You must learn to recognize a diamond in the rough

Last week I had a great meetup with the intreging Suzanne Merritt. Before she started her own business Suzanne was Senior Creatologist (great title) and Founder of the Creativity Laboratory at Polaroid Corporation, which was also located in Boston. She designed innovation programs which generated ideas valued at 60 million dollars. And now… she is in the search of Beauty and learns executives how to draw and take pictures. What is going on with her?

Bono’s hats and Art
“As founder of the Lab, I was certified in nine excellent innovation methodologies ranging from de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to Creative Problem Solving. But something was lacking from these methodologies… Through the arts, we had discovered how to tap into an authentic source of creative energy in individuals and teams by connecting them to their work in more meaningful ways. The quality of ideas generated by the participants improved, and their behavior shifted.”
(Journal of Business Strategy Fall 2010 Vol.31 No.4, What Does Beauty Have to Do with Business?)

There are millions of ways to get to a new idea, and every human being has the capability to be creative. So what separates the ‘post-its professionals’ from the ones which bring something special? The main challenge is to recognize and appreciate new insights when they present themselves to you, or it will remain just post-its. For example: Some people see just a tree, while others recognize the solution for their business challenge. Another example is the question that many managers have “How can I choose between really new proposals of a business nobody knows yet? How do I know which one to pick that will become succesfull?”. Some call this ability a gift which makes it too special and mystical. It is something you can practice by doing daily exercises, going to places that give you new impulses, and keeping a creativity log, etc.. Suzanne uses the process that is useful as an outline.

–       Collect: see what is there

–       Connect: interpret

–       Create: determines appropriate action

As an experiment I went with her (and a meetup group) to the Charles River in Boston to take pictures of the sunset. The goal was to investigate the difference between taking a snapshot and letting a picture come to you. We used the same process of really being in the moment and seeing what was there (collect), noticing what is appealing to you (connect) and taking the best picture of that moment / story (create). What I noticed, as the ultimate amateur, is that I had to find the game in this exercise, in stead of just following the instructions. At that moment I forgot for a moment about time (flow) and was aware of what had to be photographed. I enjoyed the results, and was also aware that I had to practice much more… Suzanne helped us to see the beauty that is all around us, and to go a step further then just another picture of sunset.

Patterns of Beauty
Luckely we don’t have to invent the wheel for ourselves about beauty. At the Polaroid Creative Lab Suzanne investigated how you can find the elements which have this A factor. She identified eight patterns of beauty: vitality, luminosity, unity in variety, complexity, utility, simplicity, synchronicity, and sublimity. I won’t explain them in this blog, so have a look at this short video and read her beautiful iBook.

In General
I think it’s applicable for any creative process, but that one of the difficulties is to give yourself enough time to really collect and connect. Even with my background in Improvisation, which is most of the time played at high speed, you have to ground before you can add something that is worthwhile. This is not so easy, so be average and give yourself time to enjoy!

ArtScience Labs: Youngster creating the future!

In creating something new, you often have to break or bend the existing rules. Or you call yourself an Artist, so you can easily create your own rules and call it Art. This gives a lot of freedom to experiment and less reason for justification. Half a year ago I searched on the combination between Science and Art, and came in this way in contact with the ArtScience Labs in Boston. A inspiring place where youngsters create what wasn’t there before.


What is the ArtSience Prize?

The ArtScience Prize ( was originally developed by Professor David Edwards of Artscience Labs at Harvard University to help young people develop the ability to think in cross-disciplinary, creative ways that will inspire them to create change in the world and to tackle some of society’s most pressing problems. Each year, this curricular program engages hundreds of young people from many countries across the globe in art and design projects with a cutting-edge scientific theme. Through exploration of these themes within the context of a curricular program, young people have developed groundbreaking ideas for new ways of eating (such as Le Whif, a new form of inhalable chocolate), new humanitarian organizations (including Lebone, which grows energy from dirt in various parts of South Africa), novel artistic experiences (including Water Walkers, a public art installation that raises awareness about water access in the developing world), innovative companies (including MuseTrek, a cultural services provider that harnesses the power of user-generated content and GPS technologies), and much more. All of these groundbreaking ideas help to engage young people in creative ideation at the intersection point of their personal passion and the needs that exist in today’s society. The ArtScience Prize currently works with students from secondary education to post-graduate levels in France, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, South Africa, and the United States with programs launching in the UK, Canada, Korea and Germany in the coming years.

Round Table In Amsterdam

We’re now organizing a Round Table conference in Amsterdam, to look at the possibilities of the presence of the ArtScience Lab in the Netherlands. As a member of Amsterdam’s innovation community through my work at the de Baak institute, I was excited to learn about this project and to think of the possibilities that it presents for the Netherlands community. While de Baak does work at the professional level with many members of the Netherlands community, we realize that creative thinking must begin at younger ages, within exciting innovation environments for students. The world that our young people will grow up in is uncertain in a variety of ways, but one thing that we know for sure is that our young people will have access to a wealth of information, and their power to impact the world and come up with creative ideas will lie in the ability to synthesize and use that information in globally-relevant ways. I see the approach of the ArtScience Prize to help children “learn how to learn,” become excited about the creative potential of combining different disciplines in new ways, and figure out how to bring ideas from conception to realization as key strengths of this unique educational approach. Additionally, building on a concept that is also central to de Baak’s work, the ArtScience Prize provides a framework through which community members, professionals, companies and organizations, and a global network of other ArtScience Prize students can network and engage with Netherlands youth to support the development of collaborative, creative ideas.


Please feel free to contact me if you want to know more about the Round Table Conference in June, and I would love to involve you!

Thank you Andrea Sachdeva (Director at the ArtScience Labs), for most of the above text. Writing is a lot of fun when you can copy good sentences from others:)

Right to Copy in Arts?

Last week I as was in the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston. At the second floor of the museum I stumbled upon a painting from Ilya Bolotowsky, which was called ‘Spiral Movement’ (1951). It was the only painting in the museum that was hung dioganally. I, as a proud Dutchman, thought imediatly “But isn’t  Victory Boogie Woogie from Mondriaan that was made in 1942?!? This is a really bad forgery!”. The text board on the side explained that it was only inspired by Mondriaan…


The question that I have since then is the everlasting question “What is art?”. The MFA is a worldfamous museum, so if they exhibit this piece there, it must be art. Or is that too easily said? Why do I actually dislike a painting that is a simular to the original one? Why do I suddenly have nationalistic feelings? And what will become of  Art if we build machines that can really copy paintings and make identical pairs? I’m getting into a the copyright or right to copy discussion while being in a museum looking at 50 year old art… I think it is more about feelings that ratio, because I can’t think of a good explanation why somebody else wouldn’t have the right to copy this blog right now, except that they would hurt my feelings in a terrible way…

Explanation innovation program (Dutch): Transforming Innovation into Business

Deze video geeft een toelichting op het Baak programma Transforming Innovation into Business, waarbij we onder andere een bezoek brengen aan Boston en MIT. Het programma heeft als doel om jouw business challenge  op het gebied van innovatie een stap verder te brengen. Daarbij wordt je onderdeel van een internationaal innovatie netwerk. Handig als je verder wil kijken.

Ik zal zelf vanaf 1 april 2012 voor een half jaar in Boston verblijven om het netwerk hier verder uit te breiden, en een interessant programma voor onze deelnemers te kunnen bieden. Als je interesse hebt in het programma of een stap verder denkt laat het dan natuurlijk vooral weten!

Transforming Innovation into Business