Creativity is a state of thinking, being, and knowing. It is not a state of production. One of the legacies we carry with us from the days of engineering is measuring creativity based on output. And by doing that we conflate creating with producing.

If I give you a cup in the middle of the desert and ask you to fill it with water, it will be a significant effort. You will need to go and find water — with no taps it is a challenge. You might succeed or fail, and in the process will need to think in new ways on how to produce water.

But what if I ask you to bring water, without giving you a cup?

The water is of course analogous to ideas, and inspiration. Our cup is stationary (in states of knowing, and being). It is a fixed context, a mental model. It is known.

When we are asked to fill the cup, we know we need water, but we don’t know where to look. We can call this known unknown creativity’, or production. Known cup, unknown water.

The latter example is unknown unknown creativity’. We don’t know where the water is, nor what to carry the water in. Both unknown.

Brian Arthur writes a wonderful general articulation of technology as a (1) phenomenon packaged in a (2) frame.

Focusing on one of those is an act of production (‘known unknown creativity’). Asking for both is (‘unknown unknown’) creativity

October 8, 2020