domingo, 24 de enero de 2010

Improvisation and creativity, capacities that should be developed

Today my nerdy side wanted to share with you bits of an amazing conference by Alfonso Montuori about the concept and process of improvisation and creativity. I find it completely amusing.
just a few bits from the whole text. Enjoy it!


We social scientists would do well to hold back our eagerness to control that world which we so imperfectly understand. The fact of our imperfect understanding should not be allowed to feed our anxiety and so increase the need to control. Rather, our studies could be inspired by a more ancient, but today less honored motive: a curiosity about the world of which we are part. The rewards of such work are not power but beauty (Bateson, 1972, p. 269).

This article was sparked by my attendance at a conference in Rio De Janeiro. The location was obviously enticing, and even more important, perhaps, was the theme of the Rio conference: Complexity, and in particular the more epistemological and philosophical work on complexity found in the staggering, encyclopedic work of the French "thinker" Edgar Morin. At the heart of this paper is my belief that there is an important and potentially fruitful connection between improvisation and the lived experience of complexity, and that improvisation and creativity are capacities we would do well to develop in increasingly unpredictable, complex, and at times chaotic existence. The writing style of this paper, unusual for some academic publications, incorporating first-person narratives, reflects my belief that in order to understand, and also live the phenomenon of improvisation, and in order to draw from the arts as a metaphor for both organization and for social science, it behooves us to incorporate those very “performative” elements into our own scholarship. In that way, we may speak perhaps of the social arts and sciences, rather than simply the social sciences, heeding Bateson’s (2002, p. 237) warning that “rigor alone is paralytic death, but imagination alone is insanity” (Manghi, in press).

Research on creativity has some very relevant things to say about this. It shows that “creative individuals are more at home with complexity and disorder than most people” (Barron, 1958, p.261). In fact, they have what is called a preference for complexity over simplicity--they are intrigued, puzzled, excited by complexity rather than afraid of it. Creative thought is marked by the active search for phenomena that destabilize order, that puzzle cognitive schemata and cannot be immediately understood. Creativity involves constant organizing, dis-organizing, and re-organizing. It involves actively breaking down assumptions, givens, traditions, pushing boundaries and moving out of comfort zones.

At the very heart of the creative process," writes Barron (1990, p. 249) "is this ability to shatter the rule of law and regularity in the mind." Creativity means shaking things up, both inside ourselves and in the world around us, and constant re-organizing of both cognitive schemata and, to a greater or lesser extent, the domain of the creative person's activity. The term “ego-strength,” as used by Barron (1990), refers to the capacity to rally from setback, to learn from experience, to be a constantly dis-organizing and re-organizing system without falling apart completely. Creative thought seeks to make sense of phenomena that appear to be chaotic, and seeks to create a higher-order simplicity--one that incorporates the complex, disorderly phenomena in a broader, more inclusive, more open perspective. Creative individuals, it seems, are ready to abandon old classifications, in an ongoing process of creation and re-creation. Self-organization in creative persons becomes what Morin (1994) calls self-eco-re-organization, suggesting that the nature of the organization changes as well, and that it is an ongoing process of self-renewal that always happens in a context, in an environment, never in isolation and abstraction (Montuori, 1992).

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