You cannot expedite creativity: creativity takes time, and in a way, it happens when it happens. But while we spend much time discussing the necessity to build a "playground" - in Cities we have spaces, places, tastes and traces - communities and formal organizations need to find ways to shed light away from traditional leadership to make place for "community-ship". What this entails is that they move away from command-and-control systems and replace them with something. But what?
We propose that "boundary objects" may serve as a point of reference for self-structured organizational work. Such "objects" maybe be physical artifacts (a wheel), verbalized metaphors (six word memoirs), artistic sketches (like those of architects), or a number of other partially explicit forms of knowledge. They serve both the construction of meaning within collectives and communities, as well as the communicative purposes of corporations in search of a macro-level identity. The latter often takes the form of brand positioning through narratives, shapes and values.
In the words of BRP's Vice President for Design and Innovation, Denys Lapointe, these elements behave analogically to the role of DNA in biology. For Bombardier's Recreational Product division, the simple lines that shape the components of each vehicle in its product portfolio constitute a platform around which meaning is created and recreated. "Like a design code, a language, brand DNA is like a gesture", says Lapointe. "It should be flexible, adaptable. Its first purpose is to help us work on the future".
In many ways, the articulation of any idea requires the presence of boundary objects to ease its expression, allow its definition, and accompany the phenomenon through which it the intuitive becomes the socially accepted. At a latter point in time, it also becomes the organizationally validated.
This intermediation of meaning using such boundary objects creates specific conditions for creativity and innovation. Brand and product DNA, while facilitating the definition of certain aspects of brainstorming and product development, can also serve as a positive constraint relative to which any new idea may be positioned.
In a way, as Pr. Davide Ravasi from Bocconi University says, even the objects that are not there have meaning in their absence. The constraint can be accepted, rejected, bypassed. But it remains, like the elephant in the room, unavoidable. You take it, or leave it. But the ideas you foster in context are more likely to follow successful trajectories than those that exist on their own, without reference to some such "object". Thus, when creativity "happens", the explicit context provided by the DNA serves to push it into an orbit, central or peripheral. And so the creatives may "work on the future" as they please, knowing more precisely who they are, where they stand, and why that is.