Towards Radical Innovation: An Exploration of the Dance Between Creativity and Resilience
Miguelina M. Nuñez
Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
25 July 2018
Keywords: creativity, resilience, innovation, communication
Scholars routinely identify ‘openness to experience’ or permeability as essential to creativity, innovation, and resilience. In his exploration of social network ties and creativity, for example, Markus Baer notes that “open individuals are characterized not only by a need to seek out new and varied experiences but also by a particularly permeable structure of consciousness allowing for better integration and combination of new and unrelated information.” Permeability is, in this context, a precondition for creativity. In her work on social capital and innovation, Katja Rost determines that permeable social structures with “holes” facilitating “frequent communication, enhance[ ] innovation.” Here, permeability is a precondition for (radical) innovation. And finally, while not a sufficient precondition on its own, permeability is indeed necessary to nurturing resilience. I imagine that a consolidated exploration of creativity and resilience through this critical component – permeability – could provide insight on theoretical and practical mechanisms for enhancing creativity and ultimately, radicalizing innovation.
Creativity is defined here as the ability to produce original ideas that are useful. Innovation is defined as new ideas that constitute a better solution, an improvement over an existing device or method; radical innovation is simply a far-reaching or thorough improvement. It follows then, that creativity can lead to innovation, radical or otherwise, as both phenomena embody the creation of new ideas or improvements that are useful. For example, you have to be creative to be innovative.
Psychological resilience is an individual’s ability to successfully cope with a crisis, to triumph in the face of adversity. In very basic terms, resilience exists when an individual, through improved or enhanced behavioral and mental capabilities, solves a problem or set of problems (adversity). Resilience absolutely requires problem-solving: “the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues;” and is therefore, a creative–and at times, even innovative act. Creativity is a function of resilience.
Nonetheless, resilience is also a precondition for creativity, suggesting that both constructs share a rather close relationship, and need to be studied together. The American Psychological Association (APA) identifies both communication and problem-solving skills as two of several key factors that contribute to one’s ability to cope with and recover from trauma. Therefore, one can deduce that resilience constitutes a creative attempt at solving a problem. I posit that it is a creative trade of proprietary information between two or more actors. A comparative text analyses of Katja Rost’s “The Strength of Strong Ties in the Creation of Innovation” and Markus Baer’s “The Strength of Weak-Ties Perspective on Creativity” suggest that the proprietary quality of the information is precisely what typifies this exchange. Rost explains that the value of interpersonal relationships – or social capital – is manifest in what Coleman (1988) refers to as “outstanding credit slips.” In an exchange between two persons, actor B has an obligation to actor A symbolized by a credit slip or credit slips that speak to the quality of the relationship between the two. “The solidarity benefits of […] intensive interactions characterized by mutual trust […] become reflected in innovation: As credit slips will be paid back, they allow for the exchange of more complex and proprietary information.” The most obvious example of this exchange is the act of seeking out, and ultimately benefiting from therapy. When an individual (actor A), burdened by trauma, seeks out therapy in order to develop the psychological and behavioral capabilities that would render him or her resilient, the individual is most certainly seeking proprietary information with the express aim of entering into a relationship with a mental health professional (actor B). Robert Courtney Smith also captures this exchange in “Black Mexicans, Conjunctural Ethnicity, and Operating Identities.” Smith examined how Mexican-American immigrant children formed relationships with black peers in order to both escape intra-group violence and achieve upward class mobility. Black Twitter is another poignant example of creatively intensive interactions that make use of novel communication methods to achieve resilience. Black Twitter embodies a movement in which black Americans share static representations of black culture in the form of viral internet memes to seize control of and/or supplant stereotypical depictions of African Americans in popular media. The virality of Black Twitter allowed not just black Americans, but also a myriad of disenfranchised groups, to manipulate Twitter’s echo-chamber feature to amplify concerns; demand accountability from group outsiders including public officials and seemingly predatory companies; as well as police and protect against racism on and beyond the platform. Black Twitter as radically innovative communication is itself a creative act of resilience.
So is resilience a process of creatively reconfiguring the “structure of consciousness [to allow] for better integration of new and unrelated information?” Or is it a social capital investment – per Rost’s work on the creation of innovation – a trade of proprietary information that requires a new kind of communication (innovation), the frequency of which impacts the profundity of recovery (i.e. resilience)?
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