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The Art of Creativity: Asking Provocative Questions

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#creativity questions ask provocative


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Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others.  Unfold your own myth.  ~Rumi


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you were born, raised, educated, and work in a world smug in its answers…


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man is a rational being


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who, if born with a penis, is considered a boy


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schooled in the answers needed to become a good worker


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seen as a human resource to be managed


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weaknesses highlighted in an annual performance review


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given a carrot (if lucky) if seen as doing a good job


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told to spend spend spend (debt is no object)


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put out to pasture at 65 as no longer of value


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warehoused if difficult to care for


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only to die afraid, hooked up to machines, surrounded by strangers


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answer each of these is an Western philosophy. Rational economics. Survival of the fittest. Industrialism. 20th century management theory. Medicalization of health. Denial of death.


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Do these answers bring you joy?


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Help you discover happiness?


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Bring a more beautiful world into being?


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?


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The consumer economy is sustained by providing answers. The answer always has a system quality, because it offers predictability. Anytime you speak of answers, you are making a false promise. The more important dimensions of being human have no clear answer. ~Peter Block


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ANSWERS  … stifle creativity … stop thinking in its tracks … are static and smug … are endings … are full of problems … shut down conversation … box in space … freeze history … stop time


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The most interesting thing you can do in life is really the most natural thing to do: call into question the rules of the game. ~Alan Watts


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? question the answers


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? discover your questions


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Why not think of any organization you're a part of as a unique medium in which you have the opportunity to create? My job was to be loyally subversive. ~The Creative Paradox, Orbiting the Giant Hairball


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Your job is to be loyally subversive.


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Great artists do not only break the rules; they redefine them. ~John Kay, Obliquity


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I asked the rhetorical question Who is man, the artist? and answered it by saying: he is the unspoiled core of everyman, before he is choked by schooling, training, conditioning until the artist within shrivels up and is forgotten. ~Frederick Franck, Zen of Seeing


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? artist


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you!


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The lone, discerning voice has an effect utterly disproportionate to its singularity… Asked at the right time, a searching question can make a fortress collapse. ~John O’Donohue  


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Places to intervene in a system The power to transcend paradigms. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises. The goals of the system The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints) The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints) The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information) The gain around driving positive feedback loops The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures) The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards Donella Meadows


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individuals will increasingly reshape institutions rather than vice versa. […] They will become the catalysts for much broader changes playing out across the business and social landscape. ~Power of Pull


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The power to transcend paradigms. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises. The goals of the system questions The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints) The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints) The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information) The gain around driving positive feedback loops The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures) The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards


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? questions transform mindsets transform paradigms


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? how do you discover your questions


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? five tools timeline 100 questions living legacy obituary commencement speech


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There are pivotal moments in our lives; moments that can change our direction, our aspirations, our hearts and minds; even our spirits and who we construe ourselves to be. ~Andrew Henon


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Timeline: life’s pivotal moments Map pivotal moments – turning points – when you stepped up to a challenge (or failed to), felt most alive, were deeply inspired, terribly crushed. high points my life story timeline low points


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Timeline: life’s pivotal moments What details do you remember? What did it feel like? Why is it important? How did it change you? Who might you tell the story to? What about it would move them? pivotal moment choice outcome 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3 4 4 4 5 5 5 6 6 6 7 7 7 8 8 8 9 9 9 10 10 10


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high points 6 weeks caring for my mother as she was dying of cancer low points


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pivotal moment choice outcome mother dying in a broken system where we are in denial of death and most people die in hospital despite wanting to die at home flew to Edmonton for 6 weeks to help my mom to die well at home Experienced both the fear and the beauty of dying process. living each day differently, working towards effecting change in the death experience.


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How might we rethink the death experience?


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We can only connect the dots that we collect, which makes everything you write about you. … Your connections are the thread that you weave into the cloth that becomes the story that only you can tell. ~Amanda Palmer


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If your timeline is short of dots… go boldly forth and start collecting!


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100 questions Quickly write 100 questions that feel significant to you. Do the entire list in one sitting. Without judging, read through and highlight themes that emerge. Choose the 10 that feel the most significant. Rank from 1-10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Michael Gelb, Think Like Da Vinci


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Michael Gelb’s 10 questions When am I most naturally myself - what people, places, activities and circumstances allow me to be most fully myself? What is one thing I could stop doing? Start doing? Do differently today that would most improve the quality of my life? What is my greatest talent? How can I get paid for doing what I love? Who are my most inspiring role models and why? How can I best serve others? What is my heart's deepest desire? How am I perceived by: my closest friends? my worst enemy? my boss? my spouse/partner? children? co-workers? What are the blessings in my life? What legacy would I like to leave behind?


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Living Legacy: stories creating futures


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So many of us have struggled all our adult lives to improve the world and in so doing the lives of today’s children, tomorrow’s adults. To do so we have drawn heavily on external sources of knowledge, insight and reliable generalisation, all too often, ignoring the authenticity and richness of our own experience and resulting ‘knowing’.Yet, in our practice, again and again, theories have been tried, tested, refined and rehypothesised.Yes, we embody the totality of years of enquiry, study, reflective practice and knowledge chiselled into every aspect of our beings. ~Andrew Henon, Teacher


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Living Legacy: stories creating futures Imagine your audience. Who would you like to receive this document? Now write your legacy letter What are the virtues you value most? What are your gifts? Compliments people often give you? Whose lives have you impacted? People whose gifts you helped to unleash? What are your deepest dreams and hopes for making a difference? The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow


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Ask someone you trust who knows you well What is the story I’m telling?


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Randy Pausch’s Living Legacy: The Last Lecture The key question to keep asking is: Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have. ~Randy Pausch https://youtu.be/ji5_MqicxSo


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Obituary: what if you wrote your own? Write your obituary based on how you are living your life right now, assuming no risk. Answer the question “What’s worth doing even if I fail?” What do you want people to remember or do as a result of your life story? Write a second obituary assuming you are living that life.


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One day I sat down and wrote two versions of my obituary. The first was the one that I wanted to have. I thought of the obituaries that I enjoyed reading, the people that I admired. They were the adventurers and risk-takers… They lived life with a greediness for new experiences, and gumption, and a gung-ho attitude that defied the attempts of naysayers and nigglers to pigeonhole them or put them down. These people really knew how to live. The second version was the obituary that I was heading for – a conventional, ordinary life – pleasant and with its moments of excitement, but always within the safe confines of normality.


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I want to tell you three stories from my life. No big deal. Just three stories. ~Steve Jobs


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Commencement Speech List titles of three stories that define your past self, present self, and then stories you hope to tell 10 years from now. Look for themes in your past and present self to inspire stories that you think you might want to write for the future. stories about your past self stories about your present self stories about your future self 1 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3 Power of Story in Business Workbook, Jennifer Aaker


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Commencement Speech Now imagine yourself 10 years in the future. You just received an invitation to give a commencement speech. Share a story about your life, something that would inspire the graduates.


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The greatness of a great question is that it can survive any and all answering, and still be left standing after the debates and harangues and rationalist assaults have bashed away at it. ~Steven Jenkinson


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So here’s the thing about changing the world. It turns out that’s not even the question, because you don’t have a choice. You are going to change the world, because that is actually what the world is. You do not pass through this life, it passes through you.You experience it, you interpret it, you act, and then it is different. That happens constantly. You are changing the world. ~Joss Whedon


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[Creativity] endeavors to bring some of our hidden life to expression in order that we might come to see who we are. When we are creative, we help the unknown to become known, the visible to be seen and the rich darkness within us to become illuminated. … Each of us is emerging in every moment. When we discover our creativity, we begin to attend to this constant emergence of who we are... Beneath that white page, in the stillness, a harvest of untouched possibility waits. ~John O’Donohue


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? (re)frame answers that constrain


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? find the questions that make the impossible possible


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poverty is condition difficult to exit how can we help the needy?


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a woman with courage and a dream, but little money how might we support her journey towards realizing her dreams?


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old age as a condition how might we care for them & keep them safe


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a man in yearning to contribute his life learnings in his final stage of life how might they continue to contribute their gifts in the last stage of their life?


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death as failure what can we do to extend life?


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death is to life as night is to day how might we live each day to the fullest, even as we are dying?


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world is a threat must keep our children safe


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world is a possibility space how might we help children discover the joy of exploration?


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employees as human resources we must drive productivity, efficiency, and performance


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employees are a creative force how might we unleash the creative gifts of every employee?


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QUESTIONS …spark creativity …generate thinking …are provocative and dynamic …are beginnings …are full of possibilities …invite conversation …open space …create history …make time permeable


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don’t think


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The intellect is a great danger to creativity … because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth — who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter — you must feel… The worst thing you do when you think is lie — you can make up reasons that are not true for the things that you did, and what you’re trying to do as a creative person is surprise yourself — find out who you really are, and try not to lie, try to tell the truth all the time. And the only way to do this is by being very active and very emotional, and get it out of yourself — making things that you hate and things that you love… ~Ray Bradbury


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feel questions


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No more words. Hear only the voice within. ~ Rumi


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cultivate curiosity


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Curiosity might be pictured as being made up of chains of small questions extending outwards, sometimes over huge distances, from a central hub composed of a few blunt, large questions. ~Alain de Botton


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Observe for a day Choose a theme for the day (one of your questions or anything of interest) and record observations in your notebook. Aim for accurate, simple observations. Write. Sketch. Speculation, opinion, and theory are also ok.


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Contemplate a question Find a quite place to sit. Hang your question in front of you. Set a timer for 10 minutes. Relax, breath deeply, and sit with your question. If your mind wanders, bring it back by reading the question again, out loud. Try doing this before going to sleep and again when you wake up.


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Explore using stream of consciousness Set a timer for between 10 minutes and an hour. Choose any question and write. Don’t judge, censor, hesitate. Keep your pen moving until the time is up. Take a break. Highlight the words or phrases that speak to you most strongly. Look for themes and more questions. Repeat.


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Make a collage (team) Send out your team to investigate the question space. Interview & observe people. Read widely and collect inspiration. Create colleges of learnings, then present and discuss. Make sense as a collective of all you’ve learned. What assumptions? What’s the story? What frame will you place around your question? How will you reword it? What will you include in the frame? What will you exclude? What new words or phrases will you use to capture the possibility space? For words & frames are powerful weapons. 83


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create prototypes


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All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson


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So, whenever you’re faced with something labeled a problem, what question should you ask?


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? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY


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the way you ask the question is the frame in which the answers will fall


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smaller box different box bigger box bigger different box box smaller different box


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different bigger smaller


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What if we mentored employees in designing the story of their life’s work? What if we design the employee experience? How might we design meetings as experiences that bring our core values to life? How can we increase employee engagement?


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As soon as we label something, we put it in a box and move it to another part of our brain. We stop seeing it as it really is. ~Marty Neumeier different bigger box different box thinking smaller different box


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Seeing is forgetting the name of the things seen. ~Robert Irwin, Painter


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questions Austin Kleon


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stop  worrying about finding your passion   


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re(frame)  answers as questions


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start  living in your questions


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We live in the world our questions create. ~David Cooperrider


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Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.  ~Rilke


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…our future will come from the individual imagination in conversation with all other individual imaginations. A mobilization of something that exists at the edges between things. A sea formed not from a general’s command but from the flow and turn of a thousand creative conversational elements. ~David Whyte a thousand questions


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(re)frame innovate using questions joycehostyn.com joyce_hostyn@yahoo.com


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