Sunday, January 9, 2011

About Methods of Social Creativity

Social creativity is a fascinating topic. 

There are many modes of it. Take for example Miles Davis, his creativity was unique. In the leadership of his bands, he gave little instruction, he spoke very little. He let his musicians improvise and express their creativity and individuality. He would then introduce his own creativity with his horn linking together all the other parallel directions. So he synthesized or made the disparate improvisations into a whole. 

File:Miles Davis - 1986.jpg
Miles Davis, Den Haag, 1985

Duke Ellington had a very different style of creativity. He developed songs and arrangements out of his own head. His scope and talent was enormous, he had the capability of comprehensive output and so he fulfilled it. Improvisations by band members were limited to what Ellington felt would work, he actually wrote compositions that would showcase a musician’s style and talent. Ellington is more like a movie director, the single creative brain capable of doing all. He was the whole, while Miles Davis worked within a whole. 

File:Duke Ellington at the Hurricane Club 1943.jpg

On the other hand, Count Basie had a creative style in between Davis and Ellington. He had control but he gave much more leeway to his members than Duke Ellington. 

Count Basie (left) during a concert in Cologne (Germany) on October 17th 1975
Paul SpĆ¼rk

These different styles of creativity are instructive. These are modes of social creativity.

They are general techniques of social creativity which can be applied to many sorts of art and innovation. 

Genio means creativity or a creative person. Human imagination and innovation runs in two modes: personal and group. Most discussion of creativity is focused on the individual, which is natural, necessary and very important -- because creativity stems from individuality, from a solitary person. At the same time, we can have group creativity if we have good methods and principles. And in this age, the need for social creativity is enormous as we survey the institutional failures of our culture – in economics, government, the environment, mental health and so much more. 

Social creativity
A definition of “Social Creativity”: “Social Creativity, while creativity is ultimately individual, groups of people and even whole societies may require an overall strategy and method to manage creativity. Social Creativity protects the integrity of the individual creator and at the same time manages a group creative process to achieve common ends.” 

What does this mean? Social Creativity comes in various forms: Social Creativity in a business; Social Creativity as an entire social-cultural movement; Social Creativity in organizations and institutions; Social Creativity in government and federations, Social Creativity in musical groups, theatre, art groups; and more. 

Social Mis-creativity also arises in many forms. 
If one studies various models and experiences, such as corporations, communism, counter cultural movements, Warhol, Mile Davis, Fellini and so on, you can develop a perspective on Social Creativity, both good and bad. 

This group creativity comes in various types: 
  • Where a group or individual facilitates the collective creativity, here, the facilitator focuses on the methods of bringing out individual creativity, cooperation on group Genio, and where the facilitator’s creativity is about the methods of doing this, rather than in a personal contribution to the group’s effort. Here, the facilitator must follow a kind of moral code to promote the integrity of the group and the individuals, and not interfere in the process, though the facilitator can orchestrate the process

  • Where the ‘leader’ has both a personal contribution to make to the ensemble and has the duty of coordinating the whole effort

  • Where there is really no leader and the coordination is more ad hoc if at all, this mode can be generally chaotic or self managed by the sum of the actions of each individual

  • Where a ‘leader’ is attempting to bring someone to a certain point of view, but the leader believing in diversity encourages individual creativity. The result is that the individual develops a synthesis of ideas with the leader’s aid.

  • and there are other forms too.

A “synthesizer” is a related concept. A synthesizer is someone who takes the creative works of many others and pulls it together into a whole, the synthesizer is adding her or his creative contribution too. Watson and Crick who developed the double helix concept were synthesizers. A synthesizer does not necessarily work in group format, they can be disconnected individuals who are aware of other creativities but not colleagues of others. Einstein is another synthesizer.

Louis Armstrong is also a synthesizer, he took many musical elements from the musical culture of New Orleans and created a Jazz model.

A synthesizer is not necessarily a leader, but at times a leader who is also a synthesizer might be quite welcome to solve a major problem and stop a war between groups which do not see they are parts on one whole….

In a Social Creativity process there are principles to honor, that: 
  • Genio is individual

  • Genio is a right

  • Genio must be recognized

  • And conversely that Genio is not essentially a group phenomenon; Genio is not a privilege, Genio should never be stolen, suppressed or left unrecognized.

Social Creativity organizes the work of many individuals, even a so called group creations are still in the end to be traced back to individuals. The same with facilitators of collective creativity, they too make individual contributions. Another way to say this is that Genio is diverse by nature. 

Social Creativity would operate by some of these strategies: 
  • evoking a chaos of individual effort, in fact, the tolerance of chaos is an important criteria to be a manager of social creativity

  • promoting competition between people and groups

  • appreciating all creative products even if they are not within the taste of a leader or facilitator, not making quick judgments

  • taking the long term view on the random nature of the creative process and not culling too soon

  • thinking in terms of research and develop and experiment

  • noting that competing solutions will exist to problems, some are better, many are coexistent as matter of personal choice or from your range toolkit. So thinking in terms of multiple perception and many schools of thought

  • at some point mass creativity can overwhelm the creativity of ‘managers’, their plans and goals, so there are no absolutes at all, the leader or manager cannot substitute his or her ideas for others

  • noting when a stage of creative work is mostly done and suggesting the next phase of creativity and its new tasks

  • naturally, all the Genio behaviors of personal creativity discussed in the Glossary of Creativity and the Creative Technique Series apply.  Social Creativity leaders must help create the atmosphere for creativity and help participants develop necessary skills.

  • Education in creativity is clearly an important factor in Social Creativity

The paradox for of the facilitator is that she or he must guide and then cannot guide. Genio overwhelms the guides, there are new leaps, new conditions appear, and even the facilitators have individuality among them, their own personal views which can at times make it hard to keep to one social end. Facilitators are only Human; some social method is needed to check the leader too, whatever is appropriate to the style of organization. 

The essence of Social Mis-creativity is suppression, theft or substitution. Wise people do not suppress creativity, are not Genio-vores, and do not substitute their creativity for someone else’s creativity. 

Genio by its nature is highly individualistic and diverse thus it leads to conflict, competition, and chaos. That is its nature; we cannot and should not change this. These behaviors we should not just tolerate but crave and multiply. 

Genio hates bosses while mediocrity seeks a boss. Genio is highly proprietary while mediocrity has so sense of property; it steals anything not nailed down. 

There are times when Genio must be social and be organized, when this happens a special personality is called for, a facilitator or f’ator, a leader who is not a leader. Someone who creates the creativity in a sense yet does not interfere in the creativity either.  

Social creativity and chaos
Individuality is linked to creativity, creativity is the expression of one’s individuality. When many people are being creative, you have a kind of chaos happening. There are individual points of view and competing schools of thought and many alternative social solutions. One cannot have a fundamental social change without this chaos. The trick is for leaders to guide or steer this social creativity and chaos. The attempts can be generally successful if the leaders are principled, skillful and creative themselves. But there is no absolute guarantee of success, social creativity and its chaos are unpredictable and things do happen. The alternative however is control of creativity and this is no good. Also, the creativity of an elite, which is narrow at best and, at worst, not in the interest of the people, is not acceptable. 

Social cycle of creativity
Creativity is by essence an individual act, there is no group creativity. All creativity ultimately stems from an individual. But in the socialization of a creative product things get muddy -- the first creator passes a creation to the receiver, the receiver copies the creation and adds some creativity too, then passes it along, so that imitation and imagination become indistinguishable to the next receiver. 

In this process, the creator and the receiver are indistinguishable, and imitation and creation are indistinguishable. How could this be? One person’s creativity becomes another’s raw material. Where is the individuality in all this creativity? It is hard to trace, but you can, if you try, and you must, so that you do not lose sight of what creativity is. And so you do not lose respect for the individual, for the individual is the basic unit of creativity, thus, requiring identification and recognition. Belittling individual creativity is one of the “forbiddens” of this age. 

In conditions of group creativity, we have many people offering creative elements to a collective project, the result is a “creation”, but who created it? Does the axiom that says creativity is individual apply? Yes, a clear mind thinks so, if you trace back the elements, you will find individual sources, though it may be complicated. A creative aspect is taken by another, modified or added to. A part of a project is created by one, another part provided by another. A coordinator solves a problem of organization in the project in a creative way; that too is a creative contribution. Someone finds a new way to disseminate the resulting work, this too can be creative. 

Socialization begins a chain reaction of creativity and, more, a merger of whole lines of chain reactions. No one can claim to be the sole creator, but each individual can claim to be “A” creator. And in the age of Genio, recognition of individual authorship is of immense importance, personal contributions can no longer be submerged, and theft of creativity cannot be allowed as it was in the past. Everyone must get their credit, accolades and awards, for in the era of creativity, creativity is sacred. The highest crime in the age of Genio is the theft of creativity; while the highest reward in the age of mis-creativity comes from the theft of Genio, if you don’t believe that just look around you. 

Thus, the view of organization, in the case of multiple creators, is completely different than in past cultures. Before there was a boss, a controller and, at best, only one creative person. In the age of Genio, there are many creators, no bosses, no rigid control; and organization now is no longer “organization” in the old sense, or we could call it “Diverse organization”.  

Creativity demands diversity, if you wish to eliminate creativity then eliminate diversity; likewise, if you wish to eliminate diversity then you will eliminate creativity too. Genio and the Diverse are one thing, each begets the other.

Control or Creativity?
Individuality drives creativity, if you create a culture, organization, atmosphere or codex that suppresses individuality, you will in turn suppress creativity, it is that simple. It all comes down to control or creativity, which is that you really want? What does this world really need?

Cage Innoye

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