Chance favours the connective mind

This Tuesday, Professor Clive Holtham from Cass Business School (a contributor to this blog) gave a seminar on Designing Creative Spaces where he talked research into what it takes to create a space that enables creativity to happen. What caught my attention most about this talk was the notion of Third Spaces leading to innovation. (What is a Third Space? Well, the First Space is home, Second Space is work, and the Third space is the in-betweens.)

Clive briefly talked about the original coffee houses in London as an example of a third space that has proven to encourage innovation. It had two key ingredients: a space for talk/networking and a powerful stimulant (in this case: coffee). The largest insurance market in the world, Lloyd’s of London, began life as a coffeehouse. It was started in 1688 by Edward Lloyd, who prepared lists of the ships that his customers had insured.

As chance would have it, the term coffee house cropped up again yesterday in a TED video that I was sent by one of the MICL students.

In this video, Steven Johnson talks about where ideas come from, and argues that the idea itself is not formed in the Eureka moment, but that this moment is really the culmination of all the connections your brain makes of the knowledge you gain from doing research, learning, having experiences, talking to others etc. etc. Darwin described his idea of the origin of species as a eureka moment, but apparently his logs show that he had the idea before the time of this eureka moment, in that it had formed from what he observed and deduced through his research. The origin of species didn’t start as an idea at all, it started with observations and research which lead to the idea.
Steven Johnson also tells a fascinating tale of the origins of the SatNav. (Watch the video).

Today I read a similar argument by Jeffrey Phillips on how Innovation Doesn’t Begin with Idea Generation. He argues pretty much the same point as Steven Johnson, that ideas are made by our minds making connections between the knowledge and information we have. (It’s a well argued point, unlike this blog post).

I suppose, beyond telling you about these 3 fascinating sources of information, I was curious as to what your opinion is on connection making and in the spaces that you go to to stimulate your creative connection making.

Personally, my favourite third space for connection making is walking. Please do share yours.

Author: Kristine Pitts


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Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice

The Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice is an interdisciplinary research centre in the Cass Business School, City University London.

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