Welcome to Emerging Futures — Volume 55! Move Differently and the Mind Will Follow...
Good morning those who are moved and can shake. We are coming to you today from the wonderful darkness of the early morning hours. It is night and the morning is a distant country across an ocean. The sky is bright with stars, the air crisp and it calls one out of bed to come stand under it to breathe in the night and walk with the fading stars.
We had a busy week preparing for and doing a virtual presentation in Ireland to the IRDG on early stage innovation. Long story short — the deep work gave us time to reflect in a very concise way.
The outcome of this is a shorter but pithier newsletter this week.
Last week in the newsletter we looked in detail at how change happens. We presented an approach that bypasses mystical concepts and grounds one in processes.
It was a detailed look at a set of processes that are often referred to as Feedforward processes. For us, these processes offer a direct response to the general assumption that change begins in the mind as a type of grand conversion— a Saul on the road to Damascus kind of moment: “…in a single individual it can happen in a millisecond. All it takes is a click of the mind, a falling of the scales from the eyes, a new way of seeing…”
Often when we present these Feedforward processes as a more practical and effective way to engage with change making we hear the response:
That is really insightful, but nothing will change until people change their minds about things.
The present system will not change easily, you need to first establish that the new conventions are superior to the old.
These two responses represent a powerful implicit cultural pattern of how we frame where change must begin.
The fundamental assumption immanent in this approach is: change your mind and everything will follow.
And the second is that: people make calculated rational decisions — they need to see and understand things clearly and then if the new is rationally superior and well articulated they will change their minds and things will happen.
It is a deeply seated cultural trope: change only happens via rational mystical conversion of the mind.
But, none of this is true, and it profoundly gets in the way of engaging with creative processes.
We know that humans are not rational calculating agents and that well presented knowledge is not fundamental in changing people's actions. We could present vast troves of data on this, but it would still miss the critical issue for the development of the new:
These models assume that at the very beginning when the new emerges that it can be clearly articulated, known and evaluated. But when something new first emerges it will defy recognition and knowing. This is not primarily because it is so radical and totally novel that it exceeds our conceptual categories. While this is certainly logically true, and a critical concern, the new when it first emerges will be trivial and not that different.
The new does not begin big. There are no angels to announce it, there is no eureka moment, the heavens do not open up and all things are not revealed in an instant. No, the new begins long before that — those moments, if they come at all, are late, very late in the process.
The new is made, and it becomes radical only in the process. When the new diverges from what exists it is first exactly the same as what exists — but being used differently in some unintended manner — it is the old being co-opted in some tentative provisionally different manner (see last week's newsletter on this). To look at it or think about it at this moment would be to see and conceptualize the old. If we were to follow clear conscious thinking at this moment we would be pulled back into the old. We need to implicitly trust the process (or what most often happens we unintentionally stumble through a process). Knowing and focusing on the know radically curtail this phase of the process.
It is not an instantaneous process. Even for those who present the process as being about more than magical human thinking it is all to often presented as a moment of profound insight and that everything follows from this moment:
“A scientist working on the early development of radar notices while standing in front of it that the chocolate bar in his pocket is melting and voila the microwave is born.”
In these kinds of examples it is still the genius of human thinking and recognition that matters: the claim is that while the scientist did not make the new — he did recognize it and that “spark” or recognition is what mattered.
It is important to realize that this is still the same model: change your mind — open your mind, and everything will follow.
But — this is not the case. It is the process that shapes the makers as well as what is made. Your mind is changed by the process. The doing is the agent of change.
We would push this further, to escape the endless chicken vs egg arguments (is it the spark or the thing?): it is not simply that your mind is changed by the process — your mind is made by the process as the very same process is making the novel “thing”. (See: Processes begin in the Middle).
Rather than saying you need to change your mind and everything will follow. We prefer to say:
Follow and everything will change including your mind.
And in regards to ideas — they do matter, they matter quite a bit — but they too emerge from the process:
No ideas but in the making
The Gordian Knot of changing minds is a distraction from fully joining creative processes. There is nothing that needs to be untied, we can cut it and move on.
What are we cutting when we cut this Gordian Knot?
We are leaving behind the God Model of “creativity from the outside”. The God Model — a model that has been around so long that it is immanent in so much is one that assumes that everything begins in the mind (of God) and then it is made real. That ideas can be imposed on a passive reality and bend and mold it in its image.
The anthropologist Marshall Salins summed this up well, saying that our now natural model of making is:
“a “heroic model of creation” involving the imposition of form upon inert matter by an autonomous subject, whether god or mortal, who commands the process by pre-established plan or purpose. This scheme of action is a combination of ingrained individualism and a naturalistic materialism. It rests upon two interdependent premise: the preponderance of an individualized intentional agent as the cause of the coming-to-be of beings and things, and the radical difference between the ontological status of the creator and that of what he produces.”
We could make a list of these concepts:
So what do we do? We build with others in a co-emergent manner specific context relevant environments, tools and processes to foster the production and adaptation of novelty.
These will utilize:
This approach is so far from our classical approach to creativity that it takes great effort. But we can start in really simple and accessible ways: Start by doing something you always do, but block some key aspect of this. Here is an example of this process:
What to see something like this in action? El Bulli: Cooking in Progress.
Over the last six weeks we have been writing on Processes, and reading these through from the bringing is helpful:
Well, the sun is up and the sound of jets and movement now crowds into this moment of writing. We leave you — take your time, try the experiments and follow what emerges — remember: no ideas but in making — let the process make you, even as you participate in making it. Follow the new…
Till next week,
Till Volume 56,
Jason and Iain
Emergent Futures Lab
We’re How You Innovate
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