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Some recent readings have conspired with the launch of SFIP’s collaboration with artist Sydney Cooper and the Portray.It project’s design phase, to make us ponder the essential role of the imagination in deep innovation.

Let’s start with the magnificent Marina Warner, one of our most profound scholars of and thinkers in the realms of magic, myth, and mystery. In her new book, “Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights,” she offers the following observations (emphasis added):

“Magic is not simply a matter of the occult or the esoteric, of astrology, Wicca and Satanism; it follows processes inherent to human consciousness and connected to constructive and imaginative thought. The faculties of imagination — dream, projection, fantasy — are bound up with the faculties of reasoning and essential to making the leap beyond the known into the unknown. At one pole (myth), magic is associated with poetic truth, at another (the history of science) with inquiry and speculation. It was bound up with understanding physical forces in nature and led to technical ingenuity and discoveries. Magical thinking structures the processes of imagination, and imagining something can and sometimes must precede the fact or the act; it has shaped many features of Western civilization. But its influence has been constantly disavowed since the Enlightenment, and consequently misunderstood.” Read the rest of this entry »

An excellent post over at frog’s design mind blog (“Adapt, Jugaad, Hacking, Shanzhai or the Merits of Seeing the World As It Is Not”) makes a number of crucial points, many relevant to SFIP. Among them are the idea that innovation fads come and go (remember Design Thinking?); the insight that “wrong is right,” since true innovators always “see the world as it is not”; and the corollary observation that innovation is a mindset, rather than a process that can be administered or learned, for which serendipity is key. Author Tim Leberecht focuses in on the Indian practice called Jugaad: 

“Jugaad is a remote sibling of the Western-style hacking, the manipulation of existing products and services, and with the Chinese Shanzhai phenomenon (innovation through fast imitation) it has in common the utter disrespect for any kind of brand or management ideology. Adaptation, improvisation, rapid experimentation, fast failing, a high tolerance for ambiguity, super-flexibility… together these principles are perhaps marking the beginning of a new era of doing business, a new economy.”

It’s enough to make you think that innovation is a case of emergent behavior in a complex system (which to some extent it is), beyond influence. But I would also argue that there is room for adding structure, context, and what I’ll call method (as opposed to a process) to accelerate and diffuse innovation. As one example, SFIP’s method, based on its overall problem-solving approach, features five main themes: Read the rest of this entry »

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