Rationality vs creativity

25 October 2010

Ultimate solutions to problem are rational, the process of findig them is not.

William JJ Gordon.


Creative project leaders made 13 times more money

24 October 2010

Another study on the impact of personality was carried out by the business development specialists, Greg Stevens and James Burley, who looked at 267 projects in a large chemicals multinational run by 69 different project leaders over a ten-year period. This study showed that teams run by project leaders with the most creative personality characteristics made 13 times more money for the company than those run by less creative leaders. As predicted by the IPAR research, comfort with intuition was the most important personality characteristic in predicting whether an individual would be so much more productive than the others.

(Miller, 2009, p. 41)

The study referred to is: Greg A. Stevens and James Burley. “Piloting the Rocket of Radical Innovation”, Research-Technology Management (March-April 2003), pp. 16-25.


Reactive and proactive problem solving (idealized design), (Ackoff, 1978)

18 October 2010

Many of our problems derive from a dissatisfaction with some aspect of our current state. For example, we do not like the way our car is working, how sales are going, the cost of materials, and so on. As noted above, many of our problem formulation are directed at getting rid of what we do not want. We tend to be moved more by our dislikes than our likes, more by our hates than our loves. The effort to get rid of what we do not want is reactive, retrospectively oriented problem solving. The effort to obtain what we want is proactive, prospectively oriented problem solving. In reactive problem solving we walk into the future facing the past – we move away from, rather than toward, something. This often results in unforseen consequences that are more distasteful than the deficiencies removed.

In proactive problem solving we specify where we want to go, and we try to get there. Although such an approach does not eliminate the possibility of overlooking relevant consequences of our solutions, it reduces the probability of doing so. The more ultimate the desired outcome we specify, the more likely we are to consider the intermediate and long-run consequences of our immediate actions. The more immediate the source of dissatisfaction we try to get rid of, the less likely we are to take account of relevant consequences. Therefore, the chances of overlooking relevant consequences are minimized when we formulate a problem in terms of approaching one or more ideals.

When we focus on the deficiencies of our current state, we tend to view each deficiency independently. Thus viewed, many deficiencies appear difficult to remove. Because focusing on an ideal reveals the relationships between different things that can be done in the future, it tends to make us deal simultaneously with sets of interacting threats and opportunities, to treat them as a whole, as a system of problems. The effort to deal with sets of interacting problems as a whole is what planning, in contrast to problem solving, should be about.

Planning implies not only dealing holistically with a number of interacting problems, but also doing so with a prospective orientation. Unfortunately, much of what is called planning is preoccupied with correcting a number of independently perceived deficiencies.

Proactive problem solving is always imbedded in a planning process. No problem is treated in isolation, but each problem is formulated as one of a set of interrelated problems that is treated as a whole. Proactive planning consists of designing a desirable future and finding ways of moving toward it as effectively as possible.

The design of a desirable future is best carried out when it is imbedded in an idealized redesign of whatever is being planned for – a nation, an agency, a business, a group, or an individual. Such a redesign is an explicit statement of what the designers would have now if they could have whatever they wanted. Such design should be subjected to only two constraints. First, the design should be technologically feasible. This does not preclude technological innovation; it is intended to prevent the process from becoming an exercise in science fiction. It would be permissible, for example, to include office-to-office color facsimile transmission or the use of helicopters for urban transportation because these are technologically feasible. However, one should not assume telepathic communications between home and office.

An other types of externally imposed constraint – for example, economic, political, and legal-should be disregarded.

The second constraint is that the thing or state designed should be  so designed that if it were brought into existence, it could survive. The design should be operationally viable.

In addition, of course, any design is unavoidably constrained by its designers’ lack of information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, not to mention imagination. Thus an idealized state of affairs should be one in which its designers would be capable of both learning from their experience in it and adapting to changes in themselves and their  environment. It follows that an ideal system or state should be flexible , and capable of being changed easily so that it can be improved continually.

An idealized design is not utopian precisely because it is capable of being improved. It is the best its designers can conceptualize now, but its design, unlike that of a utopia, is based on a recognition of the fact that no idealized design can remain ideal for long. Thus the product of an idealized design is not an ideal state or system, but an ideal-seeking state or system.

An idealized design is not utopian for another reason. Its designers’ need not pretend to have the final answers to all questions that can be I asked about the ideal. Where they do not have an answer, they should design into the state a capability of finding it. Such a design is never completed and is never absolute, final, or fixed. It is subject to continual revision in light of newly acquired information, knowledge, understanding, wisdom, and imagination. (Ackoff, 1978, p. 26f)

The idealized design process unleashes creativity because it relaxes internally imposed constraints. It sanctions imaginative irreverence for things as they are and encourages exploration of areas previously precluded by self-imposed and culturally imposed taboos. (Ackoff, 1978, p. 28)

An individual’s concept of what is feasible is one of the principal self-imposed constraints on problem solving and planning. (Ackoff, 1978, p. 29)

A plan, which is a system of solutions to a system of problems, can be feasible even if none of its parts are feasible when considered separately. Solutions that are infeasible can interact separately to yield a feasible system of solutions. (Ackoff, 1978, p. 30)

When explicit agreement is reached on ultimate values, differences over shorter-range objectives and means are more easily resolved. (Ackoff, 1978, p. 31)

The disappearance of creativity (Ackoff, 1978)

18 October 2010

Most of us take for granted both the creativity of children and its subsequent loss. We do not try to understand, let alone prevent, this loss. Yet the disappearance of creativity is not a mystery; the explanation lies in a query that Jules Henry (1963), an American anthropologist, once made: What would happen, he asked,

if all through school the young were provoked to question the Ten Commandments, the sanctity of revealed religion” the foundations of patriotism, the profit motive, the two party system, monogamy, the laws of incest, and so on …. (p.288)

The answer to Henry’s question is clear: society, its institutions, and the organizations operating within it would be radically transformed by the inquisitive generation thus produced. Herein lies the rub: most of the affluent do not want to transform society or its parts. They would rather sacrifice what future social progress creative minds might bring  about than run the risk of losing the products of previous progress that less creative minds are managing to preserve. The principal beneficiaries of contemporary society do not want to risk the loss of the benefits they now enjoy. Therefore, they, and the educational institutions they control, suppress creativity before children acquire the competence that, together with creativity, would enable them to bring about radical social transformations. Most adults fear that the current form and functioning of our society, its institutions, and the organizations within it could not survive the simultaneous onslaught of youthful creativity and competence. Student behavior in the 1960s convinced them of this.

(Ackoff, 1978, p. 4)

How to make your own managerial breaks (Ackoff, 1978)

18 October 2010

Without creativity a manager may do a good job, but he cannot do an outstanding one. At best he can preside over the progressive evolution of the organization he manages; he cannot lead it to a quantum jump-a radical leap forward. Such leaps are required if an organization is to “pull away from the pack” and “stay out in front.” Those who lack creativity must either settle for doing well enough or wait for the breaks and hope they will be astute enough to recognize and take advantage of them. The creative manager makes his own breaks.

(Ackoff, 1978, p. 3)

Creativity (Ackoff, 1978)

18 October 2010

A puzzle is a problem that one cannot solve because of a selfimposed constraint. Creativity is shackled by self-imposed constraints. Therefore, the key to freeing it lies in developing an ability to identify such constraints and deliberately removing them …

Principles that guide our searches for self-imposed constraints are obviously helpful, but it has been my experience that they do not provide sufficient guidance to creative problem solving. It often takes a bigger push than a principle can provide to get over the hump of a self-imposed constraint. I have found that examples, real ones drawn from life, are often more effective because they are likely to be remembered better and longer.

(Ackoff, 1978, p. 9f)

Being creative is about making fresh connections (Robinson & Aronica, 2009)

12 October 2010

Being creative is about making fresh connections so that we see things in new ways and from different perspectives. In logical, linear thinking, we move from one idea to another through a series of rules and conventions. We allow some moves while rejecting others because they’re illogical. If A + B = C, we can figure out what C + B equals. Conventional IQ exams typically test for this type of thinking. The rules of logic or linear thought don’t always guide creative thinking.

On the contrary, creative insights often come in nonlinear ways, through seeing connections and similarities between things that we hadn’t noticed before. Creative thinking depends greatly on what’s sometimes called divergent or lateral thinking, and especially on thinking in metaphors or seeing analogies.

(Robinson & Aronica 2009, p. 77)