Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Another take on Creativity...

A nice video on the topic of ideas & brainstorming. Note the shift to an essentialist vision of the superiority of ideas; ideas as entities that function, that can be generated, contrasted and combined. 

Critique: While not explicitly stated in the video the stance conveyed is the commonly held view that ideas are contained in individuals, the inventors that conceived them.

I would however like to caution against appealing to explanations that resort to the notion of a singular inventive genius at the centre of an innovation. I would try to avoid or at leaset be conscious of the 'essentialist turn of phrase'; that creative ideas are out there jostling for attention, that half an idea can become a full idea in combination with another half etc. Appealing to this kind of 'obvious' way of dealing with ideas is an easy naturalistic way of thinking about the creative process however it mingles the 'idea' with a kind of technical agency, that is it attributes essential qualities to the conceptual object of an idea. This then leads to a kind of teleological explanans for why the final condition of a successful innovation is achieved. Fitness, technical superiority, and a kind of Darwinian competition between ideas in networks that produces a new innovation. This way of describing ideation, while easy to understand, is not founded empirically; ideas and innovations do not have their own lives therefore employing this mode of understanding innovation  seems to me to make for bad policy and management. Why? Because it does not explain the underlying phenomena. What I observe, in the field, is a much messier, involved, uncertain, porous, negotiated and tenuous process that unfolds progressively in an un-plan-able manner. The creative process is more an artistic process than a decision making process of playful discovery, aesthetics and judgement mixed in with inspiration, serendipity and sweat. Ideas aren't atoms of meaning that can be combined into new elements or molecules. Rather, they emerge in contexts, from experience, and through interaction with others.