Welcome to Emerging Futures -- Vol 6! Farewell to Ideas...
This week we’ve been digging into Ideas — specifically, how did they come to be at the center of our models of creativity and innovation?
For many, the answer is “because it works” — we saw some of this in response to our post this week comparing innovation models. But, this is rarely, if ever, the answer to why anything exists — given that there are so many different ways that “work” to do anything. The reason we are doing one over another has to be something else.
It is also clear if we look at common definitions of creativity that ideas play a very central role in how we define and practice creativity/innovation:
And if we do an image search — we also see variations of ideation images:
Heads, brains, thinking, ideation, light bulbs…
We then looked at the core process of many leading methods of innovation:
You quickly see that Ideation (the development of a big clear articulable vision) is at the heart of all of these models and that all of these models roughly follow the same process. (And, yes — we understand that we have simplified these models and the process of innovation. We are trying to show that, based on what these approaches state their core method is, ideation is critical and they all follow in general very similar steps).
That our most common methods of innovation follow a similar pattern cannot be an accident.
To get at this, on Monday we published an article that provided a brief genealogy of Ideas: Where did your Big Ideas come from?
The question is not an academic one — it matters to know how and why something evolved and developed.
The short answers to ‘where did ideas come from?”:
And right here we have the genesis of why we say today at the beginning of a creative process: “What is your big idea?”
Put simply it is the process that we see most current models of innovation following:
When we evaluate the modern models of creativity and innovation – from Design Thinking and beyond – each follows this same linear model:
The only difference between them is that the first step is changed.
Why this matters:
Despite this knowledge our historical habits persist — with ideation we are still mistakenly looking for unchanging essences, fixed mind-based ideas and near complete blueprints — and in doing so fail to see how reality all around us is complex, highly interdependent, historically contingent, operating in a bottom-up, and profoundly creative manner — with novelty emerging spontaneously where least expected.
Not at all. Thinking — at least for us humans is critical to innovation (slime molds on the other hand are very creative without brains or thoughts). Thinking, sensing, feeling — this covers a very broad range of activity — all of which is critical to creativity.
And novel ideas do eventually emerge during the creative process -- but they come much later, and work as one tool embedded in a process, and are never of a fixed form.
The big problem is:
Assuming that creativity involves needing a big idea at the beginning of the process and
Imagining that this idea is a plan that if carried out successfully will result in novelty.
This model of innovation is untenable. This family of models of innovation are untenable.
This led us to ask these questions this week:
What was wonderful was that many of you pointed out different models and possibilities:
Jan Graf: “I found it exciting that despite the long list, not a single framework started with konsequent "Probe" or "Act". With a view to the CYNEFIN framework (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynefin_framework) and also with an honest look at the history and development history of many breakthrough innovations, this is perhaps the even more recommendable approach in today's hyper-complex or almost chaotic times. Design acting instead of months of design thinking?”
There is much to be said for such an alternative:
Probe, Sense, Respond
Notice how it does not follow from Ideate, Plan, Make -- this is because the model is coming from an alternative paradigm of creativity. And we strongly believe that the answer to the problem with all of these models and this process is that we have the wrong paradigm of creativity.
The way out of the limits of the “Creativity = Ideation” model is to abandon the paradigm.
We need to step out of the model that:
“Creativity is a trait and ability of an individual (who typically displays originality, imagination, and expressiveness) to produce or develop original work, theories, techniques, or thoughts.” (APA Psychology Dictionary)
With its focus on humans and ideas, and move to a framework that sees: Creativity as a worldly phenomenon in which genuine novelty emerges — and one that humans, amongst others, can actively participate.
Contrary to the common understanding – creativity is not an exclusively human activity and when it involves us — it is still more-than-human.
Once we make this paradigm shift to a non-anthropocentric creativity – new worlds of possibilities open up to us that connect us to other fields:
For us the answer to the question: is there a world beyond brainstorming & ideation?
Yes there is – and it is a paradigm shift.
Next week we will be laying out more of what this entails. You can jump ahead by looking at our website: Innovation Design Approach or by grabbing a copy of our book: Innovating Emergent Futures.
Oliver Ding, wrote a great post on the book this week, saying:
“From my perspective, Innovating Emergent Futures is the first book which challenges the traditional design thinking mindset with ideas such as Affordance, Autopoiesis, and other new ideas from emergent embodied cognition philosophy.
This is a good sign of a new knowledge transformation for designers and innovation thinkers from the practical side. We need more and more practitioners to adopt theoretical concepts for reflecting on practical concepts and daily routines. A new theoretical concept gives us a new perspective to view the world and guides us to find a new way to discover new insights!
In order to create a new world, we need to escape from the old frame and reframe our view in a new perspective. Then, we will see the new picture of the future.
Welcome to the zone of emergent future!”
Well — that's exactly what we are into doing — and we hope we can collaborate and invent this together!
That’s it for this issue! Special thanks to the new collaborators and co-conspirators we met this week. We remain inspired by you!
Till next week we stand alongside,
Iain and Jason
Emergent Futures Lab
We’re How You Innovate