When creativity hits you, drink it like a camel before a desert crossing

The craziest stuff starts to bloom once the rain hits (picture by Andesine on flickr)

The craziest stuff starts to bloom once the rain hits (picture by Andesine on flickr)

I don’t know about you, but for me creativity is like the rainy season in Namibia: two months of hoping for the crazy rains that fall from the sky with the force of a waterfall and turn the desert into a psychodelic sea of flowers – after ten months of blue skies and barely a drop of water to be found. So, what I have learned when I am on a roll, when the ideas come flooding in and I could develop a new project every minute, to go with the flow, drink it all in, not be scared or ration it.

Oh yes, I’d love to turn my creativity into something that more resembles the moderate climate of Germany, where you get a little bit of rain every month, so floods are rare, nature is accustomed to having a whole spring, summer and fall to complete a growing circle and everything is in well organized order. But for me it doesn’t work that way. And I cannot tell my mind: Wait, stop having all these ideas, moderate yourself, keep some of them for next month.

So all I can do is fearlessly let them come out like a waterfall, capture and share what I can. I send some out in the world, by sharing them with people who might be interested in and capable of implementing what I only treat as a passing thought. And I capture some well enough that I can keep on working on the idea, tinkering, testing, perfecting it during the dry season. Because a new idea is a nice thing to have, but to turn it into something (an innovation, a project, a work of art) requires far more than the initial inspiration, there is a lot rather un-creative hard work required.

But if I tried to slow down and ration the ideas that come to me, to turn inspiration into a more orderly process, I would have one of these terrible dry rainy seasons I have seen in Namibia, where nothing follows the first torrential rainfall, you look at the sky in desparation every day, some clouds might build up far in the distance but all you get is wind and dry thunderstorms.

Do your networks own you – or do you own them?

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Does the bear eat you or do you eat the bear (Polar Bear Family and Me by Gordan Buchanan)

Does the bear eat you or do you eat the bear?

Coming back from the largest meeting of social network analysts, the Sunbelt Conference of the International Network of Social Network Analysis (INSNA) I realize that my approach to this question might be different from the mainstream in the field. Most researchers who are interested in social networks will ask a variation of the following questions:

  • How does the network you are embedded in determine what you get (depending on research interest the “what” can be as diverse as “money”, “weight gain” and “HIV/AIDS”)? Or:
  • How is your network determined by who you are (looking at the network differences between men and women, rich and poor, sick and healthy, new and old staff etc.)

I guess, that’s what most researchers do, looking at how one thing is determined by something else. I am much more interested in the practical and proactive question:

  • Once you understand your network, what can you do about it?

Network researchers make a compelling case (backed up with a lot of evidence) that network structures do indeed influence what you can achieve or what risks will come your way. And it is obvious that different people have networks are structured differently. But wouldn’t it be great to get a better understanding of what individuals and groups can (and cannot) do to improve their network structure and content to be happier, achieve more of what they want, get out of painful, limiting and dysfunctional network relations?

Have you been able to change your networks? Why did you do it and how? What was difficult? What was easy? Did it change what you can give and get? I’d love to hear from you.

And if you want to find out what happens to the man in the glass box as he is visited by a hungry ice bear (picture above), you will find an amazing video here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/01/04/polar-bear-arctic-gordon-buchanan_n_2410791.html

Social Analysis in Progress…

An interesting use of Net-Map going on in Tunisia, analyzing stakeholder networks in groundwater management.

Bir Al-Nas - People's well

One of the most important aspects of the Bir Al-Nas approach is the integration of social analysis into hydrogeochemical and hydrogeological investigations.

In this regard the first step is the identification  of the actors involved in a specific issue, the assessment of their links, their influence and the possible existence of conflicts among them. Said in other words:  a Stakeholder Analysis.

For this purpose, within the Bir Al-Nas approach, I’ve chosen to perform a Social Network Analysis (SNA), applying the Net Map toolbox (Schiffer et al., 2008).

Net-Map is an interview-based mapping tool that helps people understand, visualize, discuss, and improve situations in which many different actors influence outcomes

Working in collaboration with a MSc. student in Environmental Sciences from Ca’ Foscari University, Ms. Chiara Tringali, I’m trying to identify all the stakeholders involved in groundwater management issues in the region of Cap Bon (Tunisia). In particular we are focusing…

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