Definition of Emergence

What is Emergence?

Process of Innovation comes about not via some mysterious or mystical internal process but via the relational process of emergence. Emergence is always more than and different than the sum of the parts... which shapes who you are. It is a form of non-linear and non-incremental change (change in degree). Emergence: This process is the key to all forms of creativity that avoid the N+C Paradigm. It is how something seems to emerge from “nothing”. It is the process by which the new emerges from the old.

Emergence is the technical term for a process of coming into being that exceeds and supersedes its inputs.

Smaller events/components come in unpredictable manners that are irreducible to the logic of the component parts.

“Emergence denotes the presence of properties, features, behaviors, or capacities that appear in systems but are not easily traceable to their component parts.” (Tomlinson).

This quality of “not being easily traceable to a specific source” becomes the definition of emergence.

In the most simple terms - itʼs a process by which things emerge that are:

1. Greater than the sum of their parts.
2. Irreducible to their parts. And...
3. Make their own parts.

History of Emergence

Emergence is a concept from the field of complexity science where what emerges — the new — the whole is different and is greater than the sum of its parts

It is a non-linear process where what emerges cannot be traced back to a single cause.

It is a process where the innovative outcome is caused by the whole in an irreducible manner.

Examples of Emergence

There are many examples of emergence all around us -- that we are conscious beings -- is a classical example of emergence. Consciousness is something that requires having a brain, but is irreducible to the brain, and it changes the brain.

Why does this matter for creativity? We so often understand making as a processes of addition. We add parts together and get a whole (Think of how we assembled things with Lego as a child). Here the parts make the whole and the whole can be taken back apart and each part can be analyzed to understand the whole. This is a reductive  model of making. We can reduce the final product to the parts and the process. Cars can be built this way. But the genuinely new does not come about in this manner.

Read More About Emergence

For more, navigate to our complete list of articles on emergence for innovation.

on What Is Innovation, and How to Innovate

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