throw it back over to you guys and say, you know talk to us about, you know You the unleashing imagination because I thought that was a real challenge and Rethinking the boundaries of creativity and you touched on it before do we actually Have them innate in us or do we participate in it?

So let me throw it over to either one of you who wants to take the floor with this  

[00:20:56] Iain Kerr: I could start and then i'll You know, we can go back and forth. Yeah, I think creativity can be taught very much. And, and I think that the real challenge in, that space is if you think of our education system right now, it's based on knowledge acquisition, like starting from preschool all the way.

Through graduate school. So that's a lot of years where the answer to whatever you're being asked already exists. What's the covalent bonding of helium? There's an answer. And so you're and when you're doing the critical thinking, it's like what would Mark say or somebody and there's an answer again.

So you're never learning how. To push something into the unknown.  

[00:21:55] Mickey Bharat: Can I, just interrupt? Can I interrupt you for a second? Cause I think I have a question for you that precursors this, which is, let's start with how do you actually define creativity? Because that's a great one. And I think that then gives us a prelude to what you were just talking about.

Cause I think, yeah. It's important if we understand what creativity is then the audience will understand what it is we're trying to frame up here  

[00:22:20] Iain Kerr: Absolutely so for us creativity is the process Of coming up with something And as it, the process could be happening in the world, the environment, and the really important part is that there's two types of newness here.

There's like incremental forms of improvement. Then there's things where it's just disruptively, qualitatively new. It's genuinely new. That way of doing things has never exist, so creativity is about processes that generate the new and the, and I think the most important and interesting form is the disruptive forms of creativity.

[00:23:11] Mickey Bharat: So is it a human, is it a human biological thing? Something  

[00:23:17] Iain Kerr: humans. Sorry, go on.  

[00:23:19] Jason Frasca: Yeah. Something humans can participate in as a process, right? But it's, not something that we possess, right? It's, happening throughout, perhaps ideation, is the typical way we envision creativity, right?

Light bulbs and in our head manifesting something new, right? But ideation at its core is, conservative at best. Ideation can only come from what we know what we've experienced what we've been exposed to And what we've done and seen and heard right and so therefore we cannot actually ideate anything novel and Genuinely new.

[00:24:06] Mickey Bharat: I think so you're saying are you saying let me just ask you clarify So ideation is different to creativity ideation is based on past data that exists. Is that what you're saying? Okay, and that's interesting because we have similar challenges when forward planning We always use past data or many companies use past data to forward plan So you can't create anything new on the idea of ideation.

Is that what that you just said?  

[00:24:36] Iain Kerr: Especially if it's radically new you can improve things like you're sitting in a chair and You are like this hurts. How do I make it a bit better?  

But to think of something a totally new way of supporting the body through. A mental exercise like you think about previous things concepts you have So just like jason saying those like loop us back into conservative practices.

So how do we? Experiment in ways that push us into something new.  

[00:25:13] Mickey Bharat: Let me just that so i've just defined ideation Which is what we do when we see past data so creativity What data are we looking at to become creative or does that data exist?  

[00:25:29] Iain Kerr: There is good data, right praska and that's like the things you don't want to do,  

And and it and this is where I think the critical thinking and the abstraction is really important because you want to think about how do I Reveal how we've always done something at a deep level And then block that approach rock block that paradigm block that framework and then start experimenting But when you know what you don't want to do It pushes you into the new it becomes a kind of like right scaffolding of the negative  

[00:26:10] Mickey Bharat: How do I come up with what I want to experiment with because that's a bit of a black hole So unless I come up with a something i'm going to go like I'm going to go make myself this glass say I'm drinking water out of it and I said I don't want to make the same red glass and I don't want to make it the same pattern.

So how do I frame myself to go and experiment with something new? So what's that process look like?  

[00:26:36] Jason Frasca: Yeah I think you start by falling in love with the problem, Mickey, right? That's what you just did. You fell in love with the problem of, like, how do I transport liquid from there to my mouth to drink, as opposed to falling in love with the solution, which is a red cup.

[00:26:53] Mickey Bharat: You know what's interesting? What's interesting in what you just said, Harvard Business School teaches disruptive strategy, and they say there was a guy called, christian I forgot his last name now famous, teacher and he came up with this thing. What's the job to be done? And that's so you just so resonated with me There so i'm going to ask this question mid your flow if the problem doesn't exist can creativity exist?

[00:27:29] Iain Kerr: Totally. I think the important part here is it's that what you're really doing is like you're thinking, what's this abstract thing I'm curious about, like Jason was saying, like about how. Maybe how we hydrate or, it could be very general it's not a really a problem yet. It's like an area of interest, some general thing you're curious about.

And I think what's really critical is part of the creative process is you are inventing the problem that's worth solving. If you take a given problem and you try to solve it, you go back into that problem of ideation like the way we frame problems already suggests and lays out a framework to answer them.

And so I think it's really important like you're stepping back and you're blocking and you're negating certain things and you're abstracting, but you've got a north star or a general horizon. That's like this area of interest. Jason was saying, something about liquids, something about how it gets into your body, something about hydration, and that's grounding you, but you're probing and poking and experimenting and just knowing what you don't want to do.

[00:28:58] Mickey Bharat: So let me ask you a question. So I'm a sales guy and I'm trying to find a point of view. How do I find my North star? So there's, two things here as a everyday person and looking at my everyday life, which is about me, I think it's going to be easier for me to find my own North star. However, if I'm looking for a North star for somebody else.

I, my customer, how do I search for that North star?  

[00:29:25] Iain Kerr: I think the key, the key is to experiment and the parts there is you need to engage in, in some way or another with the customer, the reality of their bigger space of practice, which is like to get out of your head and get out of your opinions and get out of your assumptions about who they are and what they do.

And in a way go deeper than they do, because I think the thing you were talking about, Mickey, was like, you wanted your team to come up with things the customers hadn't ever considered, and people are going to do that by being in that world and in an experimental way. And I think You could do that well, because it sounds like from childhood on, those were things and practices you did, so then it comes easier to You Which this all goes back to the education part of it.  

[00:30:30] Mickey Bharat: Oh, so are you saying my childhood has something to do with who I am today in terms of creativity?  

[00:30:38] Iain Kerr: I think, because creativity has so much to do with practices and, habits and skills and how you experiment and engage with things, and how you make assumptions and how you don't make assumptions.

And all of that. You know is muscle memory.

[00:31:01] Mickey Bharat: I don't know. So i'm gonna ask you this So those who have not practiced from childhood, is it a plus cause  

[00:31:11] Jason Frasca: Definitely not I mean look we're programmed at an early age to come up with solutions right answers which is what we were just describing as antithetical to a true creative practice, but instead of ideas and brainstorming sessions following a framework that relies on the data, like you were describing before, both for your customer, whether it be in sales or going back to hydration, right?

The problem that we want to fall in love with, right? We need to disclose all that exists about these topics, right? Whether it be your customer and what they're into or the hydration model and understanding the histories, the logics, the cultures of what's been done. And once we truly understand what's existing in this.

Area of interest, then as Ian was describing earlier, we can start to block what exists. We can block what we don't want to do, which is, would be typically in a competitive landscape, what your, what everybody else is doing, in order to generate difference as opposed to trying to think it  

[00:32:16] Mickey Bharat: right.

[00:32:17] Jason Frasca: If you don't do what everybody else is doing then you are certain to move and evolve into some space. That's new. Now it may not be a good space. A good or bad space we can reserve that judgment for whether it's worth pursuing, right? But we can move into a new space of novelty through experimentation action doing practicing driving right and then once we've got that new space those possibilities, right?

Then we can evaluate that field of potentialities for what's worth following. Where should we invest our time, money, energy as a team or an organization to pursue those unintentional, unintended possibilities, right? And then once we've got that and connected, we can start to emerge and commercialize and concretize those opportunities.

So it's a process, right? And I think just real quick, it goes back to where Ian started, right? Creativity is a process.  

[00:33:13] Mickey Bharat: That's interesting.  

[00:33:14] Jason Frasca: And so none of that had anything to do with any one particular person. If we provide the process, the framework, the model, anybody can follow that.  

[00:33:22] Mickey Bharat: I had a different question next, but I'm going to pose a different question now.

And it's just triggered something. What role does education play in fostering creativity? Because I'm not just talking about academia. We're going to, some of the challenges I faced is I have to provide that education in my workplace. So all of a sudden out of nowhere, my work required my staff to be creative.

How do I engage in educating them or is it something that has to be done from a child upwards from schooling?  

[00:33:54] Iain Kerr: Yeah, no, I you know, we do a lot of this work where we do workshops to You know around education for creativity in business settings and You know as jason was saying it's like starting to On one hand unlearn a lot of assumptions while you're learning You A new set of practices  

that these practices for example, the concept of disclosing and blocking once you get them that you realize how powerful they are and how effective once you realize that you shouldn't start by brainstorming ideating, but by engaging and then disclosing and blocking.

Blocking and experimenting. And we, really do this in a context of very hands on. So we, it's not about education where it's lecture and you need to know all this knowledge about evolutionary theory or whatever it might be. And now you understand why creativity is different than you thought.

We, we just jump right in. And, within an hour we have people collectively in teams and like the whole group genuinely innovating things that nobody could have ideated and coming up with new approaches. And then we get them to unpack it and they come up with concepts and tools and techniques where they're saying it wasn't in my head.

It was relational and it emerged through this experiment and we did this blocking and.  

[00:35:38] Mickey Bharat: Let me just jump in there. So interesting. So you've really shown a way of educating somebody on or a group of people on creativity. I think one of the challenges I found is how do you get people to recognize they want education?

Because whether it's creativity or another topic, I find that education is something that one has to desire to acquire that knowledge To want to go out and learn and if you i've seen in many organizations and i'll take sales organizations They at least release a new product and they force the whole sales organization to do sales training nothing to do with creativity, but Everybody goes through the sales training course and probably 90 percent of the people don't have the desire to do it They've just been told they have To do it and get a tick in the box So I find education has to there has to be a desire to be educated Now when you come to creativity how can you I guess?

foster a light bulb moment in somebody's mind to say I need to be educated about creativity because Without that, how do you get people in the room to do that workshop?  

[00:36:52] Jason Frasca: I don't know if there's a way to get people interested in learning creativity. But what I can tell you is that Our approach is not to stand at the front of the room and lecture about it, right?

That's going to be quite antithetical to what people's lifelong experience has generally been around creativity and ideation  

[00:37:11] Mickey Bharat: I'm going to do a bit of a ask you a prelude to that question that point you're making so to say Getting people in the room i'm convinced that you both can actually Walk them through This amazing framework that we've discussed many times over one of my challenges is that how do I get them in the room?

How do I make them willing participants?  

[00:37:34] Iain Kerr: This is this is a big part we Also consult around it, which is like, how do you make an ecosystem, like the organizational ecosystem, one that has the capacity to innovate and I think what you're talking about is, a, huge hurdle, which is where people are They're, overworked.

All their time is booked. They know what they're supposed to do. Why do I need to do something else? I've got three other meetings. I got these deadlines and now I have to go to the stupid training for the stupid product that I probably won't have much to do with anyway.  

[00:38:13] Mickey Bharat: And  

[00:38:15] Iain Kerr: that's because the ecosystem that they're in has been designed in a way that there is no space for that adaptability.

It's like literally. Every minute of your workday is already called for. And now it's I'm being asked to do something else. And on top of it, it's now they want me to be creative. But you have to go into the infrastructural part of an organization and he, let's change what people's workload is.

Let's change how their day is. Let's change how tasks move and get assigned. A lot of that has to happen, to make it possible. Such that you have fertile grounds for people to be able to adapt and modify and evolve and change it. But we're not really, we're not really talking about that enough and we're not focusing on that enough.

And it, and this is, I think for us, a big frustration because what happens is we're like brought in Hey, Jason, Ian, come do a workshop and this is like you're saying. We're like, Hey, Jason, Ian, come do  

[00:39:17] Mickey Bharat: a workshop and  

[00:39:17] Iain Kerr: this is like you're saying. And get everyone excited and fired up and learning a method of creativity.

But the other part isn't happening. It's going to be exactly what you've said.  

[00:39:28] Mickey Bharat: And  

[00:39:29] Iain Kerr: that's the really big challenge is that we got to adjust the ecosystems and add new techniques and practices into them and the learning at the same time.  

[00:39:41] Mickey Bharat: So that's interesting, actually. So you, talked a lot about culture here and.

I I talk about culture to many people inside our organization and outside the organization. And it's interesting how culture is seen as something a little bit fufu. However, it's, really quite scientific and for me, and I'm going to give you my definition of culture, and this allows me to talk to people about changing culture.

evolves through consistent and repetitive, consistently repeating same behaviors over and over again. And that creates the culture that everybody starts to adopt. Meaning everybody sees that repetitive behavior as being the right way to do things. So every week I go to church, it becomes repetitive.

That becomes part of my culture. You know every week I go to the pub to have a pint of beer that becomes my culture So when I take that back culture is created through a series of kpis and processes That's how I instill it down to. So I look at my own organization and I look at the culture of engagement with the customer.

I said, you can do everything you want in the world to educate the sales reps to behave differently for other customer. But if your business processes and how you measure them on achieving success remains the same. You will not change the culture because their repetitive behavior will be based on those business processes and kpis So my next question to you guys, how does cultural background influence the creative process?

Because i'm starting to feel culture Is not just about how I grew up. It's probably due to these processes and KPIs we instill on people and then how does it impact creativity?  

[00:41:47] Iain Kerr: I think the part we would add and focus on to your really good answer about what is culture and these habits and practices that they're, they emerge from, you could say a physical and conceptual infrastructure so if you were to put somebody in a kitchen where there's a microwave, a kettle and something else, that would lead to habits and practices.

That that system would have the propensity for, that they never make like some crazy strange cake. It's it's the part, the infrastructure and the concepts and so I think we, we focus a lot on one side, say more the habits and practices and concepts, the soft things, but the physical structural parts and the Like human resources, parts of what's your job title?

What are you supposed to do? Who do you report to? Who can you communicate? All of these things also shape the culture and you have to reconfigure them to make an. organization that's spontaneously innovative and creative versus an organization where it's like here's the team that does innovation or here's the workshop and this one moment, let's come up with a new idea and then we'll move it through the system versus imagining, your organization is, generating creativity, Both the developmental types like we'll improve this change that do that and it's also doing the bigger disruptive things  

[00:43:46] Mickey Bharat: Right interesting.

That's let me ask you a question. Maybe some advice for the audience What daily habits or practices do you recommend to someone looking to enhance their creative abilities?  

[00:43:58] Jason Frasca: I think it's doing, it's engaging with the questions that you are interested most in. Whether that be that be writing or making or building or designing, but physically being engaged, not nothing ever happens when we just sit and ideate or eight or ideate and then try to just put it. Fourth, right? It requires a co evolution with the materials with the humans with the space with the environment with the reality in the moment in which You're trying to be creative or disruptive, right? And so it, there has to be some form of experimental engagement.

There's no coincidence that both of the things that Ian and I are most involved in right now are at the lab at the end,  

[00:44:53] Mickey Bharat: right? The  

[00:44:54] Jason Frasca: emergent futures lab, the mix lab at the university, right there, they are. They are, both literal and conceptual spaces to experiment and engage and probe with right questions or materials or education, whatever it might be.

But it requires a doing. It requires a talking, it requires these dialogues like Mickey we've often referred to the conversations that we had with you over the last 12, 18 months in, which has pushed us and evolved us to just talking to people is a form of engagement and probing and experimenting, it comes in all forms, but it's never going to happen in our heads.

[00:45:41] Mickey Bharat: So is it like three bullet points you can offer the audience?  

[00:45:46] Iain Kerr: Yeah, like the one thing I would add to what Jason's saying that would be so maybe bullet point one that Jason, you're saying is you got to do a lot more than sit back and ideate. You got to get out in the world. The key technique to try out and do in your daily life all the time and that doing is.

Disclosing and blocking and experimenting, like, how are things done? Don't do it that way. Now find what's the underlying thing that it's about. Can you do it another way? Once you figured out another way, can you block that and do it yet another way? Can you block all of those and do it another way?

And the more like that becomes part of your daily life. Where it's like, what if I, make rice, but I don't use heat a lot of heat what new things will happen. And just like Jason saying at that moment, you've got to do things like you might have a thought, like a hunch and intuition that starts it.

But then you start, I don't know, grinding the rice or pounding it and you're trying it and that gives you a new thing. And that leads you further. And this is what. Jason's meaning by like co evolving.  

[00:47:05] Mickey Bharat: Yeah.  

[00:47:05] Iain Kerr: It's one thing's leading to the next, and if you know what you're not trying to do, it's going to lead you in a new way.

And these things all sound like big, fancy, crazy ideas till you start doing them. And once it comes in your daily life. And I think cooking is a great place to experiment, but something that you do all the time, you can disclose, you can block. Then you block what you did and you  

[00:47:29] Mickey Bharat: block,  

[00:47:30] Iain Kerr: block, get really good.

And so the three points would be do disclose, block, experiment, repeat.  

[00:47:37] Mickey Bharat: I think what I'm going to ask you now is. Let's See we can help this land better with the audience Can you share an example of a project? Or work where you push the boundaries of traditional thinking and what was the outcome?

I think that might help the audience land what you're just saying.  

[00:47:56] Iain Kerr: Yeah, we you know, we've done a number of projects I was thinking of like we we worked with the New Jersey Transit, and which is one of the largest transit organizations in North America. And the project was to help them start to rethink how they do things.

And and we started by taking key people from all over the organization. We brought them in. And we did a month, many month long version of this, of disclosing what are the underlying ways you do things from macro scale to micro scale, let's block these, let's go back out into the system.

Let's pay attention to it. What are unintended possibilities? How can you reconfigure things? and, and then in that they're bringing back these, this thinking into the system itself. Like the, method of creativity and doing, but then they're also developing really interesting alternative possibilities like concrete things, like it turned out, for example, they imagined that their trains were crowded, in rush hour commutes, but it turns out that they're, not crowded in, the sense, like that, the whole train is packed.

But that when you get to New York City, you want to be in the car that's right beside the stairs.  

[00:49:42] Mickey Bharat: All right.  

[00:49:43] Iain Kerr: So everybody is actually organizing themselves to get off the train.  

And and it turns out that most of those people are on the train for 15 minutes, so they don't need an actual seat.

People didn't want to see it. So they were redesigning the train cars for the future, but just like with better seats.  

And then in this kind of blocking and experimenting and this is just like one of the smaller examples that's very tangible, they realized that they can actually reorganize like the typologies of space in the train.

So you know, if people are standing and if you could plug in and what have you, and, You can get a lot more people in comfortably in one part than the longer commuters would be in another part. People would flow in and out of New York better. And you'd have the thing people want, as a North star and you're you're experimenting, blocking, changing, and it was like illuminating to them to go through this process and then take these techniques back and redesign their own workflows.

The challenge, I'd say with this example. Is that when public services are radically underfunded for so long that it's like You can't solve it necessarily on one level of let's be more. Yeah  

[00:51:08] Mickey Bharat: It's that's a really cool example. Actually it's really interesting So did they end up building trains with more standing space?

Is that was the outcome  

[00:51:17] Iain Kerr: That was the proposal that went back the challenge here is like when you're like infrastructure has You Because it's a massive amount of money and it's a massive length of time.  

In a certain sense, like they were learning a bit too late. So the feedback loop has to go earlier.

So that was one of the big lessons they took away that they had to reconfigure their, They're planning innovation design process right such that they could get ahead of these things and they could use this as an example of why they need to do it.  

[00:51:54] Mickey Bharat: Interesting. Very good example. Thank you for that okay Got to start switching gears a little bit.

Question for you. What's one idea that experts in your field say that you disagree with both of you  

[00:52:09] Jason Frasca: that design thinking is Innovation and creativity. Okay. We've been accused many times of hating on design thinking and that's truly not the case whatsoever. But our point is that, design thinking comes at the end of the innovation creativity process, not at the beginning, because design thinking is still an ideation based model, and therefore it's still conservative by the idea.

The ideas in this case, And the arguments from design thinking practitioners that push back. I don't have the ideas. I'm talking to other people. I'm empathizing with others. But when we empathize with others, all we're doing is eliciting their ideas.  

And so it is still an ideation based approach.

methodology. We like to refer to design thinking as the best branded, it's the most well known, but it's not, it's never going to generate disruptive innovation. Now that said, really important to empathize and talk and co evolve with People and end users, but we feel that happens after the disclosing and the blocking and the following where we have uncovered this new space of opportunity that is truly unique and novel, right?

Then let's bring it down and back. Now, design thinking plays a role, right? And empathizing and co evolving and talking with people. And so that would be, I think, 1 area that we we tend to disagree with the majority in this space.  

[00:53:47] Mickey Bharat: Interesting interest. Okay. So who are your favorite people to follow in your field or are there any people in your field that you can follow?

[00:53:59] Iain Kerr: There are I mean we can follow the elephants

But there is a lot of there's a lot of really interesting people and i'd say they're like in the expanded space of our field So there's like When we say thinking's not in your head, there's a whole field of embodied cognition that looks like how we're embodied, engaged, active with the world.

And so like Evan Thompson, Varela, like these founding figures of that movement are really important to our work. There's also, we use a lot of evolutionary theory with this idea of blocking this is coming from how novelty emerges. And it's like Jason was saying the unintended potential of feathers which were growing for Dinosaurs to be sexy could keep eggs warm and they grew bigger and then the unintended potential eventually would be relating to flight.

So we look at Stephen Jay Gould and, and, people like that and so there's and then in philosophy, maybe one last one, there's like a lot of philosophers looking at processes. And how things how novelties generated through process one famous example would be like the french philosopher gilles deleuze And the book he wrote a thousand plateaus there's so many we're in love with other people and engaging with them and  

[00:55:40] Mickey Bharat: Sounds like you're very unique in what you're doing though.

Is that would I be right in saying that  

[00:55:45] Iain Kerr: definitely there is a growing movement though of more people who see creativity as environmental, ecological, emergent through relational dynamics, and management consultants, I would say, in general, who are much more interested in complex, adaptive systems that space is, those are our colleagues and collaborators.

[00:56:12] Mickey Bharat: Okay. I want to switch gears a little bit and talk a little bit about you and the work you do. What is Emergent Futures Lab and the work you're doing there? So let's talk a little bit about that.  

[00:56:25] Jason Frasca: So I think I can start, which would be that, we're a strategic innovation consultancy, and we, focus on two questions drive all our work, Mickey.

What is innovation? And how do you innovate? And so we're constant that, those two questions drive our newsletters, our workshops, the book. Our engagements with individuals like yourself, companies and beyond. So if we can tear apart and understand how creativity and innovation are truly taking place, outside of one's mind then we can.

Then we can use a model to truly disrupt and innovate. And, and so those are the, two driving forces behind, behind our work.  

[00:57:17] Mickey Bharat: So emergent futures lab is your company through which you offer your insights and workshops to help. Companies break through the innovation barrier if I could name it like that.

Okay. That's really interesting. Okay, cool. Okay. Then we're switching gears towards a little bit back to both of you. What's the favorite part of your job and maybe each of you can answer that separately.

[00:57:44] Jason Frasca: For me, it's just learning, right? Just there's whether we're being brought into transit systems, pharma, materials for, waterproofing, these are not any industries that I have experience in my prior lives and careers and There's this constant, learning of new fields and new potentialities and how they apply and connect to innovation, looking for examples in traditional media that's being written or spoken about in capitalistic, endeavors and so on and so forth.

And for me it's, really A platform for learning and being exposed to new. It's awesome. Ian, what about you?  

[00:58:46] Iain Kerr: The favorite part of my job is like how we're always, evolving. Like Jason and I together. And then with, like Jason was saying with the projects, if you went and asked us these questions last year, we, the general sense would be the same, but.

Like we've really we're every day, we're like talking, experimenting, working, and it's like, Oh, this is a better way to do that. Or, Oh, that piece is missing and there's that part of being working with someone like Jason, where every day something, you know, internally in a way in emergent futures lab, it's evolving, it's developing.

And it's It makes it really enjoyable to get up. And even though we're remote we're. A few hours apart. It's like we're in each other's living rooms or in each other's labs and we're just working through things, but it sounds like both of you,  

[01:00:00] Mickey Bharat: so it sounds like both of you on some sort of voyage of discovery.

And that's the key thing. And you're learning different things. That's really cool. Okay. I'm going to do a bit of a quick fire rapid round. Jason, what's your favorite book  

[01:00:17] Jason Frasca: of all time  

It's gotta be The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. Ian, what about you?  

[01:00:25] Iain Kerr: It would probably be The Thousand Plateaus by Deleuze and Guattari.

[01:00:29] Mickey Bharat: Awesome. Okay Ian, starting you. What is your favorite movie or show of all time?  

[01:00:35] Iain Kerr: Oh my god, so hard. I always like the next thing I'm watching, but I would say, and I, will probably regret it, but Tarkovsky's stalker.  

[01:00:47] Jason Frasca: Okay. Okay. Jason, what about you? For me? Super easy. The movie airplane. Okay.

Jason to you.  

[01:00:55] Mickey Bharat: What's your favorite meal? Sushi. Oh, okay. Ian  

[01:01:00] Iain Kerr: favorite meal is probably something I haven't had something totally some experimental thing.  

[01:01:09] Mickey Bharat: That's a, contradiction in some way. How can it be your favorite if you've never had it?  

[01:01:15] Iain Kerr: I'm always like, let's, this is where I love cooking and so it's always let's try something new.

What if we blocked this? What if we did that? Could we do it this way?  

[01:01:25] Jason Frasca: Let me tell a quick story about this real quick. Go ahead. We went to a pizzeria that had about 50 different toppings on it, Mickey. From pepperoni to gummy bears And so what we did in ian's very much into randomizing and the new right like he genuinely means this like eating something He's never had before right?

We put a rant we put we asked siri to pick a number one through fifty five times and it picked You know pepperoni, hot peppers, gummy bears, pistachio nuts. And I don't remember what the other thing was, broccoli, whatever. And the pizza came out and here they were like these melted gummy bears in the pizza and the cheese.

I have a picture of this and there Ian's eating this thing. And he's, loving it. And I go for me. No way, right?  

[01:02:16] Mickey Bharat: So funny. Thanks for sharing. Okay, favorite ian to your favorite song or album  

[01:02:25] Iain Kerr: John cage is four minutes and 33 seconds,  

[01:02:30] Mickey Bharat: okay Jason  

[01:02:32] Jason Frasca: i'm looking at six of them right now mickey It's hard to pick one, but i'll go with rage against the machines first album.

[01:02:37] Mickey Bharat: Awesome. Awesome. Okay. Thank you for that. Where can people go to learn more about you?  

[01:02:47] Jason Frasca: You can go to our website emergentfutureslab. com. There it is. Thanks. We've got, hundreds of articles on these topics and I think where we do our the, most consistent work is in our newsletter.

So every Friday morning we publish, Friday because morning is dependent upon where you're. In the world receiving it. But every Friday we publish a new newsletter where we are wrestling with these questions at a very deep, level, where we've been talking a lot about AI lately, relations, constraints, affordances, emergence.

Innovation processes. We have, we we incorporate a number of examples, that I think are, become quite relatable. And we do all the writing ourselves. So we're not we're not using AI to write our articles. That's one. And two Ian does the majority of the, of all these drawings.

So we have all these hand drawn imagery all over our website and in our newsletters each week where he's diagramming the processes. People ask who draws the images. And I always just say quickly, it's easy if they're good, they're Ian's, if they're bad, they're, they were mine.

You don't see many of mine because they just don't even make it right. This idea of engaging with the process that we're talking about Ian has taught me a number of things, but this would be one, right? Which is the drawing of it, right? And thinking through it in, not just in words, but in imagery and working through that.

And I think that really comes across in our work and people connect with it.  

[01:04:31] Mickey Bharat: You mentioned something just then, which I think I should ask you before we go into closing and it's dude, what's the rise of AI and technology? How do you see that in the role of human creativity? Is that going to impact it improve it?

Just a few words on that  

[01:04:47] Iain Kerr: it I think it has You know, there's a bunch of things and Jason was saying we wrote about it. I think one really important grounding thing is to just, is to understand the type of tool it is so it's not artificial intelligence. It's algorithmic mimicry it's, statistically looking at things that have been done to come up with some statistical next possibility.

It can be it can do really astonishing things. That we're just discovering and, this is like the, what else can it do part? And I think the intelligence part is totally oversold and misunderstood, but the other parts, I think are really astonishing and super interesting. And I'd kick it over to Jason.

[01:05:44] Jason Frasca: Yeah it's a co intelligence as opposed it is not much it again can be quite conservative because it's being drawn from what we as humans have created. It's there's nothing artificial about it. And it's and it's, maybe akin to what the book was, back at the Gutenberg press in terms of this new form of tapping into a collection of human knowledge and ideas.

But at, this point, it's a tool I think that we can use to support our work and further things and in interesting ways, but to rely on it as this new, external intelligence, I think is a mistake at this point. So last, part  

[01:06:37] Iain Kerr: I'd say on that's really important is I think, and this goes back to the education part we're saying, and the creativity paradox is we're interested in the genuinely new, what can't be thought, what can't be known.

AI just does what is known, what can be thought and this is where I think the, Kind of practices and process techniques that we're really interested in. They're not ones that AI will help us with. And I think this is the really important part. What we can do really well is focus on understanding that there's something like unknown since AI isn't intelligent.

You can't even pose that question at a meaningful level.  

[01:07:24] Mickey Bharat: So don't you think that the level of. I guess the quality and the depth of what AI returns in terms of against a query is so evolved that a lot of people who have not practiced creativity throughout their life are just going to see that as an intelligent being, how do you convince, how would you convince them that actually there's no intelligence in there,  

[01:07:53] Jason Frasca: That gets to an interesting question, right?

Like what, is new and, when is it new? If you've never heard of it before, it's new to you, right? Correct. And so, therefore it's novel and therefore it's new and therefore it could be worth in interesting in doing. But in we're in and I and Emergent Futures Lab, we are genuinely interested in the unprecedented.

And the genuinely novel and unique.  


[01:08:21] Mickey Bharat: so,  

you're looking for beyond AI now.  

[01:08:25] Jason Frasca: Yeah.  

[01:08:25] Iain Kerr: And and I think that's the, that's a really important part is like AI helps or works in a space of known things and we're interested in the emergent that's not knowable because it doesn't exist yet.

It's not that it's unknown. It's not there so there can be no knowledge yet And you're co emerging with that knowledge. Got it.  

[01:08:49] Mickey Bharat: Got it  

[01:08:50] Iain Kerr: And that's what's really important here I  

[01:08:52] Mickey Bharat: think the interesting thing there is I guess all these things exist, but are not known to humans and it's the discovery process so if you think about what we create You know, I guess it existed.

It's just that we've managed to connect with it For the first time and do something with it. Would that be what would you say to that?  

[01:09:14] Iain Kerr: I think we got to go further and it's like there are genuine things that never existed  

And they came into being  


once they came into being they changed everything  

[01:09:26] Mickey Bharat: got it and  

[01:09:27] Iain Kerr: that it's irreversible There's you know, which is say there's genuine novelty and there's the new is possible And it's not just discovering things that are already out there, but we can't see them yet  

[01:09:41] Mickey Bharat: Yeah  

[01:09:44] Iain Kerr: We're we're creators.

Realities creative and new is happening.  

[01:09:50] Mickey Bharat: Yeah. Okay, cool so what can people expect from you next?  

[01:09:56] Jason Frasca: I think the next big thing that we're working on for fourth quarter is starting to deliver some digital versions of, our our approaches, our methods faci many facilitators reach out to us for how they can incorporate these approaches in their work.

So it'll be some facilitation, content digital content, workshops. What is creativity? A an online version of the course sort of thing. We've got I think five planned for fourth quarter.  

[01:10:33] Mickey Bharat: Awesome.  

[01:10:33] Jason Frasca: And we're really excited to, answer the call.

That we've been asked countless times over the last  

[01:10:43] Mickey Bharat: few years. Okay. What is one final thought that you'd like to leave with our listeners?  

[01:10:50] Iain Kerr: I would say trust the process, try blocking things, be more experimental. The new is possible. Get out of your heads.  

[01:11:02] Mickey Bharat: Do you concur with that, Jason?

Oh yeah,  

[01:11:04] Jason Frasca: completely. Absolutely. I think  

[01:11:06] Mickey Bharat: that's a wonderful  

[01:11:07] Jason Frasca: place  

[01:11:07] Mickey Bharat: to end. Is there anything we haven't covered that you'd like to say before we close out?  

[01:11:13] Jason Frasca: No, I can't think of anything. I've really enjoyed this you know good probing questions I like the the spontaneity of this mickey is it was a wonderful conversation I think we covered a lot of ground today.

[01:11:25] Mickey Bharat: Awesome. Awesome. And how can listeners support you and your work? I  

[01:11:31] Iain Kerr: think the big thing What's sign up for our newsletter. It's free. Like Jason was saying, all those parts you get from it.  

[01:11:41] Mickey Bharat: Yeah.  

[01:11:43] Iain Kerr: The other thing, if you're really interested in what we're doing, reach out to us, we'd love to talk to you.

We also have a book we wrote that you can see on our website, emergentfeatureslab. com, which is really great book. And then. I think that's the best  

[01:12:01] Mickey Bharat: i'll have all those we'll get all the information And put it in the podcast notes and anybody who's listening. It doesn't have to write this down We'll have it all listed out below the links the books Etc.

So we'll get that in into the podcast notes and finally what was your favorite part of your episode? Of this episode, should I say,  

[01:12:22] Jason Frasca: I, like I like your weaving of getting to know people in and out of this conversation, Mickey I think that's unique. And I think actually you asking those questions reveals a bit about you too.

So I enjoyed it quite a bit.  

[01:12:38] Mickey Bharat: Awesome. Awesome. Ian, what about you?  

[01:12:41] Iain Kerr: I, I am imagining, like a series. Where jason just talks about eggs and just you know, jason was saying like the personal part's really great and just getting thinking about this. It's like It's definitely there now  

[01:13:00] Mickey Bharat: Okay.

Thank you. First of all, I want to say thank you to our audience for listening in today I want to say thank you to both our guests both ian and jason for a very enlightening discussion And I want to say thank you for taking my impromptu questions Which We never planned so good on you there.

It's been a true pleasure to have you on the show. I hope all of you watching enjoy the show or listening on the podcast platforms, enjoy the show, please. Don't forget to subscribe and hit reminders to the hidden heroes of tech on YouTube. And you'll get the full video here on an audio all the major podcast platforms, please get in touch with Jason and Ian.

I think they've got something unique going on and I look forward to seeing the next episode and this is Mickey signing off and saying bye bye from on behalf of myself, Jason and Ian, thank you very much for joining.

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