The Big Picture
AN EXPERIMENT IN CULTURAL CARTOGRAPHY
With this artwork, I'm exploring the connections from current thinkers for business, art, wellbeing and creativity. I hope that by mapping this out visually, it will be of use to anyone else trying to make sense of where we are culturally at the moment, and where we are headed, particularly if we're trying to make the world a better place to live and work in. The idea is to help us become our best selves, make full use of our strengths and provide meaning and hope. So, nothing too big then!
This map is the result of years of reading on creativity, marketing, psychology and ideas. It's my interpretation of how everything is connected, so is quite subjective. However, in the particular lies the universal, so I hope you find it useful too.
Rollover the image below to see the names and connections:
*This artwork is best viewed on a desktop computer
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
Below I'll be explaining in a bit more depth what each part of the picture represents, and who exactly is talking about it at this point in time. And, essentially, why it's important.
CREATIVITY MAKES US HUMAN
Creativity is how human beings solve problems, create and play. It is fundamental to how we perceive life and function within it. Creativity encompasses everything from playful language, to problem solving, to art, and pretty much every bit in between.
"Creativity must be seen not as something happening within a person but in the relationships within a system." ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
In this respect, the level of creativity exhibited at any point in time is directly related to how much importance it has been given in culture and society. Coming out of the industrial economy and moving into the connection economy, there is currently a creative shift occurring.
"Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got." ~ Steven Pressfield
CREATIVITY IS THE BUILDING BLOCK OF LIFE
Creativity is how human beings solve problems, create and play. We are all born creative. Children innately know how to play, use their imagination and relish in making things.
Creativity is not the reserve of the few 'weird' ones on the edge of society - it's within all of us, manifesting itself in different and interesting ways.
"Good relationships, elegant cities, work that is honourable and emotionally satisfying, as well as financially rewarding, are the true works of art, to which the objects we call art are only pointers and partial guides." ~ Alain de Botton (Art as Therapy)
CURIOSITY IS ESSENTIAL FOR CREATIVITY
The number one ingredient for innovation and idea generation is curiosity. What happens when I do this? Why does this happen? How can I change this? How can this be improved?
Curiosity is the link between science and art. Both of these disciplines have at their core people who want to find out more about the world around them, and the world inside them.
Pretty much every person speaking about creativity and their achievements, cites curiosity as their main driving force.
The most effective type of learning happens as a result of curiosity. If you're interested in your topic, you will make the effort to learn more about it. And ultimately, it will stay in your memory longer than if you were learning simply to pass a test.
There are many factors which can affect your ability to learn. In general, if you're continually learning, you're improving your chances of generating novel ideas and connecting the dots.
You have it within your power to come up with better ideas. The key to getting better ideas is to have more ideas more often. It's also important to have quality input (from what you read, who you socialise with, etc). Bad input, will lead to bad output.
The possibility of what to create, to think, to share, is only limited by what you think can be done. They weren't sure that a plane could fly, but that didn't stop them trying.
In the same vein, just because you've Googled something and it seems like it hasn't been invented yet, doesn't mean someone tried and it didn't succeed.
Closely tied to curiosity, wonder is the magic force that binds us to our world (in a different way to gravity!).
Wonder and awe have the power to remind us how amazing life can be, and how small we are in the universe. This feeling can be a good antidote to anxiety and loneliness.
The Fermi paradox is a good example of the uniqueness of our life and how rare we are within the universe. This paradox is a conflict between the argument that scale and probability seem to favour intelligent life being common in the universe, and the total lack of evidence of intelligent life having ever arisen anywhere other than on the Earth. In short, if the universe is so big, where is everybody?
STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS
In science it is accepted that in order to progress with ideas and research, you have to learn what others before you have discovered and created.
In art, the idea of building on previous work hasn't always been popular. People have placed emphasis on being so completely original as to not derive influence from anywhere.
Nowadays we're starting to see a shift - there's an understanding that nothing is truly original, nor does it spring from the unknown or a vacuum.
Creativity, essentially, relies on seeing what has gone before, and using new information to come up with something novel and useful. Standing on the shoulders of giants is the best way to newer, better ideas and innovation.
SCIENCE & ART
The degree to which science and art have been thought of as interlinked has varied significantly over the centuries. Leonardo da Vinci was a prime example of someone who didn't see the distinction. Science and art both fed from the same insatiable curiosity he had about the world - they were tightly interconnected.
The methods used in science and art are very similar. You start with an idea and need to explore or understand the world around you, and then you find ways to turn that into something greater than its parts.
"Science and art overlap. Both are a means of investigation. Both involve ideas, theories and hypotheses that are tested in places where mind and hand come together - the laboratory and the studio... Artists, like scientists, study materials, people, culture, history, religion, mythology and learn to transform information into something else." ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Risk, Vulnerability & Shame
Everyone has varying levels of risk. They even vary on what they consider to be risky behaviour. It could be social risk, physical risk, financial risk, ethical risk, intellectual risk. ~ Tina Seelig
We've tried to cut down risk in our lives as much as we possibly can, and have made our lives safer and more predictable.
The thing is, curiosity and creativity rely on risk. They rely on people putting ideas out there, trying to make things happen, knowing full well that it may not pan out how they wanted.
And the antidote to fear from risk may be gratitude.
"What's your attitude to risk? What feels risky but actually isn't?" ~ Seth Godin
Brene Brown is a research scientist whose work revolves around vulnerability and how it leads to a wholehearted life. It can be described as doing the work that has to be done, even when it may fail. Approaching emotional situations without putting on your armour, ready for battle. Risking hurt for the sake of compassion and connection.
"The closest we will ever be is when we are vulnerable." ~ Charlie Mackesy
KINDNESS & SELF-COMPASSION
"Stop being a sh*t to yourself - you wouldn't treat your friends that way." This idea encompasses being kind and self-compassionate to others, but also to yourself. Being aware of what your self-talk is, and how this affects your perception of you and the world around you. This is tied with the benefits of meditation and mindfulness.
"Sometimes the greatest critic we face is ourselves." ~ Brene Brown
Being aware that everyone is in the middle of their own story and overcoming their own daily battles is an important step to kindness and empathy.
"Showing generosity with your bravery, your empathy and your respect is generous... What your customers want from you is for you to care enough to change them." ~ Seth Godin
There have been many studies on the benefits of practicing gratitude. People spend a lot of time trying to fill their unfillable hole with material goods and the next dopamine hit from social media. Being thankful for what you have can help bypass these cravings, and bring you back to the present moment.
"Scarcity and fear drive foreboding joy." ~ Brene Brown. The antidote to this is gratitude. Being present in the moment.
From Brene Brown's TED Talk:
Wholeheartedness is: "The capacity to engage in our lives with authenticity, cultivate courage and compassion, and embrace — not in that self-helpy, motivational-seminar way, but really, deeply, profoundly embrace — the imperfections of who we really are."
"Art holds out the promise of inner wholeness." ~ Alain de Botton
The opposite of wholeheartedness is scarcity. This is the "never enough" problem. Never good enough, never safe enough, never smart enough, never certain enough.
"[We] live life in defensive mode, looking inwards rather than outwards, remaining closed to the world." ~ Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones
"I believe that there is a profound difference between shame and guilt. I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.
I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection."
Fear of shame kills innovation.
More reading: Brene Brown's website
This seems to be the all-encompassing term that covers many other unresolved feelings. The fear of social exclusion, a lack of social connection, poor self-talk, and many other issues in this section, all contribute in one way or another to high levels of anxiety.
"An emerging body of research shows that there is a clear link between our surroundings and our mental health. Yet nearly all the advice on how to find happiness ignores this fact. Designer Ingrid Fetell Lee [aims to shed] light on the relationship between our environment and our emotions, and share inspiration for living a more joyful life through design... Cute objects tap into the aesthetic of play." ~ Ingrid Fetell Lee
So many people feel the need to hide - feeling that if they expose their true selves they will make themselves open to judgment and negativity. At the heart of this lies the misguided belief that you have to be "perfect" and fit in with society, and if you show up as your true self, in all its weirdness, you will be shamed.
"Perfectionism is not the same as striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. It is a defensive move. It's trying to earn approval. It's more about perception than internal motivation - and there is no way to control perception." ~ Brene Brown
"Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it." ~ Dali
Play, Growth Mindset, Flow
"Play is life force itself... It is a vital contributor to children's communication, physical, social, and emotional skills" ~ Gwen Gordon.
Gwen Gordon also makes the point that playfulness should not just be confined to children. Adults need it too, to be creative, to relieve tension, to socialise.
"What does play look like when you are, say, 30 or 40 or 50? And the answer is that it looks like a space of time, simply left to be dictated by curiosity beyond what you do out of habit." ~ Zat Rana
"Humour is the primary expression of creativity." ~ Rex Jung
Humour creates tension, and then relieves it too.
"The original (and continuing) function of laughter is to create and coordinate a safety and playfulness that is essential for the development of human and social capital," ~ David Wilson
"Passion isn't project-specific. It's people-specific. Some people are hooked on passion, deriving their sense of self from the act of being passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen." ~ Seth Godin
"If we want to reignite innovation and passion, we have to re-humanise work." ~ Brene Brown.
"Be a fire maker - burn fearlessly." ~ Andy J Pizza
As you dedicate more time to something, and the more times you enter the flow state while doing it, the more complex your neural pathways become. This complexity is how we grow, develop and become masters at what we're doing.
"Something you are good at is not a strength. It's an ability. A strength leaves you feeling stronger." ~ Marcus Buckingham
"It is not as if saying we are unique limits us, it just defines the nature of the contribution we're going to make." Marcus Buckingham
"You are more than you think you are." ~ Andy J Pizza
TRIAL & ERROR
Effort and failure are part of learning and developing. They are essential to growing, discovering and being creative. The fear of failure and shame are linked to perfectionism and procrastination. If you wait until everything is just right, you'll be waiting forever. There is no right time, there is no perfect moment.
James Victore "Feck Perfuction"
So, you've tried, you've failed, you've tried again. Now what? Keep trying?
"Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results."
The answer is to try, and then pivot. Cross out the ways that didn't work, and keep experimenting. James Dyson didn't spend 5 years in his shed trying the same thing over and over. He adjusted it, one variable at a time, until he got to where he needed to go.
Ultimately, it's about having a map of where you want to go, and finding a good path to get there. It's not about having a step-by-step instruction manual.
"The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile." ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
The flow state is when the complexity of a task you're doing matches your ability to achieve it - it's also known as being "in the zone". During this state, you lose track of time and space, and it doesn't rob you of your energy.
Flow has a documented correlation with high performance in the fields of artistic and scientific creativity, teaching, learning, and sports. Flow has been linked to persistence and achievement in activities while also helping to lower anxiety during various activities and raise self-esteem. ~ Wikipedia
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi "Flow"
"Playfulness of language is a form of creativity." ~ BBC Word of Mouth podcast.
There seems to be an increase in the use of games to get people to interact, eg: personality tests now are using game scenarios.
Liberation of self, not transformation to someone else. "It's not about becoming someone else, it's about revealing the essence of who you really are and allowing that to fully manifest in the world in whatever way it can." ~ Good Life Project podcast
Self-awareness is necessary on the path to self-actualisation: becoming who you really are. Being unapologetically you.
We all have the same number of hours in each day to work with - how are you spending yours?
To get really proficient at anything, you need to devote time to improving it. You may have a natural ability for something, but without dedicated practice, you're unlikely to produce outstanding work.
Time can feel like it speeds up or slows down depending on the activity you're doing. To find the 'flow state', look to activities where you lose sense of time and space.
(Side note: black holes can slow down time due to their enormous gravitational pull ~ Einstein's gravitational theory of relativity).
The growth mindset is when people believe that their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. The fixed mindset is where the perfectionist lives.
"When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world — the world of fixed traits — success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other — the world of changing qualities — it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself... In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort. In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented." ~ Carol Dweck
"Better values are process-orientated. Growth generates happiness, not a long list of arbitrary achievements." ~ Mark Manson
"Skills and achievement come through committment and effort." ~ Dr Carol Dweck
It has been suggested that 10,000 hours is about the time it takes to become an expert (K. Anders Ericsson), or even that a minimum of 10 years emersed in a given field/domain is usually required before you do work of significance.
However, all that is a moot if you aren't willing to invest the time in it (ie: passionate about it) and if you don't have some natural ability for it in the first place (ie: lack the physiology or the attitude for it; strengths). Practice may not make perfect, but it does make fantastic.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi "Creativity"
Marcus Buckingham "Nine Lies About Work"
Perception & Stories
"Mind alone defines the experience. Perception differs from person to person and can differ from day to day. Thoughts in your mind are different from emotions." ~ Andy Puddicombe
There are two sides to every story. Everyone experiences the world in a unique personal way, based on their physiological and psychological properties.
Your view of a situation is directly related to your thoughts, habits and how you have experienced previous situations.
Headspace app & "The Headspace Guide to Mindfulness and Meditation" by Andy Puddicombe
You are not your thoughts.
Your thoughts are your brain's way of trying to make sense of the world around you.
They are influenced by the stories you tell yourself, the habits you've internalised, and a complex feedback system in your body of chemicals and inputs.
You have the power to influence your thoughts, and decide what it is you pay attention to and what you don't.
So much of what we do in our lives is done through habit. We need habits in order to reduce the cognitive load that living in a complex society produces. Eg: we learn how to drive a car, and that process becomes fairly automatic. This frees up mental energy for other activities, thoughts and pursuits.
Habits can be helpful if they're serving their purpose, but sometimes habits (such as reaching for a cookie when you feel tired) can have negative impacts. Becoming aware of habits can help you change the ones that aren't helpful to you anymore and put new ones in place.
What story are you telling yourself? What stories do you tell other people? How are you understanding the world around you?
Stories form the essential ingredient to how we view the world around us. Is it hostile or accommodating? Are resources scarce or plentiful? Are you lucky or unlucky?
Whatever story you tell yourself influences the information that you then pay attention to in the world. This is known as confirmation bias.
Even your surroundings have an influence. Every space tells a story - whether it has been deliberately crafted by a designer or a homeowner, or if it is a simple expression of how something currently is.
Stories are how we orient ourselves in the world and can have a significant impact on our health and well-being. (eg: Placebo effect and Nocebo effect)
There are many different ways to look at a situation. Sometimes you re-frame a scenario based on new information that has become available. Other times you do it because the explanation you've got doesn't seem to add up.
You can deliberately re-frame repetitive stories within your head, by looking at them from an alternative perspective or viewpoint.
We often think of ourselves as rational beings who do things based on the reasons we give. But often, the action happens first, gets processed, then affects the explanation we give it. This explanation alters our memories and our consequent behaviour.
The coder within your brain receives information about the world around you, and then changes your brain structure at the cell level, to accommodate that new 'truth'. This is the basis of how optical and auditory illusions work, and how we make sense of the world around us.
ATTENTION & MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness is "taking a balanced approach to negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. Do not 'over identify' with thoughts and feelings so that we are caught up and swept away by negativity." ~ Brene Brown
Every time we access our memories, we edit them and change them based on our current selves, before we re-file them back in our brain.
This means that our memories are not accurate, and are constantly changing based on the stories that we tell ourselves about us and events that have happened.
Connect the Dots
CONNECT THE DOTS
"You are made of stuff as old as the planet, one third as old as the Universe, though this is the first time that those atoms have been gathered together such that they think that they are you." ~ Frank Close (particle physicist)
"Meaning: ties all flow activities over a lifetime together to one common goal / purpose." ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
COLLECT THE DOTS
We're bombarded by huge amounts of data these days. Sometimes it can be tempting to just keep collecting all this information, hoping that the more you have the better you'll be able to function. After all, knowledge is power.
However, more data can just mean more noise, more overwhelm. Taking a step back to see the bigger picture is where the best insights can be found.
Seth Godin - Connecting Dots
HOPE & OPTIMISM
"Hope is a function of struggle. High levels of hopefulness come from struggle." ~ Brene Brown
"Cheerfulness is an achievement and hope is something to celebrate. If optimism is important, it's because many outcomes are determined by how much of it we bring to the task. It is an important ingredient of success. This flies in the face of the elite view that talent is the primary requirement of a good life, but in many cases, the difference between success and failure is determined by nothing more than our sense of what is possible and the energy we can muster to convince others of our due. We might be doomed not by a lack of skill, but by an absence of hope." ~ Alain de Botton
Hope is the best way to motivate behaviour. Fear is a powerful way to stop people's behaviour. ~ Hidden Brain, Ep. Facts Aren't Enough
"Why wonder when you can be really clear that you goal is to be seen by a certain kind of person who dreams of a certain kind of interaction and who aspires to be touched in a certain kind of way. Why wouldn't you want to do that?" ~ Seth Godin
"What's your contribution going to be?" ~ Don't Quit Your Day Job podcast
The Industrial Economy
& The Connection Economy
This industrial economy was great for improving the quality of our living conditions, building machines, transporting goods and making things cheaper and more accessible.
However, it required a cookie cutter approach to get people working in factories on specialised specific tasks. These jobs needed to be accurate, not creative.
At work this looks like anyone being able to do your job just as well as you, and you being replaceable by the next person who can work for less.
It resulted in a reduction in individualisation so that efficiency could be maximised, and things made cheaper and faster with less waste.
"We’ve spawned a generation of polite, striving, praise-addicted, grade-grubbing nonentities — a legion of “Excellent Sheep.”" ~ William Deresiewicz
"Excellent Sheep" - William Deresiewicz
RACE TO THE BOTTOM
Making things cheaper and cheaper is a race to the bottom. There is only one winner (the cheapest company) but pretty much everyone else loses. The race to the bottom means cutting corners. It means spoiling the planet. It means polluting the rivers. It means messing up our ecosystems. Instead, it's time to make meaningful things for those who need it. The answer isn't more for cheaper.
"Cheap is another way to say scared. When you're the cheapest, you're not promising change. You're promising the same, but cheaper. Low price is the last refuge of a marketer who has run out of generous ideas. BUT a free idea is far more likely to spread, and spread quickly, than an idea that's tethered to money." ~ Seth Godin
What sets your soul on fire?
"If you already have a burning ambition or purpose, do not leave it to languish... Having an unanswered calling in life is worse than having no calling at all." ~ British Psychological Society (BPS)
EDUCATION & TRAINING
"If you had a chance to teach us, what would we learn?" ~ Seth Godin
Companies are teaming up with schools and universities to train young people specifically for employment when they leave school. (Alexandra Levit)
People are using Hack Schooling more often now - using their own time to guide their studies, learning things online specific to what they want to achieve, and satisfying their own interests. You're more likely to remember the content if you're actually wanting to learn it.
"You're astonishing. How dare you waste it. You have the power to change everything. To create remarkable products and services. To over deliver. To be the best in the world [at what you do]. How dare you squander your resources by spreading it too thin. How dare you settle for mediocre just because you're too busy." ~ Seth Godin
We live in a society now where families have had to travel away from their support networks to find employment. They lose the support of their extended family network for raising children. Communities are so big now, they don't know the people who live there.
We're better connected than ever, but more disengaged and disenchanted. We need to reintegrate with the community - look up from our screens and see who's actually around us. Love and belonging brings purpose and meaning to lives.
"[People's] freedom to be creative is being reduced by the pressure for quickness and number." ~ Donald Campbell
"Workplaces need a different metric for measuring people that allows for creativity. Amount produced or amount of time at desk is not enough."
~ Marcus Buckingham
Don't wait around for the Fairy Godmother to tell you you've been picked and you're special. We're all special and unique. Now do something with it!
The days of the gatekeepers picking who gets to do meaningful work is on the way out. It's now up to you to do it because you it's up to you to stand up, show up and do the work that's needed. "Are the biggest gatekeepers the voices in our head?"
Choose yourself. You already have the permission you need. ~ Seth Godin
"There's no mystery to turning pro. It's a decision brought about by an act of will. We make up our mind to view ourselves as pro and we do it." ~ Steven Pressfield
Just because someone else said that in order to be called successful you needed to have [insert product here], or to be [insert amazing adjective here] doesn't mean that should be how you judge your life's work.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
WHAT ARE SCHOOLS FOR?
For teaching kids how to make a useful contribution to society while also identifying their strengths. This way they can find fulfilment and meaning in what they do as well. We need to change the cookie cutter approach that has been used so far under the Industrial Economy.
"A strength is an activity that strengthens you. That you look forward to doing. It’s an activity that leaves you feeling energised, rather than depleted. We all have things that we’re good at, but that we hate doing, right? Those are called weaknesses. A strength is more appetite than ability, and it’s that appetite that drives us to want to do it again; practice more; refine it to perfection. The appetite leads to the practice, which leads to performance. Leveraging your strengths and managing around your weaknesses isn’t just about making yourself feel better. It’s about conditioning yourself to contribute the best of yourself, every day. It’s about performance." ~ Marcus Buckingham
"People like us do things like this." ~ Seth Godin
We need to be harnessing what people are good at and making use of their talents, rather than trying to make spiky pegs fit in round holes.
"Excellence isn’t well-rounded – and the best people aren’t well-rounded, either." ~ Marcus Buckingham
WE ARE ALL CONNECTED
"Common humanity. Suffering and feelings of personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience." ~ Brene Brown
"Many sad things become worse because we feel we are alone in suffering them... we need help in finding honour in some of our worst experiences, and art is there to lend them a social expression." ~ Alain de Botton
Feeling lonely is usually the result of wanting to be somewhere else or with someone else. ~ Andy Puddicombe
MAKE THINGS BETTER
"What do you care enough to fix, or disrupt, or invent?" ~ Seth Godin
Never before have we had such power to make things better by making better things. It's up to us, the people who care, to make a difference, to stand up and improve things for as many people as we can.
If not now then when? If not you then who?
"Are you proud of it? That's the aim. To be proud, not shy or embarrassed... Do your best work." ~ Seth Godin