This was a from an online talk I gave on Creative Reinvention using principles and story-based practices from improvisational theater...one of the ways to live into a larger story....
This was a from an online talk I gave on Creative Reinvention using principles and story-based practices from improvisational theater...one of the ways to live into a larger story....
Last night I saw R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe at the Arena Stage in DC - written & directed by D.W. Jacobs - based on Fuller's life, work and writings - and awesomely performed by Rick Foucheux. It was FANTASTIC! A one-man show with integrating storytelling, multi-media, scientific theory and universal mystery, it, for me, was its own hybrid genre of theater - one where where engagement, education, inspiration, entertainment, resonance, audience interaction and evolutionary invitation converged.
Years ago, I had read his well known Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth and some of his articles and became enthralled with his ideas, vision and wisdom. But it wasn't until I took a design class that I really appreciated the power of physicalizing structure with those ideas - and "nature doing more with less." We were given toothpicks and glue and one egg. We had to create a structure for the egg by which we had to stand on a chair and drop the egg, encased in our toothpick structure, on to the ground...and the egg was not supposed to break. Long story short: only one person succeeded at not breaking the egg as he dropped it with nothing but a few toothpicks to protect it. His secret: he had created a geodesic dome around his egg. He used the least number of toothpicks, and he used them most coherently - just like nature creates. That was a powerful learning for me.
Last night I was reminded of Fuller's work and the magnificence of nature's creativity. I left inspired, re-invigorated and deeply grateful for the legacy of this brilliant, heart-centered pioneer who not only thought the great thoughts, but animated them with great actions and creations - and all is service of the good of "spaceship earth" for which he cared passionately.
A small piece of his story: Until 4.5 years old, when he got his first pair of glasses, he could barely see so he learned to live in and create from his imagination and internal experiences. In kindergarten, while other kids were putting together simple toothpick models based on everyday structures they observed (like box houses), he was designing triangles because they "stayed together - they made sense."
After diverse jobs, many hardships, and no particular direction, at age 32 he had a mystical experience that changed the course of his life while walking in the streets of NYC. He emerged from that experience committed to think for himself, discovering and speaking Truth. And in a way that is in integrity with nature. He wanted to find "the coordinate system that nature employs." Later on, in thinking about patterns, and especially "patterns in a mutable kind of way," he later discovered (what he had hints of intuitively at a young age) that "the triangle is the only stable structure" which eventually led to the development of the geodesic dome among his countless contributions. (More on him here).Below are bits of his wisdom, as shared in the performance last night (in no particular order).
• It is only through feeling that you are truly yourself. Thinking and knowledge can be learned form others,
but feelings can only from within you.
• Change is the normal state, as opposed to the Newtonian view where rest was normal
and motion was abnormal.
• Out of information comes synchronized principles.
• Nature is about doing more with less. Economists, on the other hand, have been about doing
less with more.
• I m not a re-former. I am a new-former.
• We need to re-orient production away from weaponry - away from killing-ry to living-ry.
• Behavior of the whole is unpredictable by the behavior of it parts.
• Oppositeness re-generates life.
• Each individual is a verb.
• You as an individual must have courage to go by the truth or you will be swayed by the crowd.
Only the individual can let go of his fear and plunge into the design science revolution.
• To reform the environment is the design responsibility of Spaceship Earth.
• Selfishness made sense when humanity didn't know there was enough to go around.
Now that we know there is, selfishness does not make sense anymore.
• All is expanding and contracting.
• We need idle time. It allows people to think, "What do I see that needs to be done?"
• Intuition is the key to thinking - the contact between the conscious and the subconscious.
The mystery is ever more entrancing and ever more beautiful.
• You can deceive your brain self, but not your mind self. The mind deals only with the truth.
• Everything is energy. Instead of seeing is as fixed - up or down - see it as inward or outward.
• We have a choice: Utopia or Oblivion. If we make it, we'll make it because of truth and love.
In an age when "visionary" and "renaissance" is found in every other manifesto, I think we need a more discerning word or phrase to do justice to the Bucky Fullers. For now, I am feeling gratitude for the "verb" of who he was.
The image is of the geodesic dome donated to Expo '67 in Montreal.
This morning I was reflecting on creative thinking for my newsletter and decided to make a list of what came to me as it emerged, stopping after the first 50 concepts:
Based on research that shows what the mystical traditions have always espoused - "the only thing that increases individual happiness over time is helping other people" - Google has designed a lucrative project that marries creativity, service and financial support. Project 10tothe100 is a project is call for innovative ideas that will change the world by helping as many people as possible. You think of the idea, and Google will fund launching it. It is based on numbers - how many people your idea can serve. I love it...viral stewardship...
* Community: How can we help connect people, build communities and protect unique cultures?
* Opportunity: How can we help people better provide for themselves and their families?
* Energy: How can we help move the world toward safe, clean, inexpensive energy?
* Environment: How can we help promote a cleaner and more sustainable global ecosystem?
* Health: How can we help individuals lead longer, healthier lives?
* Education: How can we help more people get more access to better education?
* Shelter: How can we help ensure that everyone has a safe place to live?
* Everything else: Sometimes the best ideas don't fit into any category at all.
* Reach: How many people would this idea affect?
* Depth: How deeply are people impacted? How urgent is the need?
* Attainability: Can this idea be implemented within a year or two?
* Efficiency: How simple and cost-effective is your idea?
* Longevity: How long will the idea's impact last?
What a whole-istically generative way to focus creativity! You can read all about it - and see the video - at http://www.project10tothe100.com.
"The creative genius will always look for a multiplicity of ways to approach a subject. It is this willingness to entertain different perspectives and alternative approaches that broadens their thinking and opens them up to new information and the new possibilities that the rest of us don’t see. Einstein was once asked what the difference was between him and the average person. He said that if you asked the average person to find a needle in a haystack, the person would stop when he or she found a needle. He, on the other hand, would tear through the entire haystack looking for all possible needles.
"When Charles Darwin first set to solve the problem of evolution, he did not analytically settle on the most promising approach to natural selection and then process the information in a way that would exclude all other approaches. Instead, he initially organized his thinking around significant themes, principally eight, of the problem, which gave his thinking some order but with the themes connected loosely enough so that he could easily alter them singly or in groups. His themes helped him capture his thoughts about evolutionary change by allowing him to reach out in many alternative directions at once and pulling seemingly unrelated information into a coalescent body of thought.
"Darwin used his themes to work through many points that led to his theory of evolution by helping him to comprehend what is known and to guide in the search for what is not yet known. He used them as a way of classifying the relation of different species to each other, as a way to represent the accident of life, the irregularity of nature, the explosiveness of growth, and of the necessity to keep the number of species constant...By adjusting and altering the number of themes and connections, Darwin was able to keep his thought fluid and to bring about adaptive shifts in his thinking. He played the critic, surveying his own positions; the inventor, devising new solutions and ideas; and the learner, accumulating new facts not prominent before."
Blurb is an amazing self-publishing tool for anyone who wants to create and publish a professional quality book. You can publish your own books on business, art, training, peotry, inventions, even your blog posts - whatever you can imagine. There is a choice of professional layouts for images and text. I havn't done it yet, but it seems incredibly easy - and a great way to unleash and focus meaningful creativity. Check it out at www.blurb.com.
I am in an improvisational theater performing group, Precipice Improv. (I'm pictured here with cast mates, from top left to bottom right, Dan Mont, Ric Anderson and Bob Adler).
We improvise full-length plays with nothing planned in advance. No structure. No outline. No character or plot development. Nothing, except for 2 locations we get from the audience at the beginning of the play. The play is then titled, "The Space Station and the Bathroom" or whatever locations we get from the audience. Two of us then run on stage and start interacting, and thus the play begins.
When the play goes well, the audience says, "That HAD to be scripted. At least some part of it had to be scripted. It looked too easy." It was easy. When the performance does not go so well, the audience says, "That looked hard." It was hard.
So what makes is hard sometimes, and easy others? What is the "magic formula" that allows a fully formed, coherent, organized play - with believable characters and a plot - to emerge before the audience’s (and our own) eyes? And, what gets in the way?
What makes it work when it works? We do not go our with a pre-formed notion of our characters or of a plot or of a conflict, challenge or situation. We just let them emerge based on our interactions, actions, and reactions. The "magic formula" is the adherence to improv principles. When we adhere to the principles of improvisation, an emergence occurs that is more intelligent and creative - and organized - than any one of us could have planned. As with any good emergence, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By adhering to the principles, a play unfolds so original and unpredictable, that while in it, you have a sense of being entirely in flow - getting to fully experience the adventure as you create it.
The principles that allow this to happen are simple, yet profound. They seem easy, but in practice, they are almost the exactly opposite ways society navigates every day life and work situations. Thye take re-learning (I say that becuase we were born natural improvisers and then got "educated" and "civilized" out of the playful aspects of it). Below are 7 basic improv principles. There are others, but I have found these to be essential:
1. Yes And - fully accepting the reality that is presenting, and the adding a NEW piece of information - that is what allows it to move forward and stay generative.
2. Make everyone else look good - that means you do not have to be defending or justifying yourself or your position - you have a group of other who will do that for you. And you are comitted to doing that for others. Without the burden of defensiveness, everyone are free to create.
3. Allow yourself to be change by what is said and what happens - at each moment, new information in an invitation for you to have a new reaction, or for your character to experience a new aspect of them. Change inspires new ideas, and that naturally unfolds what's next.
4. Co-create a shared "agenda" - the recognition that even the best-laid plans are abandoned in the moment, and to serve the reality of what is right there in front of you. You are co-creating the agenda in real-time. In order to keep the play going, you respond to the moment and an "agenda" co-emerges.
5. Be fully present and engaged - by staying preset to each moment, getting out of planning and into being, you have a wellspring options and choices in each moment. To do so requires engagement and attention. With engagement combined with presence and yes-anding, you can't do anything but be co-creative.
6. Keep the energy going - no matter what is given, or what happens, you accept it and keep the energy gong. Unlike in everyday life, where people stop to analyze, criticize or negate, in improv you keep moving. A mistake happens - let it go move on. The unexpected emerges - use it to move on. Someone forgot something important - justify it and move on. Just keep moving.
7. Seek the good of the whole - always carry the question, "How can I best serve this situation?" and then you have a better sense of when to run in and when to stay back, when to take focus and when to give it, how to best support your fellow performers and how to best support the scene. By focusing away from how you will look into serving the larger good, you have more creative impulses and resources available to you at any moment. And the choices you make are more in alignment with the higher levels of creative integration that form a coherent play.
So, what make it "look hard" when it is not working so well? Simple, any violation of the principles. If one of us tries to orchestrate, or worse impose, our own agenda or plot on the piece. If one of us tries to be the "star" and take too much focus. If even one of us is not present to what is unfolding, moment-by-moment. If one of us worries about the plot, and starts to figure out how to "save" it. If we expect someone to should respond in a certain way. In short, anything that gets out of the moment and out of support - and into our controlling heads.
The truth is, in each performance we have some of each - some magic moments and some more effortful ones. By adhering to the improv principles, however, we significantly increase the magic and decrease the efforting. A creative, and suprisely logical, play can then emerge through that fresh and alive energy. We, and the audience, then get to experience the real-time excitement of riding the flow of a creative emergence.
Creativity is naturally
self-organizing system. We are meaning makers, and left to our own devices, our brains
naturally seek order, coherence and meaning. Once you allow yourself the freedom
to explore and play; set the guidelines of play -i.e., improv principles; and then get out of the way, creativity can develop and unify all kinds of
things that otherwise would seem impossible.
For me, the principles of improvisation serve a much larger purpose than creating a play - I see them as having the ability to create the life-giving container for cognitive, personal, organizational, social, political, cognitive, and spiritual transformation. I see them as rules of engagement for a more peaceful, co-generative, co-creative, sustainable world.
The National University of Singapore is featuring Cultures of Creativity – the Centennial Exhibition of the Nobel Prize. Singapore is the 12th destination in the 15-city world tour, a traveling showcase of the creative process. Not just a compilation of facts and information, this exhibition specifically focuses on the internal drives and the external environments that shaped the creative achievements of the Nobel Laureates:
The “Cultures of Creativity” exhibition was launched in 2001 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize. There are two versions of this exhibition: a permanent exhibition at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm, Sweden and an international traveling exhibition. The contents of this Centennial exhibition reflect the history of the Nobel Prize, while focusing on the concept of creativity. The exhibition consists of four sections:
Alfred Nobel and His Times - Learn more about how Alfred Nobel's will led to establishment of the Nobel Prizes and why he was a man ahead of his time.
The Nobel System - See how Alfred Nobel's wishes were realised through the establishment of the Nobel Foundation and the six Nobel Prizes - Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, Peace and Economics.
Individual Creativity - Discover the driving forces behind the work of Nobel Laureates, their creative processes and their groundbreaking achievements.
Creative Milieus - Learn more about the creative milieus that have been significant in shaping Nobel Laureates and environments that stimulate creative thinking.
Thanks to Michael Strong's post on the FLOWidealism listserve for the link to Howard Bloom's new book, Reinventing Capitalism: Putting Soul In The Machine. Even of you do not have time to read the book, I recommend checking out the web site (www.howardbloom.net/reinventing_capitalism) for the description. It beautifully articulates the inexorable link between invention, innovation, passion and prosperity - not in a mechanistic, limited way of seeing capitalism, but through a soul-centered, integrative, fully human lens. Here are a few excerpts from the review on the web page:
Reinventing Capitalism lets you in on a secret Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and today’s mainstream economists, eco-critics, and business pundits never dreamed—forget greed and dedicate yourself to your own passions, to your ideals, and to others’ needs and you’ll unleash the power hidden in our civilization, a power that can make you a shaper of meaning, a maker of warmth, a creator of new wonders and abilities, and can offer you a new way to succeed.
...what lessons can we learn, what can we invent, what can we upgrade and create? What new twists of culture, of technology, of insight and technique will help us leapfrog over our assailants and carry us forward toward new ways of being? How can we take the values of our Founding Fathers to even higher peaks? How can we loft the best that’s in us into the next two centuries?
The answer lies in giving capitalism a heart and a soul. More specifically it lies in giving all of us something only saints have previously been required to possess—something Bloom calls “tuned empathy.”
...There’s a new form of capitalism struggling to be born among us. In reality it’s been here all along, but we’ve failed to see it. It’s Emotional Capitalism, a capitalism vibrant with the power of something that has to seize the heart of every boardroom meeting—the power to care, the power to feel the emotions of the people you serve, and the power to feel your own emotions in new ways
...The true businessman is a seer and servant. He is not trafficking in inanimate goods sold to anonymous “consumers.” He nourishes human souls. When he helps those souls catch fire, money flows. Those who look deep into their passions can anticipate the needs of others. A bone-deep love for others’ needs is the secret to personal growth, to profits, and to prosperity.
...It’s time for all of us—for those in our offices and our homes, and for culture-leaders in boardrooms, universities, and editorial headquarters--to wake up and see that humans are nourished by perception, nourished by passion, nourished by feeling. It’s time for us to see the emotional substance in what we’ve mistakenly labeled with a dehumanized vocabulary, the language of clods, lumps, stones, and numbers—the language of “materialism,” “commodification,” “consumerism,” “derivatives,” “transfer agents,” “utility maximization,” “quarterly profits,” “products,” “markets,” and “supply and demand.”
...We desperately need a reinvention and a re-perception of the system that has given Western Civilization its long-term strength and its recent weaknesses. We need the Capitalism of Passion.
...Capital is stored imagination. Capital is stored stress, stored vision, stored diligence to persist, and stored ability to inspire others to complete a task that seems impossible or frivolous. Capital is stored passion!
...There is a soul, a passion, inside of the economic machine. Our most personal desires and schemes sometimes scare us with their strangeness, with their lunacy. But some dare make them public—just as the first stone-chipper, the first stone-wall builder, the first brick-maker, and the first brick-city-planner did....Some risk looking foolish with the tales, the songs, and the fantasies they share. Others stare with wonder—they see their own unspoken feelings, their chaotic longings, echoed in a mirror there. Then we and our allies recruit, we proselytize. We make the masses see what we have seen. We organize believers to throw themselves with idealism, passion, commitment, and deep faith, into creating something that this cosmos has never previously seen. We organize others so they can make a reality of what is now shared fantasy, shared lunacy, acommunal and a corporate dream.
The September issue of Popular Science features the most creative scientists of the year in The Fifth Annual Brilliant 10. In their search, they looked not for the seasoned experts, but for those who challenge established assumptions and transcend the limitations of the current paradigms - swimming beyond the edges of what is known:
By “brilliant” we don’t mean smart. Or at least not just smart. Brilliance is marked by insight, creativity and tenacity. It’s the confidence to eschew established wisdom in order to develop your own. It’s the foolishness needed to set out for the edge of understanding and sail right past it, ignoring the signs reading “Thar be monsters” (not to mention “Turn back lest ye never be awarded a decent research grant again”).
That’s why, when we started the six-month-long process of selecting our Brilliant 10 awardees, we asked hundreds of respected scientists, university department heads and journal editors to name not the most established or well-known scientists in their fields. We asked for the mavericks. The young guns. The individuals who are changing not just what we know but the limits of what we think it’s possible to know. The eventual winners are young (average age: 34), and each is just beginning to be noticed in the world outside their respective fields. But among their peers, our winners’ oft-radical ideas are generating a rare degree of respect and admiration. Among us, as well. And for that, they deserve to be part of our Brilliant 10.
The language of dreams is sensory, visual and non-linear, whereas the language of waking life is predominantly verbal. In a dream state, the "left-brain" editor is off duty, and the "right brain" can work its magic, weaving together solutions to challenges that the conscious mind might ignore if it did not come through habitual thought patterns or verbal channels. Throughout history, inventors, scientists, innovators, and artists have solved problems in their dreams, whether intentionally or not.
Brilliant Dreams has compiled a list of twelve of these famous discoveries and creations in literature, science, music and even sports attributed to dreams, including:
Friedrich August Kekulé von Stradonitz discovered the Benzene molecule:
"...I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by the repeated visions of the kind, could now distinguish larger structures of manifold conformation; long rows sometimes more closely fitted together all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night in working out the consequences of the hypothesis."
The tune for "Yesterday" came to Paul McCartney in a dream:
"I woke up with a lovely tune in my head. I thought, 'That's great, I wonder what that is?' There was an upright piano next to me, to the right of the bed by the window. I got out of bed, sat at the piano, found G, found F sharp minor 7th -- and that leads you through then to B to E minor, and finally back to E. It all leads forward logically. I liked the melody a lot, but because I'd dreamed it, I couldn't believe I'd written it."
Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1845 from a dream:
He had the idea of a machine with a needle which would go through a piece of cloth but he couldn't figure out exactly how it would work. He first tried using a needle that was pointed at both ends, with an eye in the middle, but it was a failure. Then one night he dreamt he was taken prisoner by a group of natives. They were dancing around him with spears. As he saw them move around him, he noticed that their spears all had holes near their tips. When he woke up he realized that the dream had brought the solution to his problem. By locating a hole at the tip of the needle, the thread could be caught after it went through cloth thus making his machine operable.
For more examples, go to http://www.brilliantdreams.com/product/famous-dreams.htm.
The most inspiring movie I have seen this year is Something the Lord Made - the amazing true story of Vivian Thomas, an African American carpenter turned prolific inventor in the field of medicine. He was the innovative genius who discovered the techniques and invented tools to perform the first ever heart surgery. He never went to medical school. This is a moving story of creativity, passion, invention, intuition, collaboration, and emerging a new paradigm.
Fired from his carpentry job, yet interested in medicine, he went to work with Dr. Alfred Blalock at Jones Hopkins University in the 1930s and 40s. It became apparent Vivian was a creative genius. His passion, inventiveness and perseverance against many personal and societal setbacks became the driving force of discovery that led to the first heart surgery - something that was believed impossible at the time
Together Vivian and Dr. Blalock were trying to figure out how to solve some of the challenges posed by working on the "blue babies" – babies who were not getting the proper circulation through their heart and therefore had a blue tint. There was no cure at that time and these babies died within months.
Vivian’s successful methods were a result of research and extensive experimentation, combined with vision, exploration, making previously unforeseen connections, and intuition – in a dream, Vivian saw their first patient as a grown up, but with a baby’s heart. She was holding held her baby heart in her hands and she died. He woke up knowing that to ensure the success of the surgery, they must use sutures that grew along with the baby into adulthood, and therefore the heart could grow into its adult size.
Vivian was there, guiding Dr. Blalock and their team of surgeons through the surgery. It worked and the surgical team was esteemed worldwide. All except for Vivian. The brains behind it all, he was not acknowledged by Dr. Blalock nor the rest of the team in the media frenzy. Feeling betrayed, Vivian quit and went into pharmaceutical sales. After time away, he realized his heart was in the lab, furthering the advancement of medicine.
He swallowed his pride and faced the man whom he felt betrayed him, asking him of he could come back to the lab. Dr. Blalock replied, "I am still the same arrogant bastard who was here before." And Vivian then said the words most demonstrative of the way those who are responsible for the innovative advances that expand what's possible: "It is not about you. It is about the work" - and he went back to work.
Vivian went on to earn an honorary doctorate Johns Hopkins years later, and his picture hangs in their walls to this day, next to Alfred Blalock's. Before Vivian, it was understood in the medical establishment to not touch the heart during surgery. He not only invented a life-saving procedure, he helped change a paradigm.