Making new connections, for real

Mostly the act of creativity is seen from the creator’s point of view. At the same time, the full creative process by definition does not take place in a vacuum; as creative experts acknowledge: everything is a remix. So how does (better) listening improve the creative process and outcomes?

Image for post
Image for post

Image by

Hearing is not the same as listening

As a long time practitioner and modest writer on creative processes, and with some capability to recognise my own weaknesses, I was triggered when I came across the notion of the importance of listening. Of course, everyone ‘listens’ to some extent. Or rather, everyone hears, but in many cases that is not the same as actual, deep, listening. Recognising this, I explored some relevant writings on the topic, including the book You’re not listening. …

In the emerging plethora of predictions about the near future of a world recovering from the corona-pandemic, many people seem to be very certain how this near future will unfold. I am not so sure. Especially if I see how their predictions seem to imply certainties that are not there, or ignore important implications that they did not seem to consider.

Limitations of binary predictions, and alternatives

Local vs Global. For example, scenarios from left to right use the current situation to stress what they “…said all along: the globalised society is evil, and we should stop it and start deglobalisation immediately.”. Meaning: go local all the way, support local farmers, stop importing. Call it the move to a circular, sustainable society with lots of employment for the ‘own’ citizens. Or (!) call it finally getting rid of the dependence of other nations. Self-reliance and nearonomics. All good and well. But don’t forget: it also means: a big push for nationalistic movements and political parties, and abandonment of any sense of international solidarity because it distracts from the national priority. Just look at the nascent discussion about distributions of a vaccin, once it exists…. And: whereas food might easily come from nearby, where do you think the components of your smartphone can be harvested nearby? Waiting until your neighbour is done with his? My alternative: rightshoring. Simple is often simplistic with all the consequences attached to it. …

It’s a popular term nowadays: scaling. Especially scaling up. And while at a first glance it seems very sensible — achieve success, learn from that and scale up the lessons or effort — there are many points of attention. Here I like to address a few of these in an effort to clarify a bit what can be done sensibly beyond the simplified thinking in terms of blueprints.

Image for post
Image for post

Scaling, why how what, and who?

The first question to ask when dealing with scaling is Why? What is the bigger purpose. For a company it might be to achieve more sales, and more cost efficiency (so-called economy-of-scale). For an approach by an NGO it might be to achieve more impact. For anyone it might be to distribute an effect to more people. This is important, because it influences the How and the What. And it opens the door to the question: why might you not want to scale? It’s lot of effort, with many uncertainties, probably risks and Bigger/ More is not always better. …

My inspiration for this blog comes from the closing event of the course Mastering Creativity (Dutch description) which was taught at two universities in Amsterdam last semester by the Bildung Academy and for which I was fortunate to play a development (and small execution) role. It led me to formulate the Bipolarity paradigm which I will explain below.

A question of taste. Literally.

The name of the event was already mind blowing and insightful, as it turned out. The name was “Creakiwitijd”, which quite literally translates as “Creakiwitime”. I thought it was just a word-play on “Creativity” but it was much more: when you eat a kiwi-fruit, you know you taste something specific, but it’s virtually impossible to describe it exactly, in particular the mix of different base tastes (sweet, sour, bitter etc). And that’s in a soft shell the essence of creativity: you recognise it as something special but it is extremely difficult to describe it, it transcends words in a way. …

In a not completely arbitrary effort (I had a hunch), I watched a dvd on the Galapagos islands recently. As could be expected it was not difficult to draw some inspiration from it. But it does require a bit of skill to translate such inspiration into usable notions in concrete cases. Here is an attempt.

There is increasing interest for the concept of biomimicry, and deservedly so: people looking at nature for inspiration on how to address our own challenges. “Nature” has been around for quite some time, and has had the luxury of experimenting for eons. A little longer than we have had the opportunity. …

In line with previous ponderings about the purpose of Creativity, there’s a more zoomed-out question: how distinctive are the — what I call 3 C’s — Critical Thinking, Curiosity and Creativity? Are they basically the same as some claim, or fully separate phenomena, like others say? Or…

These past few months I have been talking and doing a lot with regards to turning all my thoughts and ideas with regards to creativity into chunks that can be conveyed, e.g. through developing university courses on the topic. This results in conversations with people with a variety of backgrounds. …

Halleluja. A new boost for the relevance of curiosity for business purposes.

Business thrives when curiosity does

With the summer holiday over, it is high time for educators and managers to pay serious attention to their employees (and students). My mission to convey the message on the importance of curiosity got a nice boost with the publication of results of the research of professor Francesca Gino.

Image for post
Image for post

Cover of Harvard Business Review — Sept/Oct 2018

You can read the full results here, but for your convenience a brief summary of the key points below:

Curiosity is generally acknowledged to be a useful skill but in practice — when push comes to shove — fear takes over and curiosity in practice is not encouraged. …

Whereas at first sight the title of this post might not be associated with my main themes of Curiosity and Creativity, it secretly is about that. You’ll see. There have been many inspirations for snippets in this post, but in the end it is the aggregate of at least 10 years of mental bubbles interacting bubbling. If you recognise some elements, that’s most likely because we live on the same Planet.

Why Balance may not be all it’s cracked up to be

In this era of overwhelming complexity, the usual tip that I receive and I have a strong suspicion you do too, to deal with it is to “Find a balance”. I have always disliked that term, for one because it implies a status quo, or static situation, or in very negative terms an MAD-situation (Mutually Assured Destruction, a stalemate that allegedly you won;t destroy each other. …

As you can read on basically every page on my web-site, I am a fan of (professional) curiosity, which basically means a fan of asking (inquisitive) questions. I recently caught myself being annoyed by someone’s questions. So, am I inconsistent (which would also be human) or is there another explanation?

Are all questions created equal?

In general, in my universe, questions are more interesting than answers. Spend more time on working your way towards a good question rather than coming up with the perfect answer. Put differently, the quality of the question positively influences the quality and relevance of the answer.

There are signs in common language that seem to put the spotlight on the superiority of simply asking questions: “There are no stupid questions”, “The only bad question is the one that is not being asked”, etc. Compelling, but is it actually true? And if not, how can you tell? And what does it mean for encouraging curiosity as key element of creativity? …


Wouter Kersten

Chief Curiosity at The New ABC. Always Be Curious and forget “the box” altogether.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store