Expert's Opinion

It's Time for Managers to Free Creativity

By Dr. Bob Deutsch, Brain-Sells, Boston | March 29, 2010

Dr. Bob Deutsch on the importance of directed serendipity.

It can be argued that creative offerings are as incisive as brain surgery. When artfully done they actually cure people of the status quo.

To do something artfully, however, requires a dynamic mix of imagination and understanding to envision how the world might work. This is a matter of provoking a self-referring reverie that elicits an expanded idea of oneself and how his or her world works. As a result, the subject sees anew.

This, of course, runs counter to today’s corporate metric-mania with its diminished capacity to conceive bold strategies that innovate new products, services and communications.

Two Things for Creativity

Creativity calls for two things: focused subjectivity and doubt. It requires the ability to focus on something long and deep enough to conjure possibilities not evident in the immediate moment, along with a healthy acknowledgement that not everything is known.

The unknown is fertile soil from which a world of wonders can be cultivated. Here the plodding of data is circumvented in a non-linear, symbolic way. The mind plays a cognitive trick on itself—it creates metaphor: “I will call what I don’t know by the name of something that I do know.”

Through such mental leap-frogging, the creative impulse extrapolates unknown scenarios. It moves from the past to instigate an inkling that lays the basis for the beginning of a new narrative, a springboard to new patterns and associations, an insinuation of the future.

An Open Playfulness without Nos

What is in operation is a kind of playfulness with ideas essential for creativity. This toying around contains a bunch of NOs – NO analyzing (yet), NO doubts, NO pressure to conform, NO pretense, NO restrictions, NO judgments, not just yet.

You can find people from many walks of life living this way: the writer, designer, scientist, parent, small business owner. All believe in a beautiful human quality: Directed Serendipity.

Buffeted by a Directed Serendipity

People who allow themselves to be buffeted by a sense of directed serendipity live at the burning point of becoming, where who they are and what they do become the same thing. They don’t need to know the end, at the beginning. They are open to the process as process.

In this state of directed serendipity, one is first focused on problem-structuring more than on problem-solving, looking to understand rather than explain. You try to comprehend meaning from the inside-out, in its unfolding, not from an intellectual stance.

Signs and Images

The creative person is an alchemist of thought, attending to the reasoning of emotion. In his natural habitat, his only enemies are cynicism, number-crunching and arbitrary outside tinkering.

Corporate executives should embrace creatives and let them attack the status quo. Then CEOs, CMOs and their courtiers can sit back and count the profits.

About the Author
Dr. Bob Deutsch is a cognitive anthropologist and founder of the consulting firm, Brain Sells, a strategic branding and communications consultancy based in Boston, MA. Email:, Cell: 917-215-4800

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