Keep on Looking

ESSAY BY WILHELM KRULL

Creativity is one of the most valuable tools we have as humans. To think creatively is to think laterally and make connections between seemingly disparate ideas or situations. Creative thinking helps us to approach the challenges we face in life with confidence, because creativity is symbiotically connected to positive development and hence allied with progress. But institutions and creativity do not, by general association, go hand in hand, and this is precisely why creativity is one of our core values. My role as a mentor is to help people realise their potential to generate new insights creatively. At THE NEW INSTITUTE I have a unique opportunity to establish an ecosystem that will connect creative minds from various walks of life. These will include globally concerned researchers, thought-leaders, and policy makers who will help us to co-create inspiring visions for the future.

Radically new ideas, insights, and inventions often begin by looking at things differently. As if one were to see them in another light or – as a result of intense discussions or debates – through the eyes of someone else. The magic moment of inspiration and imagination, frequently called serendipity, can neither be predicted nor exactly planned for. At times we may not even be fully aware of what we are looking for until we have finally found it. Creativity is a crucial tool here, because it encourages keeping an open, inquisitive and responsive mind where our natural tendency may be to hunt for answers.

Diversity of fellows from different disciplines and sectors of society is paramount.

And yet, as experience has shown, particularly creative gains in illuminating insights are not just a matter of coincidence or contingency. On the contrary, if we look more closely at the reasons why in some institutions there are far more ground-breaking ideas being produced than in others, a set of structural success factors comes to the fore that can be found in many institutes of advanced study. We can design an institution that goes beyond fostering creative thinking to one that supports, enables and inspires creativity in all that we do.

How might we go about this? Diversity of fellows from different disciplines and sectors of society is paramount. This should be matched with ample opportunities for intense communication and interaction. If the institution is too small and homogeneous, the stimulus for extra-disciplinary orientation will be missing. If the facility is too large and heterogeneous, there will hardly be sufficient room for intense personal contacts and fertile exchanges. In both cases the generation of transformative knowledge will probably be hampered. A convivial and research-friendly atmosphere is a great help too, of course.

At THE NEW INSTITUTE we believe it will take a shared commitment by all its fellows and partners to be open to fundamental debates. We must question cherished habits, and provide ample space for thorough reflection as well as cross-sectoral cooperation. It is with this in mind that we will strive to establish a high trust culture of creativity. We will endeavor to break new ground intellectually, in our shared mission to develop pathways for viable solutions. We should be prepared to overcome resistance in favour of required changes that will have to be made systemically and sustainably. Ultimately, we hope to harvest the potential of these knowledge gains so that they will provide substantial foundations on which tomorrow’s world can be built. Creativity, creative thinking and creative expression will guide us.


Wilhelm Krull is the founding director of THE NEW INSTITUTE.

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