Monday, December 7, 2009

Uncertainty and Media in Creative Systems

There are intrinsically uncertainties for realization of discovery. In other words, discoveries hardly come about due to the uncertainties. One of the uncertainties is an uncertainty of association of idea. Thinking newly means that there is no guarantee that the association of idea is possible to apply. Another uncertainty is related to far-reaching consequence of association of idea. It is quite difficult to get consequences by thinking about complicated logic. Although there are such uncertainties, some kind of evolutional achievements, called "media" in autopoietic systems theory, support for realization of discovery to overcome the uncertainties.

Against first type of uncertainty, that is uncertainty of association of idea, theories and rule of thumb work as media. Theories would reduce the complexity for selection of idea and association. They do not mean deterministic laws to strictly follow, rather spotlights to pay attention for selection. Typical theories in the discipline are sometimes helpful, and theories in other disciplines are also helpful to get idea or how to make association to it. Borrowing the words of Nobel-prized physicist Richard Feynman "mathematics is not just another language. Mathematics is a language plus reasoning; it is like a language plus logic. Mathematics is a tool for reasoning. It is in fact a big collection of the results of some person's careful thought and reasoning. By mathematics it is possible to connect one statement to another." (Feynman 1967; p.40)

Against second type of uncertainty, that is uncertainty of far-reaching consequence, several kind f tools work as media. For example, tools for computer simulation help to get consequence through complicated calculation. Likewise, tools for network analysis, text mining, and statistical analysis are helpful. Although obtaining far-reaching consequence does not necessarily require such tools, they contribute greatly to decrease the possibility to stop in midcourse by enhancing efficiency rather than human labor.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Element Constitution in Creative Systems

As I mentioned in the previous post, creative systems theory suggests that creative processes are "autopoietic systems" whose elements are discoveries emerged by a synthesis of three selections: idea, association, and consequence. Here, I shall explain the details about the element constitution, namely the definition of the term "discovery" in this context.

From the viewpoint of element constitution, discovery is emerged from the synthesis of three-part selection: selections of "idea", "association", and "consequence". It is required for the emergence of discovery that all of these selections are occurred.

What I should emphasize here is that idea exists only inside the system. It other words, idea is meaningful only for ongoing creation. Outside the creation, one can no longer call it "idea". In this sense, idea cannot exist "out there" alone. In the same way, association can exist meaningfully only inside the system. It is just association to ongoing creation. Consequence occurs only as the combination of idea and association, therefore it also can exist only inside the system.

Using words of the abstract framework of autopoieitc systems, idea is hetero-reference to the environment; association is self-reference to the system itself; and consequence is combination of the hetero-reference and the self-reference. Thus, creative systems are recursively-closed systems with respect to discoveries.

Note that, exactly speaking, the selection just means the reduction of complexity in contingent situation, therefore without the reference to social status or psychic status. On one hand, discovery does not imply the novelty in society. Each discovery is independent on the status of the society.

In this sense, even re-invention is considered as also creation in this theory. On the other hand, the feeling of surprising is not necessary to discovery, because it is not a problem in the creation, but a problem of the mind. In other word, the creation is creative even if the participants do not feel, so-called, "Eureka!".

What I just wrote is the detail description of creative processes as "autopoietic systems" whose elements are discoveries emerged by a synthesis of three selections: idea, association, and consequence.

Iba, T. (2009). "An Autopoietic Systems Theory for Creativity", This first conference on Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs).

Monday, October 26, 2009

What are creative systems like?

In this blog, as I mentioned before, "Creative Systems Theory" is proposed in order to understand creative processes in a totally new way, focusing the process without the reference to psychic or social aspects. The theory suggests that creative processes are "autopoietic systems" whose elements are discoveries emerged by a synthesis of three selections: idea, association, and consequence. Before looking at the detail with terms of systems theory, I shall begin with explaining what are creative systems like?

Creative process consists of a sequence of discoveries, which include problem finding, problem solving, observation, hypothesis formation, method selection, practice, and interpretation. Creative process does not follow deterministic laws, but not also happened at random. Rather, it includes contingency. Creative process is, so to speak, autonomous and therefore historical. In order to formulate this kind of processes, I would like to apply autopoietic systems theory. Creative systems theory describes how creation is possible. This attempt is done without neither psychological reduction, like most of creative research, nor sociological reduction, like several studies of collaboration.

In order to describe the affair that creative process consists of a sequence of discoveries, I would like to suggest that creative system is an autopoietic system whose element is discovery. In the creative systems, discovery is produced by discovery based on on-going creation. The discovery is a momentary element that has no duration, so it must be reproduced constantly for realizing the creative system. Element, discovery, is an emergent unity constituted in the system, therefore system cannot received discoveries from its environment or output discoveries to its environment. In this sense, what kind of discoveries is constituted depends on the ongoing system. Thus creative system is operationally closed.

Note that discovery in this context does not imply that it is neither true nor useful. The problem here is only connectivity to further discoveries. As Sawyer pointed out about successful innovators, "They succeed by way of many small sparks, and by drawing on collaboration over time to build those sparks into something tremendous. Many of the idea turn out to be wildly off the mark, but it turns out many not-so-good ideas are needed on the way to that rare great idea."(Sawyer 2007; p.105) and indeed "Darwin's notebook show that he reached many dead ends and produced a lot of ideas that scientists now consider weird." (Sawyer 2007, p.106)

In addition, it does not matter where and how discoveries come from. It may be the result of deliberation, inspiration, or merely by accident. It may be obtained by somebody alone or collaboration by more than one person. Thus, in the viewpoint of creative systems theory, what is most important is the successive generation of discoveries, not where and how they came from. With such a standpoint, one can think the creative process itself and also the relationship of creative process to psychic or social process.

Iba, T. (2009). An Autopoietic Systems Theory for Creativity, This first conference on Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs).
Sawyer, R.K. (2007). Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, Basic Books.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Focusing on Creative Process rather than Creative Ability

In the previous posts, I pointed out three puzzles, namely (1) the intrinsic nature of creativity, (2) the contingent nature of creative processes, and (3) the difference of creativity between individual and group.

Considering these problems, I think we need to look at the relation between creative ability and creative process from the reverse angle, it means, from the view that “people who have creative ability can conduct creative process” to the view that “people who conduct creative process is creative”.

For the purpose, I suggest an alternative approach to creativity rather than psychological and social ones. In my view, the theory that describes such a process appropriately is, currently, systems theory, which enables us to think in transdisciplinary ways.

What is proposed here is a new viewpoint to describe what goes on in a creative process as a system, to be exact an autopoietic system. Applying the latest systems theory to understand the nature of creative process will reveal what goes on in the creative process.

The fundamental question to be answered is as follows:

how creative process is at all possible?

Moreover, the whole relations will be redrawn as couplings between creative, psychic, and social systems.

In the next post, I shall start to explain the theory.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Puzzle 3. The Difference of Creativity between Individual and Group

The third puzzle in creativity is the difference of creativity between individual and group.

3. The Difference of Creativity between Individual and Group

Collaboration is the affair by more than one person that brings added value that cannot be achieved by one. In organizations and teams that successfully operate the process of creation through collaboration, communication in the organizations and teams gains "momentum," and it sympathizes and amplifies in a nexus. Along with this effect, connecting the path of communication one by one, it is possible to bring up unexpected remarkable idea and innovation.

The creation through collaboration is a matter of emergence, that unable individual to understand with existing theories, and is often taken as suspicious and mysterious thing. While a number of scientists have studied this kind of collective phenomena at group level, they merely reach to understand the effectiveness of collaboration. Collaboration is something that drives creativity by encouraging generating a long sequence of sparks beyond individual minds.

After all, is there any difference between individual creativity and group creativity? If there is the difference, it means that there are two types of creativity. Otherwise, a feature called "creativity" can be realized in the different bases: mind inside an individual and group made of individuals. In order to resolve the problem, both of psychological approach and sociological approach seem be insufficient, just because the problem lied over these disciplines.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Puzzle 2. The Contingent Nature of Creative Processes

As I mentioned in the last post, puzzles in creativity are (1) the intrinsic nature of creativity, (2) the contingent nature of creative processes, and (3) the difference of creativity between individual and group.

Today, I shall explain the second puzzle, that is the contingent nature of creative process.

2. The Contingent Nature of Creative Processes

During the last several decades, scientists have tried to make a measurement for creativity, however it turns out the difficulty due to the contingent nature of creativity. Sources of discoveries are quite diverse and depends on circumstances, for example, logical deduction, induction, abduction, analogy, metaphor, inspiration, and just by accident. Even if investigating into the detail of creative processes from the viewpoint of sources, one cannot succeed to get anything universal. In other words, creative processes do not follow deterministic laws, but also not happen at random.

In addition, creative processes often are built on several discoveries, and they contain not only good ideas, but also finally wrong or useless ideas. As Keith Sawyer pointed out about successful innovators as follows:
"They succeed by way of many small sparks, and by drawing on collaboration over time to build those sparks into something tremendous. Many of the idea turn out to be wildly off the mark, but it turns out many not-so-good ideas are needed on the way to that rare great idea." (Sawyer 2007: p.105).
Indeed, for example Charles Darwin produced many ideas that are not only weird but also wrong in hindsight. As Sawyer said, however, these ideas also played an important role that contributes to his “creative” outcome.
"Even Darwin's dead ends provided critical links in the chain; the monad theory was wrong, but it led to Darwin's branching model of evolution. His work on hybridization led nowhere, but as a side-effect he learned about artificial selection, which he later realized was a man-made version of natural selection. His theory of coral reef formation, developed years before he'd even thought about evolution, had the same formal structure as the theory of evolution. Darwin had many key ideas before he realized how they would all fit together." (Sawyer 2007: p.107)

Consequently, it is necessary to take the contingent nature into account, if one intends to build a theory to explain the nature of creative processes. I think, for the purpose, describing a sequence of discoveries as autonomous and historical process is an appropriate way.

Iba, T. (2009). An Autopoietic Systems Theory for Creativity, This first conference on Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs).
Sawyer, R.K. (2007). Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, Basic Books.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Puzzle 1. The Intrinsic Nature of Creativity

What is creativity? ––– This question has been made from time immemorial, scientific approaches to understand creativity started just in the middle of the 20th century. Psychologist studied creativity focusing on personality and cognition at first, and then broadened their horizons to social and cultural aspects (Boden 1994, Sternberg 1999, Sawyer 2006). Moreover, social psychologist and sociologist also have studied creative collaborations done by two or more people, which are realizing everywhere in the world today.

Although considerable effort has been spent on the studies to figure out the nature of creativity, we regret to say that these psychological and sociological approaches have its limitations as well as any approaches. There, in my view, remain following three puzzles related each other: (1) the intrinsic nature of creativity, (2) the contingent nature of creative processes, and (3) the difference of creativity between individual and group.

First of all, here, I would like to look at the first puzzle in more details.

1. The intrinsic nature of creativity

Creativity is often defined by referring to others' evaluations about the novelty of product. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a leading psychologist of creativity studies, pointed out the importance of social and cultural dimension as follows: "[...] creativity cannot be recognized except as it operates within a system of cultural rules, and it cannot bring forth any thing new unless it can enlist the support of peers" (Csikszentmihalyi 1999).

I agree that the reference to the difference from the existing ideas, products, or outcomes, is necessary to evaluate the social value of creative output, however, in this standpoint one cannot understand the intrinsic nature of creative process. Let me explain why with some examples.

Imagine a scientist lived in isolated island. He invented a new theory about a certain phenomena, deliberating with series of his experiments. Then he wrote the paper about the theory and travelled to give a presentation in an academic conference. After the presentation, he was getting to know the fact that a quite similar theory was already presented years ago. He actually did not know the fact before his invention, however he was never credited with the theory because it is merely "re-invention". He is, therefore, hardly considered "creative" in terms of the invention of the theory. This consequence is ordinary, and I agree that it is meaningful criteria from social viewpoint. Nevertheless, isn’t there really any creativity at all? Can we say with assurance that the invention itself by the unlucky scientist is not "creative", if the process to invent the theory is improbable in the ordinary way?

Let me tell one more example. A child is playing with blocks in the room, and she is getting to feels bored. She realizes that the reason is there is no sound. Then she thinks out a new way of playing blocks with the empty boxes. Drums! With using two bar blocks, she becomes to make loud sounds by beating the boxes as drums. Needless to say, she is not a first person to do so, therefore it is unable to say that she is "creative". Is it really adequate?

The question above can be summarized as follows: Can’t one really call a process "creative" without the evaluation of novelty by others? My standpoint, that is the standpoint of the creative systems theory, is that one can consider a process as "creative" without reference to others' evaluation of the product. In other word, there is an intrinsically creative process. I will re-define the term "creative" to fit such a usage, shifting the focus from abilities to processes. Furthermore, I offer to distinguish "creative" events in a (creative) process from "creative" evaluation in social context. Consequently, we can consider a certain processes as "creative" even if they are mere re-inventions as a result.

Boden, M. A. (ed.) (1994). "Dimensions of Creativity": MIT Press
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999). Implications of a Systems Perspective for the Study of Creativity, Handbook of Creativity, Sternberg, R. J. (ed.), Cambridge University Press.
Iba, T. (2009). An Autopoietic Systems Theory for Creativity, This first conference on Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs).
Sawyer, R.K. (2006). Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation, Oxford University Press.
Sternberg, R. J. (ed.) (1999), Handbook of Creativity, Cambridge University Press.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Talk at COINs2009 Conference

Last week, I gave a talk about the Creative Systems Theory at the first conference on Collaborative Innovation Networks 2009 (COINs 2009), which was held in Savannah, GA.

The conference was so exciting that I enjoyed learning from lots of interdisciplinary studies about creative collaboration and also several practical workshops. The venue of the conference , Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), was great and adequate for the theme of COINs conference. I would like to thank organizers, Chris Miller, Ken Riopelle, Julia Gluesing, and Peter Gloor; keynote speakers; workshop leaders; presenters; and all participants.

It was first time of talk about the Creative Systems Theory. I have no idea whether I could explain it well, but it seems be a good start since some audiences told me they were interested in the theory :-)

Summary: "An Autopoietic Systems Theory for Creativity"

In this talk, an alternative approach to understanding creativity rather than psychological and sociological ones is proposed. The approach is based on autopoietic system theory, where an autopoietic system is defined as a unity whose organization is defined by a particular network of production processes of elements. While the theory was originally proposed in biology and then applied to sociology, I apply it to understand the nature of creation, and call it "Creative Systems Theory".

Creative system is an autopoietic system whose element is "discovery", which is emerged only when a synthesis of three selections is occurred: "idea", "association", and "consequence". Creative system is historical system, because its element, that is discovery, is produced based on the ongoing system itself in a circular fashion. Intrinsically, nexus of discovery is hardly to happen, hence any kinds of "media", namely "discovery media", are necessary to emerge discoveries over time. Thus, with using these concepts, we open the way to understand creation itself separated from psychic and social aspect of creativity. On the basis, the coupling between creative, psychic, and social systems is discussed.

I suggest, in this talk, the future of creativity studies. I re-define a discipline "Creatology" that is a discipline for studying creativity which focuses on creative systems. I propose a new name of interdisciplinary field as "Creative Sciences", which provide an interdisciplinary connections among creatology, psychology, and so on.

Here is the presentation slides for my talk. It may give you a brief overview of the theory, although there are only figures rather than sentences for explanation. In this blog, I will write all topics introduced in this slides.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Toward the Advent of Creative Society

It appears that “creativity” is one of the most notable keywords today. While in some fields like business and policymaking the term "innovation" is preferred, what is intended to mean seems be quite similar. Especially the recent trend is to place emphasis on creativities of group, organization, community, and even society as well as creativity of individuals. To indicate the affair, the term “collaboration” and then its derivative terms like “Creative Collaboration” (Schrage 1995, John-Steiner, 2000), “Group Creativity” (Sawyer 2003), “Group Genius” (Sawyer 2008), “Organizational Creativity” (Zhou & Shalley 2007), “Collective Creativity”, “Open Collaboration”, “Swarm Creativity” (Gloor 2006), and “Mass Collaboration” (Tapscott & Williams 2008) are used.

Keywords associated with Creative Society (Illustrated by Takashi Iba)

There are several reasons why creativity is paid attention today. First, against the backdrop of the shift from labor-intensive work to knowledge-intensive work, many people involved in business need to make full use of intelligence and creativity for obtaining added-valued outcomes (Florida 2002). While introducing information technologies has been changing the style of work, the upcoming trend requires being more creative (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995, Malone 2004). As Daniel Pink (2006) pointed out, we are no longer simply in “Information Age”, but in an emerging age called “Conceptual Age”. Thus thinking with both of “left-brain” and “right-brain”, which is often called “design thinking”, is required today (Kelley & Littman 2001, Brown 2009).

Second, we have been realizing that enhancing creativity is necessary to shape the future in our complex, diverse, and "liquid" society. The problems today are quite complex and dynamic to solve, so we must gather the creative abilities beyond professions and disciplines. As Michael Gibbons et. al. (1994) pointed out, the emerging mode of scientific knowledge production, which is called “mode 2” against the mode of conventional sciences, is characterized by transdisciplinary, heterogeneity, heterarchical, and transient. The challenge to create new trends for the future is often carried out with a growing network including creators, communicators, and collaborators, which Peter Gloor (2006) called “Collaborative Innovation Networks” (COINs).

Third, people have been thinking that engaging in creative activities can meet the human desire in deep level. For a past decade, information technologies, especially the Internet, has provided the infrastructure for everyone to enjoy participate collaborations based on their interest (Torvalds & Diamond 2002, Friedman 2005, Tapscott & Williams 2008). According to psychological studies by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990; 1996), the “flow” experience when involved in creative activities is known to provide the feeling of happiness. Self-fulfillment in contemporary age is not based on material pleasures, but higher stage of motivation like creativity (Maslow1954).

Thus the advent of “creative society” demands enhancement of our creative ability and the environment (Resnick 2002). There is, however, the crucial problem that the essential nature of creative process is still unknown. In fact, we know little about what goes on in creative process and how we can support it, although psychologists have endeavor to understand the creativity. It is just because psychological approach can reveal only one aspect of creativity, that is to say psychological aspect, and other aspects remain to be studied.

Against such a background, this blog "Creative Systems Lab" carries out an explanation into the nature of creative process with our new theory named "Creative Systems Theory" (Iba 2009), which is based on the latest system theory, namely autopoietic systems theory. We will explain the theory and also re-consider several cases based on it. Furthermore, we will provide a wide variety of information about creativity.

Okay, it's a time to start. Enjoy!

Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation, HarperBusiness.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990; 2008). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Harper Perennial Modern Classics.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Harper Perennial.
Florida, R. (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, Basic Books.
Friedman, T.L. (2005; 2007). The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, Further updated and expanded, resease 3.0, Picador.
Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P.& Trow, M. (1994). The New Production of Knowledge: The Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies, Sage Publications.
Gloor, P. (2006). Swarm Creativity: Competitive Advantage Through Collaborative Innovation Networks: Oxford University Press
Iba, T. (2009). An Autopoietic Systems Theory for Creativity, This first conference on Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs).
John-Steiner, V. (2000). Creative Collaboration, Oxford University Press.
Kelley, T. & Littman, J. (2001). The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm, Broadway Business.
Malone, T.W. (2004). The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style, and Your Life, Harvard Business School Press.
Maslow, A.H. (1954; 1987). Motivation and Personality, 3rd edition, HarperCollins Publishers.
Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995; 2008). The Knowledge-Creating Company, Harvard Business School Press.
Parsons, T. (1951). The Social System: Free Press.
Pink, D.H. (2006). A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Update edition, Riverhead Trade.
Resnick, M. (2002). Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age, in The Global Information Technology Report: Readiness for the Networked World, G. Kirkman (ed.), Oxford University Press.
Sawyer, R.K. (2003). Group Creativity: Music, Theater, Collaboration, Lawrence Erlbaum.
Sawyer, R.K. (2007). Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, Basic Books.
Schrage, M. (1990). Shared Minds: The New Technologies of Collaboration, Random House.
Schrage, M. (1995). No More Teams!: Mastering the Dynamics of Creative Collaboration, Currency Doubleday.
Tapscott, D. & Williams, A. D. (2008), Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, Expanded edition, Portfolio.
Torvalds, L. & Diamond, D. (2002). Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary, Harper Paperbacks.
Zhou, J. & Shalley, C. (eds) (2007). Handbook of Organizational Creativity (Hardcover), Psychology Press.