In this section we might highlight an upcoming event, whether that's one we're hosting/organizing, or one at which our consultants might be speaking. And of course provide a link so people can sign up.
At the 2010 Cre8Camp in Portland Oregon I facilitated a conversation about what it means to be a modern renaissance person. It was an interesting and informative conversation overall.
We talked about what it meant to be a renaissance man historically, how modern renaissance people differ from the historical model, peoples personal experiences as ‘renaissance’ types in the modern world, what it means and how to enact it. One of the things I find most interesting is that it’s impossible to really be a renaissance person because the renaissance is long past. In another few hundred years they will look back upon our time and see a few geniuses and label them something…but it probably wont be ‘renaissance person’.
The group offered these characteristics of the original renaissance men:
They had patrons
Multiple or spectrum of talents
They spanned what we now define as arts and science
Outside the box
Then the group added these characteristics for the modern ‘renaissance’ person:
Specialist in 3 to 4 fields
Jack of all trades (variety of box oriented things)
Understanding their capacities
After hearing stories from many of the audience members some themes showed up about being a modern creative (possible renaissance type person):
Corporate structure is detrimental.
Some people are able to get more done and sleep less (this is an advantage).
We are aggressive learners and like to be constantly stimulated; which is great and dangerous in a world where information is endless and fascinating (both an advantage and a disadvantage simultaneously) and runs the risk of keeping you from ever producing anything because we spend our time learning everything.
It’s challenging to sell “new” (just learned and good) skills when people expect expertise only from years of experience.
We are able to identify a huge list of things we don’t want to, or can’t, learn.
It’s so easy to dabble in many things how do you differentiate yourself as a skillful modern renaissance person?
We are largely sole proprietors and entrepreneurs…some by choice and some because there is no other way to function in the world.
It’s challenging to sell yourself when you have a non-traditional skill set mix.
The finale of the conversation was determining how to be effective as a modern renaissance person:
Find a balance between intake (learning) and output (creating).
PASSION is KEY in everything you do.
2-4 areas of high level specialized skill based on your passion (with the understanding that some skill sets will become obsolete or outdated and may need to be replaced)
Don’t be too humble…you got to get your stuff (whatever it is) out there for people to see…get a portfolio.
In the end the title is unimportant. What is important is that you CREATE, CREATE, CREATE. Once you have mastered some skills well enough to execute them effectively use them to make stuff. Then cross pollinate your skill sets and make stuff that others haven’t made before.
To all who were involved in the conversation, Thank you. It was most enjoyable.
Apples or Oranges? Solve it with Janusian Thinking!
By Remo Nuzzolese
Janus was the first God in ancient Rome, worshipped hundreds of years before Christianity, he was probably the most important of all deities that populated the roman Pantheon. Janus, or Ianus in latin, was The Creator, God of beginnings and transitions, he presided doors, bridges, new enterprises and he is still giving his name to the first month of the year, January. He embodied elements of change and movement and because these are bidirectional, the God was symbolized with a two-faced head with the two faces looking at opposite directions, able to oversee past and future, left and right, in and out, two different states at the same time.
From here, Janusian Thinking, which is the ability to integrate conflicting elements with a unifying thought giving birth to a new idea that is coherent with the original elements and wider than them.
Many great thinkers in history have proven to – consciously or not – think and create in a Janusian way in the fields of science, politics and the arts: Einstein’s relativity theory, Louis Pasteur’s vaccine, Escher’s paradoxical images and the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile are just a few well known examples: a falling object can be perceived as steady, a poison can be its own remedy, a stream of water that falls as it ascends a tower, and so on…
Even easier to recognize it in some popular commercials: “Tough on Dirt - Gentle on Fabrics (Whirlpool Washers)”, “Bet You Can’t Say No to Yes (Dannon Yogurt)” and “Devilishly Good Taste, 90 Saintly Calories (Baskin Robbins Ice Cream).
Religions and spirituality are full of examples of opposing coexisting forces: God and Evil, Nirvana and Samsara and then we have this beautiful symbol, the Tao that integrates Ying and Yang, opposite energies functioning simultaneously as a unified larger principle.
So, how do we relate Janusian thinking to creativity and problem solving? We already know that creativity is also about connecting elements that are distant, putting things together in a new way to develop an original product. Now, imagine how much stronger and radical the answer to a problem would be if it could solve the original problem and its opposite. Janusian thinking is about increasing the complexity of a situation and use it to find more opportunities, is about thinking holistically in terms of AND rather than EITHER-OR without creating a separation between elements that are really not apart and refusing false trade-off between factors that can be integrated in one solution.
Next time you are facing a difficult problem that presents conflicting elements, imagine which are the commonalities, in which wider frame can you include both elements? It’s like being able to choose apples, oranges and the basket too.
These are some of the authors that I researched to write this post; you can easily Google them to dive deep in their interesting literature:
“Creativity is innate. You either have it, or you don’t!”
Part of the work we do at Innovation Bound is bust myths like these, and one of our favorite myths, that has percolated more recently, is the notion that collaboration is bad for innovation, and that true breakthroughs are made solo. Why would the individual, group, or crowd be “the best medium for innovation?” Powerful innovations have resulted from all three of these, and context (the challenge at hand, available resources, et cetera) clearly plays a critical role. We dug a little deeper and came to an interesting challenge: How can groups have effective fair collaborations that are not dominated by strong personalities and extroverted behavior?
A Quiet Idea Generation Tool
The solution we’ve found most effective is an exercise called Brainwriting. It is a powerful way to quickly generate and build on one another’s ideas. Here’s how it’s done:
Take a few sheets of paper and draw Tic-Tac-Toe grids on them, so that each sheet is divided up into nine boxes.
Hand one of these sheets to each participant.
Assuming you’ve already phrased a challenge for which to generate solutions, have each participant write out three ideas for solutions; one in each of the top three boxes.
As participants finish, they can place their sheets in the center of the table, and take sheets other participants have placed in the center.
With a new sheet in hand, top row filled out, participants should build on each of the three ideas in the top row, and write down the new ideas in the second row.
Repeat this process until all nine boxes on all of the sheets are filled out.
If you need more ideas, you can use larger grids. Participants can build on each others ideas very directly, or just be “inspired by” the other ideas on the sheet. You can also do the exact same exercise on a Google Spreadsheet live online from different geographical locations.
Doing the work that we do has shown us time and time again that there is always a way to overcome obstacles, to tackle challenges, and to reach our goals. Don’t let common myths get in your way.
The style of brainwriting described in our article is adapted from the original developed by Professor Bernd Rohrbach in 1968.
We thank Bruce Campbell for his elegant sculpture: Untitled (Nervous System).
Ask Siri what time it is or ask Google for today’s weather and you’ll get what you need. Punch a mathematical expression into a calculator and you’ll almost never be let down. Computers are incredibly precise and reliable when it comes to these types of tasks.
"Hey Siri, why doesn’t my girlfriend like my paintings anymore?"
"Apple doesn’t tell me everything you know."
On the other hand, there is a world of tasks computers are terrible at resolving. Why the stark difference? Will computers ever be able to understand art or be creative? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Two Types of Problems
Let’s divide our world of problems into two types. Firstly, there are problems that have a definitive answer, or multiple definitive answers. For example: Nine is divisible by which numbers? The answers are one, three and nine. The wonderful thing about these types of problems is that resolving them can be broken down into a simple sequence of steps, a procedure or a program. That’s why computers are so great at solving them. You just run the program and it spits out the answers, often at a remarkably fast pace. It’s incredible how sophisticated these algorithms, programs, have gotten and how powerful they can be. My favorite example of this type of ingenuity is IBM’s Watson.
There is a second set of problems we deal with in our lives, and these problems have no definitive answer. They are entrenched in context, deal with changing variables or unknown factors. It is either more difficult or not useful to solve these problems by taking a prescribed set of steps to reach a conclusion. The solution is often contextual, transient, or mysterious unto itself. How to write an inspiring story or make a beautiful painting? How to choreograph a dance that will dazzle an audience? We come across these challenges in the arts but also in business. Which marketing campaign will succeed? Which logo best represents our brand? So far, computers have not been very successful in this realm. The realm of the creativity.
The Heartbeat of Creativity
When we look at this second set of challenges, and observe humans that are solving these types of problems (writers, musicians, marketeers), we find them leveraging their imagination. We find them using their creativity. So, what is Creativity? Creativity has a collection of definitions, many of which highlight two factors: Novelty and value. Something which is creative has an element of novelty, or newness, and an element of value, or utility.
When a musician writes a new song lyric or when an inventor sets out to design something she considers hundreds of possibilities before converging on an appropriate option. A marketing team generates a huge number of ideas before investing the time and resources to develop a campaign for its potential customers. The next time our musician writes or our inventor innovates, they will begin again by diverging on all possibilities before converging onto the most appropriate choice. This oscillation of divergence and convergence is what I like to call the “Heartbeat of Creativity.” There is a huge volume of scholarly articles on this pattern of divergence and convergence with respect to the psychology of human creativity.
This pattern shows up in another place that is significant to our original question of whether computers can be creative: Evolution. In evolution divergence happens in the variance produced by reproduction and mutation, then convergence happens when the environment selects the varieties most suitable for survival. Evolution, like the creative mind, is constantly diverging on possibilities and converging on the most appropriate options.
What About Computers?
Let’s return to our original question: Can computers be creative?
I see hope. Pandora is a music website that curates music for you based on your and other users’ preferences. Often times Pandora plays a song for you that you’ve never heard before (novelty) and that you’re likely to enjoy (value). Choosing music that you will enjoy is certainly the type of challenge with an indefinite, transient and contextual solution. What about the creative process of divergence and convergence? That too, is beginning to make it into modern algorithms and programs. Take a look at the science behind Watson and see if you can spot the divergence and the convergence.
It seems to me that psychologists are beginning to better understand human creativity, and that engineers are beginning to learn to program it into computers. Perhaps the next great generation of artists will be made of silicon.
A senior leader at a luxury apparel designer wanted to revitalize her team and create greater creative collaboration with other areas of the organization. An innovation event and a period of coaching served as the mechanisms by which the team identified key goals and obstacles and implemented a plan that lead to greater effectiveness and employee satisfaction.