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Unimagining the Imaginable

April 7, 2009

We are supposedly in an age in which creativity will be the dominant force that enables success. We hear that we need to treat innovation and the sparks that generate it as the liquid assets of our age. That all this needs a different kind of thinking, perhaps even a different kind of mind.

The underlying message here is that creativity is a hard road for most of us – one that requires determination, flexibility, patience and endurance. The stuff of genes is believed to hold the magic of creativity – we are, each, individually crafted on the foundation that either enables or disables us from realizing our creative and innovative potential.

We are exhorted to imagine the unimaginable … to generate possibilities that will take us beyond where we could go otherwise. Workshops, processes and organizations are put in place to break the walls and free our minds. Yet time and again, we find that these misadventures yield little when gray matter meets the moneyed road.

Maybe it’s not the inability to imagine new possibilities but our valuation system that limits our ability to gain from these possibilities? When possibilities range in front of our eyes, we use our embedded foundational patterns and primitives to sift the wheat from the chaff. We see the wheat but the chaff is blurred. Our language, logic and math enshrine our value system – and give us the lens to simplify and imagine the imaginable; and value the imaginable. Wheat is wheat and chaff is chaff. Or is it? Do labels obfuscate and make us reason at a level of abstraction that makes a charade of reason?

Perhaps we should spend more time attacking our foundational primitives of language and logic. Debates built on that operating system will yield results that can be supported only within the rules of that platform. Maybe we need to unimagine the imaginable, rather than imagine the unimaginable? To do that, we may need to move the debate to a different platform – one that is more skeptical of our language, logic and math primitives. Maybe this is creativity too – a much needed introspective, bootstrapping kind of creativity.

– Balaji Prasad, April 2009

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