The Human side of innovation: Everyday creativity and human potential

November 25, 2022

Tudor Rickards

Keynote address to HSE International Academic Conference ‘Сreative Economy: Main Development Trends and State Policy’, 24 November, 2022

I thank you for this opportunity of sharing ideas with an international audience, and look forward to an exchange of views.

One of my great pleasures over the years is to have seen how the fields of creativity and innovation have benefitted from efforts of practitioners and academic researchers. In particular, there has been improved international cooperation with the continued influence of the internet, itself a widely acknowledged world-changing innovation.

There is one important point I like to make at the star of events such as this. I am well aware of the famous Professor Pangloss, in Voltaire’s masterpiece Candide. Pangloss epitomises an unshakeable belief that all is for the best in this “best of all possible worlds.”

In my talks about creativity I focus the enormous benefits from the everyday creative efforts in ‘business, the arts and everyday life’. But not in a way of a Dr Pangloss. There are problems to be solved of global significance that will only be resolved by creative efforts regardless of religious, political, or cultural differences.

Turning to the matter of creative discoveries, I would start by quoting from inventor Tim Berners-Lee on his thought processes involved in the discovery of the World Wide Web.
He explained it as follows:

Creating the web was really an act of desperation, because the situation without it was very difficult when I was working at CERN [The European Centre for Nuclear Research] later. Most of the technology involved in the web, like the hypertext, like the Internet, multifont text objects, had all been designed already.

I just had to put them together. It was a step of generalising, going to a higher level of abstraction, thinking about all the documentation systems out there as being possibly part of a larger imaginary documentation system.

This is clearly a description of how an exceptional innovator described his thinking processes which have had such an impact on our world. But for me there is an apparent paradox. I want to suggest that even in the extraordinary lies the everyday.

My choice of the word apparent is because I believe there is a universal human faculty for discovering the new, shared by world-changing and everyday ideas alike.

In that universality there’s is a deeper reality in our shared capacity for creativity, in our everyday practices. To create is part of what it means to be alive.

I am using the terms creativity, innovation, and human potential as they seem to be used in conferences where participants have a shared understanding of then. One of the purposes of such meetings is to explore important differences, maybe in the lecture room, and subsequently in our more social interactions.

My plan is to take you through my personal creative journey, and offer my reflections on it, and on its future implications. This meeting is well suited for discussions on the future of our personal and social lives, and of the planet.

One useful starting point, is the process of flow, a state in which actions seem effortless, be it on the football field, workplace efforts, or creative tasks. Time seems suspended or distorted as you ‘lose yourself’ in the task.

The outcome is a release of creativity, a flow of ideas.

I can imagine Berners-Lee playing around with those ideas, as he described his great innovation, I suggest the process is also part of the universal experience when anyone tries to complete a jigsaw or a crossword puzzle, or make sense of a work problem.

A recent illustration from my personal life is a period where despair almost overcame me. It was on my 80th birthday, last December. I began to contemplate the end of my days.

I decided sadly to give up the creative process of book writing, as too arduous.
That a friend persuaded my to try my hand at podcasting. I started anew learning a skill. Over a period of months I learned how to create audio blogs.

Soon, my creative energy returned. I found ideas for new podcasts all around me. In science, the arts, and yes in everyday life, all flowing into existence.

The ideas are modest, ideas for taking the everyday news I encounter, and turning news reports into a story. My everyday life became enriched with such moments of personal discovery.

In doing so, I am connecting each new experience with a large number of other experiences, some remembered clearly, some only like the residues of older experiences, like geological strata, each deposited on an older one.

My podcasts are being helped by my earlier writings some of which spread, as they were communicated more widely.

One of the most famous descriptions of this creative process is from the French intellectual and novelist Marcel Proust. It occurs in Swann’s Way, the first volume of his masterwork, Remembrance of Things Past. He describes the experience in great detail, so I have shortened it, already in translation.

“As soon as I had recognised the taste of the piece of madeleine [cake] soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me, the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents, and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took, when it was fine”

Proust wrote in one flowing sentence with diversionary thoughts included, to capture the flood of ideas jostling for attention. In a far from everyday way, he was trying to capture the universal. What lesser writers might suggest to be ‘the whole of my life flashing before me’.

Clearly, Proust and Bernard-Lee are exceptional, as judged by the impacts of their creative thoughts. I suggest however, that there is a process of creativity which is universal. It’s the same processes for highly gifted as for those of everyone else. It is captured in the term Everyday Creativity.

The term has already used, and the concept studied, by the American scholar Professor Ruth Richards.

http://interchange.education/sites/default/files/The%20Cambridge%20Handbook%20of%20Creativity.pdf#page=208

She writes in The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity:
‘Everyday creativity, as a construct, is not, as some think, confined to the trivia of life. This is an important misunderstanding. It concerns almost anything, anytime to which any one brings originality in an everyday context, including in major projects. Nor are eminent and exceptional creators excluded. Everyday creativity can be seen as the ground from which more publicly celebrated accomplishment can grow. In fact, many an important invention, equation, or painting that has changed culture, started with a fleeting image or wild idea on an everyday walk or hike’

I can illustrate this from personal experience in creating what turned into a well-established international network and its academic journal Creativity and Innovation Management.

I trace its history back to a newsletter typed out manually at the Manchester Business School nearly fifty years ago.It circulated by post, long before the electronic systems that required the idea of the web. It began to strengthen the sharing of ideas, spreading geographically, first to other academics and practitioners of creativity. It was called Creativity Network.

Over time it changed, and eventually became Creativity and Innovation Journal, which is now reaching more and more publishing success, although no longer influenced by my everyday creative efforts, but by an international network.

The success does not come from a single moment of inspiration followed by implementation. It is the result of everyday ideas put into action over time by many within a wider community.
The process includes not only production of ideas, but learning through those experiences, which results in ideas about ideas.

This approach I helped develop became known as the Manchester Method. It treats experiences as living cases from which learning takes place,

Incidentally, these studies have shown repeatedly that the individual efforts result in wider changes. There is a collectivity in team work. Also, that to support the wider goals, a leader has to work at encouraging the creativity of individuals. When such efforts fail, the team eventually fails. We classed such groups teams from hell.

In conclusion, I want to mention a specific example of everyday creativity.
Last week, I met for the first time with two leaders of a group reaching out to encourage sustainability in their locality.
They posted a message in the village square for help with projects. Volunteers have responded in efforts such as repairing computers and domestic products. Other volunteers are planting trees, and helping reintroduce declining species into the landscape.

As you can see, They even recruit ageing academics to spread the word.

To summarise, creativity is an everyday occurrence through which the ordinary can lead to extraordinary results. Each of us has opportunities through experience to develop ourselves, and others.

I wish you success in your creative ventures. Maybe they will help us all create a world a little more realistic than the one Dr Pangloss believed in.

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The Queen’s passing as an outburst of everyday creativity

September 26, 2022

This post introduces the ideas on creativity developed by the pioneering French philosopher Henri Bergson. I have linked Bergson’s work with that of the American educationalist Ruth Richards, who coined the term everyday creativity. The emotional impact of the Queen’s funeral is used to illustrate the link between Bergson’s work and everyday creativity

Health warning;

What follows deals with everyday creativity, but includes some abstract concepts a long way away from our everyday lives.

What is everyday creativity?

Readers of what I have writing, and listeners to what I have been saying recently will have gathered that I think everyday creativity is important to me. Important enough for me to squeeze it in to my blogs, podcasts, and sometimes too often to offer to friends wanting to talk about other shared interests.

I can’t remember when I first became convinced of the importance of Everyday Creativity. It certainly wasn’t a version of the famous Eureka Moment. It was earlier this year, after my last lectures on the subject (via Zoom, during the time of the virus ). It was possibly during the time I was working through the life-changing period of my life as I entered into the ranks of the baby boomers from the 1940s.

I had set up this blog to write about it even before I had a description not to mention a definition that might need changing some months later. In one of my earlier posts I offered a reasonably stable description as 

creativity in the sciences, politics, the arts, and above all in everyday life

Everyday Creativity began as a blog post in June 2022 to compliment my long-running blog Leaders we deserve. It will focus more on my developing ideas about the nature of creativity to be found in everyday life. 

I hope it will be interactive, and result in a network of subscribers interested in creativity in the sciences, humanities, politics, but above all in everyday life. 

Why is it important?

For me, it offers new ways of understanding how anyone might be more creative in everyday life. 

What’s new about it?

Strictly speaking the term has already used, and the concept studied, particularly by the American scholar Professor Ruth Richards.

http://interchange.education/sites/default/files/The%20Cambridge%20Handbook%20of%20Creativity.pdf#page=208

She writes in The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity 

Everyday creativity, as a construct, is not, as some think, confined to the trivia of life. This is an important misunderstanding. It concerns almost anything to which one brings originality, any time creation occurs in an everyday context, including major projects. Nor are eminent and exceptional creators excluded. Everyday creativity can be seen as the ground from which (a later and) more publicly celebrated accomplishment can grow.  In fact, many an important invention, equation, or painting that has changed culture started with a fleeting image or wild idea on an everyday walk or hike.

Later, her work was developed in further articles and books. The line of enquiry contributed to quantitative studies into the factors associated with creativity.  As often happens, however,  the power of the idea was not recognised, and the term has largely dropped out of use. 

From Bergson to Deleuze and back

Bergson’s ideas were given a temporary boost through the writings of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, reaching English readers. 

Deleuze saw in Bergson profound insights into the nature of the creation of movement perceived from multiple still images in Cinema, an example of Bergson’s treatment of time as .

The enthusiasm particularly from Sociologists was to become heated as a kind of culture war against ‘Continental philosophy’ particularly in the various forms of post-modernism. Two French physicists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont added to the battle with their book Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. The attention provided to Bergson’s ideas by Deleuze was if anything counterproductive. 

Why I believe Bergson is a key to understanding creativity from a practical perspective.

Although unfashionable today, Bergson reached the pinnacle of recognition for his work in his Nobel Prize for literature awarded in 1937 ‘in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented’. The award cited The Creative Evolution. I read the book at first only dimly understanding its significance. 

Even before DeLeuze’s support, there had been a controversy involving opposition to Bergson’s ideas by the century’s intellectual superstar Albert Einstein, who was subsequently considered to have misinterpreted Bergson as dismissing his own revolutionary ideas of time.

Much later than after my first reading, I began to see The Creative Evolution as offering a new way of thinking about creativity and time through a helpful lens of metaphor. I’m making the weak  rather than strong case for Bergson’s philosophy. This offers me some leeway against deeper questions that continue to occupy the thoughts of academic and armchair philosophers. 

Bergson, Time and the Queen’s Funeral

My takeaway from Bergson the is interesting idea of the persistence of time during which connections exist through our lived experiences. 

For example, my reading of Bergson long ago then connected with his thoughts as I could understand them. Now I connect them with the personal experience of ten days of intense coverage of the the mourning for Queen Elizabeth, and installing of the new monarch Charles, 

Two sets of events a hundred years apart, the first Bergson’s deep ideas on time helping me evolve my ideas about the second, my ideas about individual and shared experiences of the mourning period.

My glimpse of the new is that the emotional experiences of millions of people including myself are both unique and shared, an indication of the creative and evolutionary. 

Creating this little note is helping me re-assemble my own new ideas which came to me through my interest in everyday creativity. Maybe readers or listeners will be engaging, reacting (OK, even disagreeing).


Stay Alive, stay Creative. A Conversation with Myself

September 2, 2022

I recently thought differently about something important to me. As its importance is only to myself, I would see it as an example of everyday creativity.  

To share it with others, I posted it on Twitter, and started a note about the idea and how it began to suggest more ideas. The note turned into a conversation with myself.

The Tweet 

What’s the best way to retain your love of life? Give your everyday creativity every chance to flourish.

The Conversation with Myself

At risk of sounding pretentious –

You are sounding pretentious.

I’ll ignore that remark. I found creativity early in my working life. 

You are still sounding pretentious. Why don’t you add … ‘I suppose creativity found me’? 

So how should I explain what I mean?

Quit the health and wellness stuff. Get a bit more personal.

Good call. Let’s see. Take the time I was feeling a bit down on my birthday. Way down. 

Understandable, it was your eightieth. Thoughts turning to shuffling off the mortal coil, no doubt.

Sort of. As if I was heading for a creative black hole. Yes, and the feeling of emptiness. Then I made a decision, And that led to another one.

Go on, that’s better.

First, I’m going to give up writing books.

That’s the most negative thought you could have had. 
Probably not. I had some other pretty black ideas. But then!

…You rediscovered creativity and things started looking better.

Sort of. Instead of thinking what I wasn’t going to do in future, I saw what I was going to do.

You discovered podcasting.

That, and more. I made the connection. Loss of creativity. Feelings of depression. Rediscovering creativity. Feelings of elation. Feeling alive. Life’s worth living sort of stuff. In the zone. The inner child released.
A bit over the top?

That’s right. 

It’s still a bit of a leap to start spouting about a life-enhancing moment.

I need to sneak in a few theoretical ideas which I’m finding important.


Now that’s super-pretentious. You’re getting away from your immediate direct experiences into academic speculation. 

I was coming to that …


TudoRama newsletter 15-21 August 2022

August 22, 2022

I’ve added to my posts on LWD the newsletter sent to my contacts list. If you haven’t subscribed to the newsletter you need to contact me to receive future editions. The newsletter has been a team effort from myself, and Catherine Hull. I take responsibility for any errors of taste that may have slipped through into our final version.

Welcome back to Everyday Creativity, the brainchild of Tudor Rickards.

Each week, we (i.e. TR & CH) round up everything that Tudor has been musing, writing and podcasting about, and take suggestions from readers and listeners for new discussion topics. 

Our podcasts and posts

Give our WordPress blog posts a read on both Leaders We Deserve and Everyday Creativity.

The most popular post this week discusses the state of the England Men’s Cricket Team. 

England cricket re-enters the Stone Age

You can read that here.

The most popular podcast this week talked over the recent heat waves.
A Drought visits Manchester, the Venice of the North

Listen here.

Elsewhere, in this week’s news headlines:

15.08.22
Keir Starmer launches Labour’s ‘fully-costed’ plan for fuel poverty. Boris Johnson, on second summer holiday, is unavailable for comment.
Freya, the celebrity Walrus in Norway is put down for causing risk to human life; she had a habit of clambering onto boats to sunbathe.

16.08.22
The Taliban celebrates the first anniversary of its political victory in Afghanistan. News footage confirms that strict restrictions prevent women from returning to work. No schooling is available to girls. The country also faces a famine after withdrawal of foreign aid.

17.08.22
In England, inflation hits 10%. The Bank of England predicts the figure will take two years to return to its 2% target. The Chancellor is forced to defend his Prime Minister from criticisms over government inaction during his hiatus.
In interesting news from CNN, 95-year-old actress Gina Lollobrigida is running for a seat in the Italian Senate.

18.08.22
The main headlines focus on the national inflation rise, the ‘worst in Europe’.
Trump’s main Republican opponent Liz Cheney is defeated by a Trump supporter. The schism in American politics is deepening.

19.08.22
Shocking individual cases demonstrate a wider crisis in the national ambulance service.
Finnish PM Sanna Marin makes international headlines after she’s secretly filmed partying. She admits ‘rowdy’ partying, but denies ever taking drugs.

20.08.22
Sanna Marin takes a drug test to minimise publicity over her partying.
Another Rail Union takes its turn, with a day of travel delays and cancellations. The location of choice for media reports is a replacement picket line at Euston.

21.08.22
Polls suggest the problems that have beset the Government are being reflected in a downward trend in voting intentions.
Strike action is initiated by Port Workers (at Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port) and Barristers (at the Inns of Court).

The headline of the week goes to Thursday’s Daily Star:
Work harder says wannabe PM with thirteen weeks holiday a year

I’ve also been reading (TR):

Cold Sacrifice by Leigh Russell
Another murder investigation by a successful writer in this genre. I found it okay for comfort reading. It comes with the usual features; workaholic detective with wife unhappy over his work/home balance, and a few murders (all women, but that’s all too common).

Also, a review of two weighty books for students of economics:

Ben Bernanke’s 21st Century Monetary Policy, and Edward Chancellor’s The Price of Time.

Bernanke is widely considered a successful leader of the Federal Reserve bank, a position he held during the financial crisis of 2006-2014. Chancellor is an historian and financier. The Economist concludes that Chancellor offers ‘a colourful challenge to conventional wisdom… but when the time comes to appoint a central banker, choose someone like Bernanke’.
You can read that here.

Poddlers’ Corner

Our poddlers (or regular listeners) on Twitter submitted their favourite book for discussion or pleasure reading. Favourites show loyalties to classics with a dash of the contemporary. There’s a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.

Please help us strengthen this section with your personal recommendations for next week’s newsletter!

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing

NB: Where the Crawdads Sing has just been adapted into a blockbuster film which is out now in cinemas (if you’re not a big reader).

– SA

Tasha Alexander, A Poisoned Season
– AN

Jonathan Levitt, Contemplating Comedy
– JL

Antony Beever, The Second World War
– WT

Arthur Brand, Hitler’s Horses
– DM

Wallace Breen, Eagle in the Snow
– JR

Terry Pratchett, The Colour of Magic
– KB

Robert Harris, An Officer and a Spy
– AC

Robert Graves, I, Claudius
– AH


Leaders We Deserve is changing its role

August 5, 2022

After fifteen years and over a million contacts (‘hits’) Leaders We Deserve remains an important way for me to share my ideas about leadership and creativity. Increasingly I have seen the benefits of rousing myself from my blogging slumbers to ask the painful question whether it needs some kind of updating.

WordPress has changed. That’s for sure, and I am currently learning how to drive the new supercharged model, demonstrating all the signs of a driver who should still be displaying L-plates

Pause, to see if I remember how to produce the moves leading into a side-road where I parked my pictures.

My new driving certificate

Eureka!

I reverse out of the lay-by into the main text highway with little unintended consequences. I Concentrate on the road ahead. Where am I going? Is this a test-drive with no other purpose of learning about the controls?

No, I was telling you about how Leaders We Deserve now has company among my various modes of travel along the electronic highways and byways.

For example, there is the recently born infant Everyday Creativity, with its weekly newsletter you are already receiving as followers of LWD.

Then there is the new (to me) podcast TudoRama, a must-listen for the rapidly growing audience (current word) whose members listen to the messages, heirs to receivers of radio broadcasts.

As an interim measure you should be receiving the newsletter regularly as a follower of LWD.

Longer term the various vehicles will rumble into action, with posts on creative leadership still to be found through the efforts of this old warhorse Leaders We Deserve, and posts on Everyday Creativity as the infant learns to walk before it can run.

As for TudoRama, who knows? Except I am sure it will build up a network interacting with its poddlers, long after prescriptive text insists I change what I’ve written to toddlers.