Creativity and Systems Thinking at Universities LO20036

AM de Lange (
Mon, 30 Nov 1998 11:15:22 +0200

Replying to LO19945 --

Dear Organlearners,

Leo Minnigh ( writes:

>Do you know one or more universities where creative thinking
>and/or systems thinking is an integral part in the curriculum?
>And if so, please can you give details on which year of study,
>for some or all faculties, etc.
>Here, at the University of Delft, Netherlands, we like to have
>examples and possible experiences of others.
>Please, mail your answers directly to me.

Greetings Leo,

I honour your request that answers should be sent directly to you. But I
am curious about the answers which you have received. At our university
there is no formal course in either creativity or systems thinking,
although these topics are touched in some pschychology and managerial

When I began working at the university in 1979, I felt like a voice in the
wilderness calling for more emphasis on creativity. Now, one out of three
lecturers think that more emphasis should be given to creativity. When I
ask them in discussions to indicate what topics in creativity should be
given an account of, they seldom get further than innovation. It is clear
to me that here both lecturers and students will have to learn more about

The reason why I decided to reply to your request, is its
connection with the important questions formulated in
Subject: What is "Culture"? LO19973 by
Sabine Bach <Sabine.Bach@SU.SIEMENS.DE>, namely:
>What is culture?
>How could you define culture?
>What do I have to address in order to change culture?

Likewise I thought about the important questions formulated in
Subject: LOs in Higher Ed LO19529 by
Tom Abeles <>, namely:
>1) What indeed is the business of higher education around
> which a LO can be developed?
>2) What is wrong with this picture ([that] the university is a
model of a decentralized, chaotic, self-organizing world)?
>3) Why does it endure or will it?

These questions never got answered. But they did evoke powerful
responses by for example
Philip Pogson <>
Subject: LOs in Higher Education LO19560
Rol Fessenden <>
Subject: LO's in Higher Education LO19587
The realism in these responses appear to make them cynical.

As I see it, all these contributions have to do with "human creativity".
By writing "human" I have to state clearly that my concept of creativity
goes far beyond humans to include all irreversible self-organising
phenomena, physical and spiritual. For example, it include a spider
spinning its web and Fritof Capra writing his book "The web of life". In
other words, think of my concept of creativity as "deep creativity" so as
not to confuse it with the usual comprehensions of creativity in which
"human creativity" and "creativity" is exactly the same thing. The study
of "entropy production" is fundamental to the understanding of "deep

The complementary dual nature+culture and "deep creativity" are two sides
of the same coin. The only difference is that "deep creativity" is our
systematical account (organisation) of nature+culture. It means that
nature+culture is the object (elementar) which we want to study and that
"deep creativity" is the subject (fundamental) which we will use to
accomplish the study. In other words, should we create a Systems Thinking
for nature+culture, the result would be "deep creativity". Please note
that in this sense nature+culture is considered as a black box, i.e.,
except for giving it a name, we assume nothing more about it.

Should we now focus on humankind and not all of nature, "human creativity"
and "culture" are closely related. Thus our "creativity" is the Systems
Thinking (subject) which we use to explain, describe and predict "culture"
(object). It is most important not to exclude things from culture which
are wrong, false and horrify us, nor to over emphasise the things which
are valuable to us, but to look at the whole picture of culture. In other
words, wholeness is essential to our "creativity" with which we will study
"culture". But in order to study our "culture" (the object or elementar)
creatively, we will also have to study our "creativity" (the subject or
fundamental). On the other hand, to study merely our "creativity" and not
also use it to study our "culture" with it, will never afford us real
understanding of creativity.

I am now ready to answer to Tom Abeles first question. The business of
higher education is "deep creativity" and not merely "human creativity" as
many people are now beginning to believe. The many subjects we then find
in higher education is the manifoldhood of "deep creativity". Think of the
of metaphor of a stalk with a sheaf of grain kernels. The stalk is the
subject "deep creativity" and the grain kernels are the various subjects
of academy. Should higher education make "human creativity" its business,
this infliction of anthropocentrism (or creative narcism) would do higher
education great harm.

Tom's third question is just as important. We must never underestimate the
role of technology. Let us think of one example. Since times immemorial up
to two centuries ago, the main mode of propelled transportation was
carriages pulled by domesticated animals. Liveries were common to every
town and city. Regularly placed "outspans" along all the roads were a
common feature. But with the internal conbustion enjine all have changed
in less than a century. Universities are now with us for roughly seven
hundred years. (The first two universities ever were that of Bologna and
Paris). Will the Internet not do to Universities what the internal
combustion enjine did to transportation?

Sabine's third question can also be answered. We will have to pay
attention to the "creativity" of the members of an organisation if we want
them to change purposefully their culture. In the past it happened by
paying attention to some topics (like problem-solving or leadership)
without realising that they are facets of human creativity. We can
continue doing so without ever bringing creativity into the picture. Some
of the topics certainly have a high potential for change. But when we look
at the whole picture, we will find a gradual decrease in the potential of
each of these topics so that new topics are contually invented to boost
the change. Why? Because we do not upheld wholeness as essential. However,
should we comprehend that "creativity" is the unifying factor among these
topics, we will also be able to rejuvenate the potential of these topics.

Obviously, what have "creativity" and "culture" to do with a Learning
Organisation? Creativity results into culture like learning results into
knowledge. In other words, we have to question the relationship between
creativity and learning.

What is the relationship between creativity and learning?

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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