TEDx Livermore: Uncorking Creativity with Group Genius

Screenshot from Todd's TEDx Livermore Talk via LivestreamNote: The following is the written version of my talk at TEDxLivermore: Uncorking Creativity on September 20, 2014. When the talk is available online, a link will be posted here.


Good morning.

I want to begin with a simple assertion:

To be human is to be creative..

It is in our nature. Unlike batteries, creativity is included in the package.

Now, we may each have our own means of expressing this creativity, and our own perception of our creativity relative to other people may vary.

And, certainly, good arguments have been made that as we grow up and are socialized into the world, our abilities to tap into and express our creativity may diminish if they are not developed and practiced.

But at a fundamental level, whether it is expressed by baking cakes or writing code, painting portraits or snapping selfies, architecting buildings or building businesses, we are all innately and unavoidably creative.

And it is this creativity which lies within each of us that has largely brought about and enabled the world we live in, with all of it’s incredible in its beauty, sophistication and capability.

And, we have no reason not to think that immeasurable good things will continue to be brought into the world with this creative force.

And yet...

The sum of our creativity is not enough.

It is not enough to solve for the kind of complex problems that we, as a species have and will continue to create as a natural course of our lives.

It is not going to be enough to solve the challenges that matter most in our organizations, institutions, communities, ecosystems and so forth..

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Wayfinding our way into the future

"Adaptation is the act of bending a structure to fit a new hole. Evolution, on the other hand, is a deeper change that reshapes the architecture of the structure itself – often producing more holes for others.

Every worker dabbling in artificial evolution has been struck by the ease with which evolution produces the improbable. Evolution doesn’t care about what makes sense; it cares about what works!" Tom Ray, Out of Control by Kevin Kelly, page 340

Historically, wayfinding refers to the techniques used by travelers over land and sea to find relatively unmarked and often mislabeled routes.

Since we are traveling into an unknown future, a good wayfinding process can help us decide when, how, and where to go. It can help us find unmarked and often mislabeled routes deep into future opportunities, perhaps helping us avoid treacherous paths and dangerous assumptions. Wayfinders help mark the way for others to follow.

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A World Without Answers

"The Swarm master coaches, 'Loosen all attachments to the sure and certain.'"
Kevin Kelly, Out of Control, Hive Mind, page 25

It used to be we could rely on answers. If we did not know the answer, we could ask our parents, or a teacher, consultant, expert, the government, etc. All of our lives we have passed or failed tests because we knew or didn't know the right answer. We competed, climbed to the top of our class or corporate ladder and got tenure because we published answers that gave instruction to others.

The deeper I get into complexity science the more I come to know that looking for answers is often a hinderence to my learning. Complexity is about processes and patterns and these are recursive, iterative and adaptive! I do feel like Alice must have felt at times. How do I know what I know? Where am I on the certainty level?

"'It was much pleasanter at Home,' thought poor Alice. 'when one wasn't always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn't gone down that rabbit hole..."
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

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Navigating in a Networked Economy: Value Webs Reach a Tipping Point

"A network economy does not think in supply chain terms or in departmental boxes. It thinks and acts as a web of ideas, people, processes, markets, tools, environments. The parts and the whole grow stronger together. Threads weave together, forming new patterns, new connections, new capabilities. Producers, customers, and investors design, invent, build, market and sell as an ecosystem.

"Co-creation replaces the linear way of thinking and doing where each part gets it 'right' and passes it to the next part to get it 'right' who passes it on and so forth. ValueWeb communities work concurrently, changing 'hats' where appropriate, competing, cooperating ... constantly evolving to bring higher order solutions, people, and opportunities into the web." - Gail Taylor, 1998

boe2.jpgA decade ago I was introduced to a conceptual model of the networked enterprise that is now referred to as the "Value Web" model. Matt Taylor had been actively working with it and introducing it to MG Taylor clients since the 80's, but for the first time, executives and organizational leaders were beginning to embrace it. Today, in a world more fully immersed in the flows and fluidities of the networked economy, value web-like structures are becoming a mainstream means of organizing and getting things done. In the ongoing evolution and learning of how we organize and work together, this way of working is gaining fitness fast.

In essence, what I am suggesting here is that the idea of a "value web" has, after multiple trieswith each result feeding back into and changing the idea – escaped to a higher order. Whether its with the well-known, well-chronicled  Big Ideas such as Open Source, P2P and Web 2.0, or any of a vast array of less publicized but equally compelling experiments, value webs have moved from "model" to "paradigm" – a new way of seeing reality.

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Emerging Attractors for Escaping Communities

Structural coupling, then, is the process through which structurally-determined transformations in each of two or more systemic unities induces (for each) a trajectory of reciprocally-triggered change. This makes structural coupling one of the most critical constructs in autopoietic theory. -Encyclopedia Autopoietica

I have been thinking about the structural coupling processes that help create and define a community.

Of all the elements and relationships of elements that make up a community at any given time, those with the greatest attraction tend to produce the strongest coupling behavior. Which elements are the strongest at any given time is dynamic. Some elements and relationships of elements have appeared as strong coupling agents for hundreds or thousands of years. Others grow strong and dissipate with more fluidity.

At times, a new coupling agent or a new relationship among agents emerges and the social structure of the community undergoes a phase change -- a perturbation in which a new (relatively) stable-state is achieved.

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Community Escapes

I recently joined in with a gathering of people who have identified themselves within the Dialogue & Deliberation community. It marked the fourth community coming-together I've been involved in with Tomorrow Makers this year—each of a very distinct nature and intent. From each and from the collection as a whole, I'm left with a clear recognition of the growing interest in and sophistication of organizing structures and processes used to compliment the content and body of knowledge.

Beyond the wealth of good "process tools" that are capable of adding significant value, there is a growing willingness and, in many cases, eagerness among organizers, speakers and participants to not only use these process tools, but innovate how they can fit together to amplified effect as a whole. Community gathering is on the verge of finding meta-structures and meta-processes which can transform or fundamentally reframe the community's awareness of itself and the world.

Successful design on this level utilizes and leverages the complexity and relationships created in the discrete modules. The whole becomes not only 'greater' than the sum of the parts, it emerges a different, deeper quality of experience. The system escapes to a higher order.

These escapes – or phase transitions – are the fascination and the essence of Tomorrow Makers' raison d'être. It is precisely these situations for which the system and method that we have been practicing and coming toward knowing since 1979 was invented...

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