Creativity and innovation
Creativity and innovation

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Creativity and innovation

1.4.2 Emergent creativity

Another approach to understanding creativity borrows from the new science of complexity to stress the idea of emergent creativity. Complexity science involves the study of complex dynamic systems involving many agents capable of learning. Complexity models show that, if the individual agents go about their business following a few simple rules, patterns of behaviour begin to emerge in the group that enable the group to learn. One implication is that even quite complex systems composed of many agents seem perfectly well able to self-regulate. Wikipedia, the free editable online encyclopaedia, can be seen as a case in point.

Though dynamic systems demonstrate learning, the nature of the patterns that emerge in such systems are not predictable at the outset. Neural net software based on these ideas is used to analyse the stock market. These programs need practice, they start out performing poorly but, as they build up knowledge of the different patterns that can arise, they gradually ‘learn’ to match the existing data better than expert systems. Software engineers only apply them in real situations once they have got to the point where they predict market trends well and repeatedly. A feature of the software is that the programmers are unable to explain exactly how it works, as the interactions involved are too complex.

Creativity can be seen in a similar way, as a property that emerges from a social field due to an interaction of factors, but one that is almost impossible to predict. Creativity is more likely in organisations that are neither too stable and ordered (for example, bureaucracies) nor totally disordered. Since no functioning organisation can be totally disordered, the suggestion is that creative endeavour is more likely to emerge at the ‘edge of chaos’, in the mess between order and disorder. ((Pascale 1999, 2006) elaborates on organisational creativity as seen from the perspective of complexity.)

Activity 6 Applying ideas

Which of the ideas presented in this section seem most relevant to your situation? Could you see a case for adapting any for your organisation or not? How would you do this?


For example: what do you think helps creativity emerge in organisations in your part of the world? Also, how adequately does this section address creativity in your sector and organisation?


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