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Social and Individual Components of Creativity

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

This is very good. And it is fast.

I have enjoyed several of Steven Johnson’s previous books, Emergence and Mind Wide Open and his latest one, Where Good Ideas Come From looks to be a must read, though I think those of you who have read Wikinomics or works like Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi will find some of Johnson’s points in the video to be familiar as will those long time readers who have seen my views on horizontal thinking   and  insight.

My students watched this and reacted by defining themselves as those who were creative mostly through social collaboration but a decided minority required solitude and an environmental filter to think clearly and creatively – not a catalyst of a series of  social-intellectual stimuli. For them, the cognitive load generated by the environment amounted to an overload, a distracting white noise that short-circuited the emergence of good ideas.

This suggests to me that there are multiple and very different neuronal pathways to creativity in the brain and a person’s predisposition in their executive function, say for example the classic “ADHD” kid at the back of the class, may have different requirements to be creative than a peer without that characteristic. It also means that creativity may be subject to improvement if we can cultivate proficiency in several “styles” of creative thinking.

Living Intelligence System

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

My twitteramigo @ckras has put your tax dollars to work attempting to shatter the stovepipes of analytical excellence in the IC.

And it is pretty cool…..notice how issues of lines of authority and reliability of information are facilitated and made infinitely more efficient with off the shelf Web 2.0.


The nice thing about this project of @ckras is that his model can be generalized to any large organization or system where bureaucratic complexity and the territoriality of guarding tiny empires is gumming up the timely flow of information into the right hands.

Obscurely Related but Interesting Nonetheless

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Time to juxtapose.

Dr. John Nagl at Democracy Journal Intellectual Firepower New threats require new think tanks

….He proposes, instead, creating a Federally Funded Research and Development Corporation, or FFRDC, dedicated to thinking about the Islamic terror threat in the same way that RAND thought about the Soviet nuclear threat. Stevenson suggests the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as a model. It is undeniably a good and long-overdue idea, with likely payoffs hugely exceeding the few hundred million dollars such an organization would cost the taxpayer every year. But beyond the basics, Stevenson is working from the wrong mould. RAND was so influential not least because it was the brains behind an enormously large and powerful set of muscles called the Strategic Air Command, where peace was a profession and war just a hobby; DARPA provides thinking that feeds the mammoth U.S. defense industry. Stevenson’s proposed think tank would need similar need bone and muscle. But unlike the Strategic Air Command or the Department of Defense, the muscle we need today would motivate soft power, rather than hard steel.

It is not for me, a scribbler in a think tank, to denigrate the idea of creating another one. In fact, an underreported cause of the recent turnaround in Iraq has been General David Petraeus’ creation of his own brain trust consisting of many of the military’s brightest strategic thinkers on the challenges of insurgency [See Rachel Kleinfeld, “Petraeus the Progressive,” on page 107 of this issue]. If Petraeus could do so much on his own, just with thinkers he knew personally, imagine what the nation could do with a call to service by a president who valued thinking hard about problems?

I’m certainly in favor of a foreign policy DARPA – glad the wonks are catching up to my early, amateurish, efforts at blogging – and I also agree that a “new kind of think tank” is in order too. Hopefully these ideas that originated in the blogosphere will gain currency and become a reality before 2016  or 2020. 🙂

Rialtas.Net -Government 2.0Stigmergic Collaboration

I have just finished reading Mark Elliot’s PHD dissertation entitled “Stigmergic Collaboration- A Theoretical Framework for Mass Collaboration” and I found it to be inspiring and profound.

This is one of the most scientific and rigorous examinations of mass collaboration and social networking technologies and their interactions that I have come across, and I highly recommend reading it. In fact reading this paper has reinforced my interest in 2.0 technologies and my view that they are just the beginning of a new mode of working and of communicating. In fact I am now totally fascinated by research in the area of stigmergy and emergence, thank you Mark.

One element covered by Elliot (and I hope he will correct me if I am misinterpreting him) is that the whole web 2.0 collaborative technology framework is an human emergent (stigmergic) structure, emerging spontaneously through the simple actions and interactions of many individuals self-organising and evolving more complex structures as the social and technological conditions necessary for these types of structure to emerge become more prevalent (just as termite mounds and ant hills arise out of the simple behaviour of individual insects). This is essential reading for anyone interested in the future of the web and collaborative work (and of course collaborative art, and entertainment, and play…)

Dr. Mark Elliot’s blog is here, just FYI. Seems to be on hiatus.

Collaborative learning and organizational/collective learning are going to be the “next big thing” on the horizon, leaping off of the Web 2.0 tech community, epitomized by figures like Clay Shirky, Jason Calcanis, Scobleizer and Howard Rheingold ( who has a book on the works on this very subject or related to this subject). I’ve previously linked to “Minds on Fire” by John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler; if you have not read it, you should. They are on target.

The obscure tie in here is that Dr. Nagl had  issued a strong, even passionate, call to rebuild the military as “learning organizations” at the the end of his excellent book Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam. Becoming a “learning organization” (sometimes called a “Professional Learning Community” by educational wonks or a “Community of Practice” by techies and thought leader types) is dependent on organizational philosophy, not Web 2.0 technology but the tech is what gives social/collaborative/organizational learning the high octane of asynchronicity and the lowering of barriers to entry, distance and cost.

wikinomic , “medici effect“world is coming.

Thursday, November 8th, 2007


One of the more significant developments in terms of creativity in the past decade has been the advance of open-source platforms that permit asynchronous but real-time, mass collaboration to occur. A phenomena that has been the subject of recent books like Frans Johansson’s The Medici Effect and Wikinomics:How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams; or, become a functioning business model as with Ross Mayfield’s Socialtext; or, a metaphor for the evolution of a new dynamic of warfare, as in John Robb’s book, Brave New War. And nearly everyone with an ISP is familiar with Wikipedia and most have at least heard of Linux.

The open source concept is a very useful one because it has efficiency, in both the evolutionary and economic senses, adapting faster than closed, hierarchical, competitors and at lower transactional cost ( the price for these advantages is diminished control and focus). As with scale-free networks, it was the advent of the internet and the web that brought the potential of mass collaboration to the attention of economists and social scientists. But did mass collaboration on the cognitive level (the physical level is as old Stonehenge or the pyramids) only start with the information revolution ?

Probably not.

If we look back far enough in the history of great civilizations, you will find semi-mythological figures like Homer or Confucius to whom great, even foundational, works of cultural creativity are attributed. Intellects of a heroic scale who were philosophers and kings, lawgivers, prophets or poets and who produced works of timeless genius. Except that they may either not have existed or their works represent efforts of refinement by many generations of anonymous disciples ( eventually, scholars) who interpreted, polished, redacted and expanded on the teachings of the revered master.

This too was mass collaboration, over a much longer time scale and of a much more opaque character than Wikipedia. Scriptural works went through a similar process, whether it was the scribes of King James, or a medieval Ulemna favoring some teachings of the Hadith over others, or Jewish sages translating the Torah into Greek, despite occasional claims of divine inerrancy, most religious texts were shaped by a succession of human hands.

What the Web has done is to vastly accelerate and democratize the process of mass collaboration and render it more transparent than ever before.

Thursday, October 18th, 2007


I’m tired and mentally foggy but still have an itch to blog a little, so I’m going to do something I don’t usually do outside of twitter – microblog!

Shloky was justly praised for Naxalite Rage. Not a conflict of which I know much about but Shlok will help get me up to speed.

Wikinomics is a book worth the time spent reading, despite my not being a fan of “business lit”. It bridges those constraints to also be a ” big idea” book.

Regarding the Mukasey hearings, the Left seems less interested in stopping intrusive electronic surveillance of Americans than it does of throwing up abstruse procedural delays to monitoring foreigners who are suspected Islamist terrorists living overseas in third countries. The Liberal Democrats in the House have so voted:

“Rules Committee Chair Louise Slaughter did something unusual however, in the hearing on legislation to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act–she announced at the start of the hearing that no amendments of any type would be allowed for debate. Committee Democrats followed Slaughter’s lead and voted against amendments to: authorize surveillance of those engaged in the creation of Weapons of Mass Destruction; authorize surveillance of foreign terrorists outside the United States; extend liability protection to telecommunications companies that relied on government directives and shared information deemed necessary for protection from terrorist attack; and, allow a debate on the Bush administration’s alternative.”

Hat tip to Bruce Kesler.

This is why, despite everything the Bush administration has done wrong in Iraq, that the Democrats still have a ” national security problem” with the public. Frankly, they always will ,so long as the Boomer-Left remains generationally dominant in that party.

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