Welcome to Emerging Futures — Volume 16! 2022 - the Year of Innovation and Creativity...
The New Year is almost upon us. It is a moment of transition and reflection on change, the complex passage of time, and what can emerge in the new year.
From the perspective of creativity it has been a strange year – a strange couple of years – and that is a good thing. Things have shifted, the space of possibility has been opened.
New questions are being asked – do we really want to go back to the old “normal”?
Different futures are possible — other worlds are possible.
The beginning of the new year is a moment to renew our sense of hope, possibility, and commitment to change.
This is the year to make your New Year’s resolutions include being more creative and innovative in all that you do – work, cooking, relationships, education, new projects, contributions to society, and the ecosystems that support us.
However, there are few concepts more fraught with cliches and so poorly understood as “creativity.” Our plan as we go into the new year is to offer a series of newsletter articles on alternative outlooks, practices and frameworks for creative processes over the next month. This week of the transition to the new year we are focusing on “what is a good general approach to engaging with creativity?”
Creative processes and invention should be approached with intentional practices that result in impact and change. Much like your fitness goals include a specified regimen, developing creative engagements should be no different.
Saying “I will be more creative” is a great and powerful start — but it is not enough. There is much more to it. One great place to start is with simple reminders — rules and lists can act as these great reminders.
This week we are sharing some of our favorite lists of “rules” for creativity.
But before we dig in, it is important to say: We can get caught up with rules — imagining that they are regulations, laws or the final word — “the truth” that must be not just followed — but obeyed.
This is not the case for us.
Lists of rules are a type of pragmatic tool. They are powerful reminders of how and why to do things. They are also things to test out. In this manner each statement is an experiment. Alfred North Whitehead defined a proposition as “a lure for feelings.” We are deeply touched by this — a proposition as something that draws you in to shift your sensibilities…
We have seven lists for you — it’s just the tip of the iceberg… We did compile a much longer list of famous “rules” but too much of a good thing in this case quickly becomes a morass of infinite knowledge.
These seven are ones we often turn to ourselves. For us they are reminders and starting points. Some have become part of our deepest habits and everyday speech: “consider everything an experiment…”, “begin anywhere” or “allow events to change you…”
As helpful as these might be, we are always rewriting them — shifting what they stress and how they might push us. We suggest you do the same:
Mix them, rewrite them, and develop alternatives. Print them. Write out your favorite ones. Pin them atop your favorite software. Write them in your journal or agenda. Hang them on your wall. No matter your preference – make them visible. Read them often. Be reminded of how you want to go. This list will help you get there in unexpected ways.
For us, this is where we always begin with rules. Sister Corita Kent was a truly brilliant artist and educator (you can find out more about her here: Sister Corita Kent). These rules were created as part of a project for a class she taught in 1967-1968. It was subsequently appropriated as the official art department rules at the college of LA’s Immaculate Heart Convent, her alma mater. These rules are also associated with John Cage and his partner Merce Cunningham. Cage changed the title and modified rule number ten (removing his name and changing quantities to qualities). This last change of his own quote is quite profound and exactly what we mean by continuously rewriting these rules.
Some Rules for Students and Teachers
RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.
RULE TWO: General duties of a student — pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.
RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher — pull everything out of your students.
RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.
RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.
RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.
RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.
RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
RULE TEN: “We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” (John Cage)
* Cage version: We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X qualities.
HINTS: “Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything — it might come in handy later.”
–Sister Corita Kent
The designer Bruce Mau came up with a list that is in dialog with Sister Corita Kent and John Cage. Again the title is important — here it is about “growth” and before it was about learning and teaching. We pretty much use all of these in one way or another.
ALLOW EVENTS TO CHANGE YOU: You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
FORGET ABOUT GOOD: Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.
PROCESS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUTCOME: When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
LOVE YOUR EXPERIMENTS (AS YOU WOULD AN UGLY CHILD): Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
GO DEEP: The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
CAPTURE ACCIDENTS: The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
STUDY: A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.
DRIFT: Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.
BEGIN ANYWHERE: John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
EVERYONE IS A LEADER: Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.
HARVEST IDEAS: Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.
KEEP MOVING: The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.
SLOW DOWN: Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.
DON’T BE COOL: Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
ASK STUPID QUESTIONS: Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
COLLABORATE: The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
____________________: Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.
STAY UP LATE: Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
WORK THE METAPHOR: Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.
BE CAREFUL TO TAKE RISKS: Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.
REPEAT YOURSELF: If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.
MAKE YOUR OWN TOOLS: Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
STAND ON SOMEONE’S SHOULDERS: You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.
AVOID SOFTWARE: The problem with software is that everyone has it.
DON’T CLEAN YOUR DESK: You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.
DON’T ENTER AWARDS COMPETITIONS: Just don’t. It’s not good for you.
READ ONLY LEFT-HAND PAGES: Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”
MAKE NEW WORDS: Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.
THINK WITH YOUR MIND: Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
ORGANIZATION = LIBERTY: Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a ‘charming artifact of the past.’
DON’T BORROW MONEY: Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.
LISTEN CAREFULLY: Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
TAKE FIELD TRIPS: The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.
MAKE MISTAKES FASTER: This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.
IMITATE: Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.
SCAT: When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.
BREAK IT, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.
EXPLORE THE OTHER EDGE: Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.
COFFEE BREAKS, CAB RIDES, GREEN ROOMS: Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.
AVOID FIELDS: Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.
LAUGH: People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.
REMEMBER: Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE: Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.
adrienne maree brown is social justice facilitator and designer who is doing great things that we really admire. We read her book Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds when it came out in 2017 and have incorporated it into many of our classes. This list (Spells and Practices for Emergent Strategy) is too long and detailed to include. We strongly recommend getting her book and reading these closely.
In reviewing what has shaped our approach we pulled out one of our favorite books: Thought in the Act and came across this wonderful list by Erin Manning and Brian Massumi, and as we read to the end number 19 caught us: “Forget, again!”
Enjoy the list, pay attention to their really careful use of language, and don’t forget to forget (again and again)...
FOR THOUGHT IN THE ACT
0. Practice immanent Critique
1. Construct the conditions for a speculative pragmatism
2. Invent techniques of relation
3. Design enabling constraints
4. Enact thought
5. Give play to affective tendencies
6. Attend to the body
7. Invent platforms for relation
8. Embrace failure
9. Practice letting go
10. Disseminate seeds of process
11. Practice care and generosity impersonally, as event-based political virtues
12. If an organization ceases to be a conduit for singular events of collective becoming, let it die
13. Brace for chaos
14. Render formative forces
15. Creatively return to chaos
16. Play polyrhythms of relation
17. Explore new economies of relation
18. Give the gift of giving
19. Forget, again!
This one is a real deviation from our focus on lists for creativity and innovation. But, creativity is a relational process. Creative processes and practices are always connected to many other engagements and events. This list of design principles for the Commons is a critical one for imagining alternative futures. It is a radical prompt for alternative ways to organize who we are and what we do. Ostrom won the Nobel Prize for this work (really the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel — there is no Nobel Prize in Economics). She is the only woman and only non economist to win this award.
We just made up that title — Tim — we hope it's ok by you? Tim is one of our regular discussants on LinkedIn and this is the great list that he shared:
1. SHARE – let more into creative pursuits- reject lone wolf artist image + tendencies
2. EXPERIMENT with online communities
3. UNBUTTON - everything is not so serious
4. REJECT THE PRESSURE OF ORIGINALITY - see everything and everyone as special and precious - but not original - so forget it - just SAY OR DO OR MAKE whatever
5. More PURPOSEFUL ADMIRATION for people, their work, the world - to drive inspiration for all & consciously expand view of what's possible
6. SHOUT PRAISE - to 'permission' creators - tell the world to keep going ! -Only if it's authentic - don't blow smoke - This is also a way to learn to speak kindness (more often) to yourself - retrain dark voices - to keep you going !
7. EMBRACE THE ADD-ON – let others ‘finish’ the work b/c we often can’t quite get there, but someone else will see 'it' or something else
8. CALL OUT BULLIES shame & pain steal voices, prejudice steals platforms...we need everyone @ creative tables
9. LISTEN TO MORE TAYLOR SWIFT
10. BE WAY TOO MUCH - resist pressure to dial down art - less (off) limits - less editing -jump in -'add-on' -and enable others to
11. WHEN TAYLOR SWIFT IS WAY TOO MUCH listen to Lofi Girl
12. DON'T 'BUILD' TO ANYTHING - forget trying to 'be' anywhere in 5/10/15yrs - except alive , take 'accomplishment' out of it , dive into art & see where goes
13. QUIT JOYLESS PURSUITS - more time + peace to create, to be with your people, or to…?
We have been playing with this list over the last week. On Monday we posted it as “22 ways to be more creative” then we condensed this to ten concepts on Tuesday, now we have rewritten it one more time:
9 Propositions for Engaging with the Emergence of Novel Possibilities:
0. Treat your life as an experimental project: train oneself to limit moral, factual, or functional judgements so as to follow and be changed by what happens
0.1 Understand that ideation is not the genesis of novelty. Ideas are conservative tools that reference the known. Do not confuse thinking with ideation — making is thinking, and thinking is embodied and relational with an environment (thinking is not in your head it is always already emerging from the middle of an event
1. Embrace the creative process as a long, experimental and highly dynamic relational worldmaking process where the “outcome” cannot be known in advance because a truly novel future cannot be know until it comes into being
2. It follows from this that you should not solve problems before you invent them: this begins by developing constraints and new rules that break old frameworks and block the known at a deep level. From this begin by crafting probes into the unknown: perturb fields
3. Make new tools, assemblages and fields to generate the conditions for the emergence of novel fields of the possible
4. Always experiment with multiplying the effects: “what else can it do?”-- follow, magnify and stabilize aberrant novel effects to experimentally push things across thresholds into new qualitative states
5. Repeat processes and follow what becomes qualitatively different with each repetition of the process: move sideways and co-opt transversally in quantity
6. Embrace complexity, work at multiple scales and collaborate with others — especially more-than-human others
7. Commit to creativity as a force for the good — and be open to being radically surprised by what this might be
It's the end of the year! It’s time to celebrate!
A very happy new year to everyone! Here’s to a new year filled with creativity and hope.
Till Volume 17…
Jason and Iain
Emergent Futures Lab
We’re How You Innovate
📚 P.S.: If any of this resonates – check out our book Innovating Emergent Futures – where we take creativity and innovation all the way down the rabbit hole.
🏞 P.P.S.: Some of the drawings this week include some hard to see details. Here we offer you Volume 17 drawings in Hi-Resolution.
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