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Transdisciplinary Knowledge for Holistic Innovation

By: David Elliott and Rob Barker
Posted: June 1, 2012, from the June 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 4 of 6

People are hardwired to avoid error, but perhaps by being half-conscious of some thoughts, we can stimulate our natural creativity. Perhaps a childlike exuberance can prompt innovation. However, the environment must permit this—chained to the desk with a rote list of duties to carry out is likely not the way to get innovative results.

A Wandering Mind

There seems to be a growing concern that innovation is slowing down at the national and corporate level in the United States and Europe,8 and certainly diminishing R&D returns are behind moves such as those by GSK and others in similar industries and other sectors. There also are growing concerns that economic power is more quickly switching from West to East. However, a key shift may be that true creative imagination may reside in the West (as demonstrated by Steve Jobs particularly), and the use of this creativity may require being stimulated by less rigid education systems. Organizations should not miss the opportunity to harness the competitive advantage inherent in their work forces. But what is the best way this can be achieved?

Dickens wrote, “There is nothing we enjoy more than a little amateur vagrancy, walking through London as though ‘the whole were an unknown region to our wandering mind.’” Such walkabouts may foster creative thinking.9,10

As noted in a recent Wired opinion piece, “Jobs and Dickens were of one mind” on this subject. And in fact, in a 1995 Wired article, Jobs put it this way, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”11

Creativity requires both divergent thinking—the generation of lots of fresh ideas, and convergent thinking—channeling those ideas into a practical solution. The tension of toggling between right-field thinking and pragmatism is what typically leads to the greatest creative insights.

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