Integral Innovation & Creativity

August 2012 / Feature Articles

Tom Bruno-Magdich

Tom Bruno-Magdich

Tom Bruno-Magdich

Most people in business today understand that organisations must embrace change and creativity in order to stay competitive in this ever shifting, global marketplace. The good news is every company that employs human beings has all the resources they need to help them innovate.  It’s their people stupid!

Our experience working with a large number of global companies has shown us that everyone in an organisation has the ability to think creatively about common day-to-day challenges. We have also discovered that a culture of creativity is about utilising diverse thinking styles and approaches to problem solving.

The question then, for leaders to ask is not, “How creative are my people?” but rather, “How are my people creative?” For example: Imagine you are walking alone, on your way home, late at night and you are suddenly surrounded by two, hefty muggers. Just as they are about to accost you, time freezes and out of nowhere Neo, the hero character from the Matrix Trilogy appears and grants you one wish. He says, ” It’s your lucky day because you get to choose one of the following creative, intelligent and talented people to come and help you.”

• Einstein
• Marie Curie
• Mariah Carey
• Arnie
• Bruce Lee
• Bill Gates

Which would you choose ? Take a moment to reflect before you read any further. Okay who did you go for? Well, unless we want someone to sing the attackers to death, Mariah is out of the picture. Bill Gates could offer them some cash, but I doubt if ever carries any, and Arnie is a big guy but also a bit slow these days. I’d be putting my money, and my life, on Bruce Lee; If he were still alive of course.

The fact is that Bruce Lee had a specific talent for self defence unlike any other martial arts expert. This is because he was both physically creative and physically intelligent. He applied his creative ability to developing new and innovative moves to build his unique form of martial arts that he called Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist). He also applied his intelligence to identifying where to deliver devastating blows on the opponents body and when, with calculated precision.

When we look at highly successful individuals who are known for a specific talent we can see something more than mere virtuosity. We see a combination of creativity and intelligence.

Most people don’t immediately think of creativity and intelligence as a combination. Creativity is often seen as a special gift or capability reserved for naturally talented individuals who work in the arts, while intelligence is usually associated with academia. But the more we explore this area the more we discover that creativity can be expressed in everyday behaviours in any number of ways: from figuring out how to get yourself back into your home after having locked yourself out without a key, to putting together a list of dinner guests.

Now you might be thinking these are simply examples of problems that need solving with some rational and logical thought. However, the novelty and effectiveness of the solution you come up with will determine whether your idea is creative, intelligent, or a combination of both. Interestingly there really seems to be a strong relationship between intelligence and creativity and there are many more than just one type of intelligence. This was explored in some detail by the developmental psychologist Howard Gardner and his theory of “Multiple Intelligences.”

Gardner believes that we do not have just one IQ but rather we potentially have multiple Intelligences. He also suggests that each intelligence has it’s own IQ. This flies in the face of traditional thinking where a person is normally assumed to have just one, high, low, or average intelligence. Added to this, research by various creativity experts suggests that people are often driven to think more creatively when they are motivated by something they personally value.

For instance if you love food, you may look for innovative ways to prepare vegetables. If you enjoy socializing, you may come up with creative ideas for themed parties. If you are a mathematician, you may enjoy the creativity inherent in the theory of quantum physics and if you are a passionate sports person you may express creativity in the way you play your sport. David Beckham is a very creative soccer player.

Intelligence is usually associated with the ability to think effectively both logically and abstractly, and process, store and articulate large amounts of knowledge and information. But it is proving to be much broader than we think. We know for instance there is something called EQ, also known as Emotional intelligence, as outlined in the works of Daniel Goleman 1999; Howard Gardner, Harvard; Peter Salovey,Yale; and John ‘Jack’ Mayer, New Hampshire. There is also an intelligence called SQ–Spiritualintelligence, a subject on which Dan Zohar has written extensively. SQ could be described as your inner drives and motivations energised by your values and beliefs. Then there is physical intelligence. Science has long revealed that the body has it’s own communication systems carried along the nerves by intelligent chemicals and hormones. For example, performers, singers, actors, and athletes rely on this type of intelligence of the body.

Lets take a deeper look at Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligence types and see how and where they fit into the categories of the four dimensions of human expression. The following three types of intelligences as identified by Gardner could be categorised under Physical intelligence and each can be applied creatively.

Visual Spatial intelligence. Thinking that is primarily in pictures. People expressing this type of intelligence have a high level of physical awareness and understand how they relate to and occupy space. This would include artists, engineers, and architects.

Kinesthetic intelligence. This type of intelligence includes a high level of control of bodily movement with an ability to handle objects skillfully. This would be a capability possessed by successful athletes, dancers, actors, surgeons, comedians, builders and artisans. People like Vanessa Williams, Michael Jordan, Jim Carrie, Dr Christian Bernard, Fred Astaire and Beyoncé Knowles.

Musical intelligence. The person who expresses this intelligence has a high level of sensitivity to rhythm, melody, and sound. It would include instrumentalists, singers, conductors, and composers. Even though Beethoven lost his hearing, his creative intelligence was so high in this area he was still able to continue composing right up to the end of his life, when he was completely deaf.

The next two types of intelligence would fit into the standard measures for Intellect.

Logical intelligence. People with this capacity include scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors and economists. Albert Einstein is the most famous scientist expressing a creative intelligence for logical thought. He once imagined himself riding on a sunbeam and zooming out into the universe and came up with the General Theory of Relativity. This eventually led to modern day physics (quantum physics) which is very creative theory indeed.

Linguistic intelligence. This group includes writers, lawyers, philosophers, politicians, and teachers. Anyone who can work creatively with language will be expressing linguistic intelligence. James Joyce and William Shakespeare are two obvious contenders.

The third type of intelligence can be described as Spiritual/motivational and Gardner has identified what he calls:

Existential intelligence. This includes philosophers and mystics, many of whom are very creative in terms of articulating and expressing their experiences. We might think of the great ancient Greek philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, and Plotinus who were the first to create ideas about atoms and the interconnection of the universe. This was way before anyone ever knew about the big bang or quantum physics. Just before Galileo pointed his telescope out into the night sky a mystic monk called Giordano Bruno (1548 -1600) used his imagination to visualise our universe as a place where there are many other suns with earth-like planets around them; and also that the universe was infinite with no centre. Unfortunately his creative intelligence cost him his life. However we are now discovering that what he imagined is probably true.

Finally we have the emotional dimension, which would include:

Interpersonal intelligence. Important for politicians, managers, teachers, social workers, and diplomats. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were masters of creatively applying their emotional intelligence to connect with people. Sadly for both their creativity caused them to finish up painting way’off the canvas.

Intra-personal intelligence. This is the ability to explore, understand, and create our own internal world through thoughts and imagination. Expressed by psychologists, theologians, writers, and scientists. Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, arguably the godfathers of psychoanalysis, were incredibly intelligent and creative in this dimension. In fact much of Freuds writing and Carl Jung’s various drawings of mandalas appear to be more like works of art and poetry than psychological theory.

Referring to Gardner’s ideas we can begin to create a model that actually helps to offer us a definition for the word creativity as an individual using and expressing specific and diverse intelligences in creative ways. Therefore we might now be more specific in saying that innovative thinking can be described as the expression of different types of creative intelligence.

For innovation to thrive it is absolutely vital for leaders to allow people, up and down the hierarchy in an organisation, to suggest solutions and ideas for anything they see that could be useful for the business. It is also about offering positive incentives and acknowledgment to people for sharing ideas. However, there also has to be an understanding of what motivates whom to be creative and innovative  and why?

Spiraling Towards Innovation

There is mounting evidence from creativity studies to suggest that the drive towards creativity is essentially intrinsic. Harvard’s creativity professor, Teresa Amabile posits: “People will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself, and not by external pressures or inducements.” Which means that each of us could be encouraged to be creative and share ideas if the personal, value systems that drive and motivate us are recognised and rewarded.

The theory of Spiral Dynamics Integral was developed by Dr Don Beck and utilises some ideas from the Integral philosopher Ken Wilber, included during their brief association. However the core of Dr Beck’s theory was drawn from the research and work of Dr Clare W Graves. For around 10 years Don Beck worked very closely with Clare Graves exploring how an individual’s value systems developed through life in a process of transcendence and inclusion.

The central idea is that what we humans feel, think and believe shifts and changes depending on what we’re doing, where we are in life and who we are with. As our values change, so do our behaviours and drivers.

Integral Idea Generating

It is important to take an integral approach to creativity and innovation that utilizes the diverse thinking styles, personality types, and motivators of diverse groups of people. This is where Spiral Dynamics Integral becomes indispensable as a map for understanding an individual, a team, and an organization in terms of the potential for creativity. The central idea to the integral approach  to creativity is to acknowledge and utilise people’s value Memes (vMeme) as a motivator for creative thinking. Time and again research has suggested that creative problem solving is best served when there is a diverse mix of perspectives around an issue. Therefore it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a need to elicit creativity from each and every individual across all departments in an organization in order to maximize idea generation.

However, as people are more inclined to be creative if they are intrinsically motivated, an idea- generating session may be less productive if there are individuals expressing conflicting vMemes as people will be inclined to express vMemes that represent their adaption to a given situation. For example, if the situation they are experiencing seems chaotic and out of control some individuals will tend to seek and impose order. Of course this will be a matter of degrees and personal preference. When bringing people together to share ideas it is important to both determine which value systems best represent the issue being discussed and which idea- generating processes will appeal to the intrinsic drives of the individuals in the group.

The following descriptions outline the various value systems (signified as vMemes) that can provide creative energy from a Spiral Dynamics Integral perspective.

Purple vMeme. Team orientated and loyal to their own community and tribe, a person expressing values at the purple stage will seek agreement within a group but will also tend to defer to an authority figure. Their position is self-less, sacrificing their own ideas for the greater good of the tribe. Their thinking style may be insular and limited to their own field of experience, knowledgem or understanding. It can be challenging sometimes to get them thinking and behaving outside of the box. However, they will have a very strong emotional connection to the group and their work so can often bring deeper levels of meaning to a project or idea. This thinking style presents as an ability to capture core brand values in a strap line or campaign. Someone with strong pvalues will be invaluable when it comes to keeping a group on message or on brand and instilling trust and loyalty within a team.

Red vMeme. Egocentric and sometimes contrarian asserting self for dominance, conquest, and power. The expression of an unhealthy set of red values doesn’t easily fit into an idea-generating team. This vMeme is innately “pre-law and order”. People with a red centre of gravity cannot always control themselves sufficiently enough to follow rules. This vMeme may be expressed in raw displays of power with minimal regard for right and wrong. Someone with strong, healthy red values usually prefers to generate their own ideas alone and expects acknowledgement for their creations. Red’s bright ideas can be revealed in their need to grab the limelight and therefore they may produce something different and unique. A person expressing healthy red values may be able to identify the opposite of any category and turn everything on its head to destroy (or invigorate) the evolution of an idea. The red vMeme can be useful if there is a need to break out and transform a situation, idea, or process that is stuck in sameness.

Blue vMeme. Blue’s core need is for rules, knowledge, and competence. People expressing energy generated by a blue set of values can be fact finders who want to understand and learn and/or develop rules and theories for everything. They value expertise, logic, and consistency. Their bright ideas can be revealed in an ability to analyze a situation through research, detailed analysis– searching for laws and patterns as well as identifying and defining the available data to uncover the rules. Risk averse, blue values can sometimes mean a person restricts themselves to tried and tested ways of doing things. However, they will also be the value set that can keep a project or idea rooted in reality. Their bright ideas are geared towards pragmatism and producing tangible outputs.

Orange vMeme. A person living out the orange values stage is often strategic, enterprising, rational, and organizing. They are driven to achieve results and get ahead. The energy generated by the orange vMeme is rational but will also reject blue’s authoritarianism. They value individualism and as such may put rights over responsibilities. They will listen to other people’s ideas and use anything that will get them ahead. Regardless of whether they thought of it first. Ultimately a person with an organge centre of gravity will want to do things their own way and will be able to negotiate and persuade others that they are right. Their bright ideas are revealed in the ability to re-organize what already exists in order to move forward and innovate. They like to bend the rules to get ahead, but not too far. The orange vMeme will drive a person to adapt, substitute, modify, re-combine, and collate existing elements to form a new whole.

Green vMeme. This vMeme is relativistic, communal, sharing, affiliate, and consensual. Green’s core drivers are energized by working with others towards some greater, collective good where everyone is right. People expressing the green vmeme will value unity and authenticity, preferring cooperative interactions with diverse groups of people and helping individuals realize their potential in harmony with each other. No one is better than anyone else–just different. They build bridges between people through empathy and acceptance. The questions they ask are: How does it make you feel? What does it mean for you? On the down side, green thinking can lead to lack of clarity or consensus as people are unable to make up their minds and go round in circles through fear of causing offence. Green can often avoid conflict and enjoy being in an ego-less space, not recognising that conflict is vital for creativity.

Yellow vMeme. Systemic, objective, improvisational, integrative, existential, flexible, and questioning. The focus of people expressing the yellow vMeme is on flexibility, spontaneity, and adaption. They like to find connections between conflicting views and value discovery and personal freedom without harm to others or excessive self-interest. They can stand outside a situation and quickly shift their subjective experience into an objective perspective. They see, hear and feel the big picture and their bright ideas are revealed in an ability to integrate disparate elements, blending and creating hybrids at the intersection of two or more positions. Everyone’s ideas are considered partially valid and can be integrated in some way. They understand the value of all previous vMemes and seek a process of transcend and include when working creatively.

With a deeper understanding of the values-based thinking styles of your team, we will be better able to plan for idea-generating meetings, orchestrate diverse perspectives into one process, and getting ideas from everyone in an organisation. In this way innovative thinking need not be solely the responsibility of specific innovation or research and development teams or confined to products and services alone. The whole organisation could be integrated into an innovation strategy that encourages everyone to look at every aspect of the business.

For example:

Process innovation–implementing new or significantly improved production methods.
Business model innovation–changing the way business is done. For example: EasyJet, Amazon, iTunes.
Organisational innovation–creating new or changing existing infrastructures, systems, and operational models.
Marketing innovation–developing alternative strategies to promote and package services and products.
Supply chain innovation–innovating on how, where, and when materials are sourced from suppliers and improving delivery of products to customers.

However, many organisations fail to innovate. Why?

A number of studies have identified the following key findings:

  • Unsupportive culture;
  • Leaders and managers dismissing ideas too soon;
  • Leaders being too risk averse;
  • Lack of concrete resources, signalling that the organisation is not taking innovation seriously;
  • Hyper standardisation. Innovative thinking is stifled when leaders become prescriptive as to how it must be achieved;
  • Lack of practical tools and processes for creative thinking and innovation to happen; and
  • Lack of a sense of common purpose to innovate.

Evolutionary Spiral Thinking

At 4D we have designed a number of integral idea-generating tools to help creativity to happen between people. One example of which is the following 7-stage process and is based on the theory of Spiral Dynamics. This particular ideation process is designed to mimick the evolutional process of natural, biological systems. The 7 steps are analogous to the way organic systems (atoms, molecules, cells, organisms) divide and unite at various stages in a process of a transcend and include collaboration towards increasing complexity, in order to create forms and ways of being that meet the given life conditions.

The example used here was applied to generate ideas for new packaging for an existing product. This process is best run for a group of people with a minimum of 6 participants.

  1  BEIGE Basic Survival Working alone for 5 minutes. In your opinion, what’s the minimum and most basic design requirement for packaging? (Include thoughts on style and materials). Generate some ideas to demonstrate your thinking.
  2  PURPLE Group Culture Working as a group for 10 minutes.What’s the minimum and most basic design requirement  to express your company’s brand values in packaging? Generate some ideas to demonstrate your thinking.
  3  RED Individualist Working alone for 5 minutes.If you had unlimited resources and could do anything you want, what would be your unique, individual take on a packaging idea for a product? Generate ideas.
  4  BLUE Acknowledge Rules Working as a group for 10 minutes.The team share what they understand are all the non-negotiable rules around packaging for a product produced by your compny? Come up with some ideas together to demonstrate your thinking.
  5  ORANGE Risk Taking Working alone for 10 minutes.Which rules would you risk breaking to create a brand new innovation in packaging? Include working with ‘paradox’ to create new perspectives. Demonstrate your thinking with two or more ideas that include a mix of adhering to and breaking the rules.
  6  GREEN Accept and Build Working as a group for 15 minutes.Participants share their ideas so far. The group must then accept, incorporate and build on all these ideas to come up with more innovative suggestions. No blocking, editing or subtracting.
  7  YELLOW Integral Hierarchy Working alone for 5 minutes.Choose your top idea from the previous processes. Re-organise, adapt and add elements you think will improve the idea. Qualify your decision. Explain why you think it might work.

The drive to create and innovate exists within every human being. People can express their creativity in multiple ways because innovation is an indispensible capability for survival and is the process of an energetic and intelligent life force that is present and active within us all.

It’s called evolution.

The psychological, physical, social, environmental, and cosmological sciences are revealing that all living systems are either evolving themselves, or are part of a larger evolving system. In other words, evolution is creative innovation. Therefore, we the people are innately creative, all of us; and all that needs to happen in order to encourage us to express our creativity is to identify the codes that motivate each of us to be creative.  And that means taking an integral approach to creativity that includes understanding which of the four dimensions we use to express our intelligence and which of the Spiral vMemes are energising our creative behaviours.

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