Metavalent Stigmergy

How New Default Consensus Realities Instantiate

Catalytic Stigmergy

While the New York Times rightly points out that Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike, it seems to me that if others can’t interpret the meaning of the tracks we leave behind, then we’re not being effective explorer-helper ants. In sharing our glimpses, we don’t have to make decisions for the whole colony or even for the worker ants in the immediate vicinity, we simply have to communicate – as accurately as possible – something about the current bit of terrain that others will find interesting, meaningful, thought-provoking, or novel. They, in turn, tend to either integrate it into their own context, or discard it as not presently helpful. Either outcome is useful; in fact, even an ambiguous outcome is useful as it could merit closer inspection by other explorer-thinker-tinkerers and meta-conceptual shapers. Later, I want to spend some more time merging colony-mind communications analogies with what we’re learning about memory formation in mammal minds. I know it may sound like a complete mismatch, at first blush, but my job is therefore to break it down as books like “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” suggest.<blockquote>In their book, the Heath brothers outline six “hooks” that they say are guaranteed to communicate a new idea clearly by transforming it into what they call a Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Story. Each of the letters in the resulting acronym, Succes, refers to a different hook. (“S,” for example, suggests simplifying the message.) Although the hooks of “Made to Stick” focus on the art of communication, there are ways to fashion them around fostering innovation.

To innovate, Mr. Heath says, you have to bring together people with a variety of skills. If those people can’t communicate clearly with one another, innovation gets bogged down in the abstract language of specialization and expertise. “It’s kind of like the ugly American tourist trying to get across an idea in another country by speaking English slowly and more loudly,” he says. “You’ve got to find the common connections.”

In her 2006 book, “Innovation Killer: How What We Know Limits What We Can Imagine — and What Smart Companies Are Doing About It,” Cynthia Barton Rabe proposes bringing in outsiders whom she calls zero-gravity thinkers to keep creativity and innovation on track.

When experts have to slow down and go back to basics to bring an outsider up to speed, she says, “it forces them to look at their world differently and, as a result, they come up with new solutions to old problems” (New York Times).</blockquote>

Written on December 31, 2007


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