Nozzle Guide Vane picture link
Creative leaps are not really ideas that spring fully formed from somewhere in the depths of our minds but are a piece of magic that is the outcome of a process of "just connecting things".
I was reading an interview of Tom's latest Cool Friend Dave Freedman author of A Perfect Mess when it occured to me that knowledge creation is a bit like heat transfer on the Nozzle Guide Vanes of a gas turbine. I remember early in my career being asked to predict the life of an NGV on the test bed and being shown one in a similar condition to the one pictured above. It seemed thatover the first part of the aerofoil the aerodynamic flow was laminar and heat transfer was at a certain rate. The metal could be protected by injecting a layer of cooling air which formed a laminar skin to protect the aerofoil. At a certain (transition) point the flow would go turbulent with mixing of layers with a jump in the rate of heat transfer usually marked by thermal erosion on the nozzle surface; usually cured by injecting more cooling air at this point. At some further point another transition point might be detected where the flow breaks away from the surface altogether and contributes nothiing at most to the aerofoil lift effect but to the drag.
It seems to me that this is like an organisation. Too much order and no discussion of "what-ifs" and "may-bes" take place inhibit the rate of knowledge creation to an incredibly degree. At a transition point people interact more within their own groups and across groups discovering new things to act on; creating increasing amounts of knowledge as the interactions go on. At some point however complets chaos reins and people are doing their own thing but not really interacting. Just like the NGV the optimum for longevity is to try to create laminar flow throughout... but while this might be god for the NGV it is not good for a knowledge creating organisation. Ring your telephone provider's call centre with a non-standard query and you will find it a struggle. Go into a creative interactive group session and you will have dozens of solutions; go to a rave and you will get no answers but have an interesting time! The name of the game is to make sure their is the minimum of sane implementation necessary to get stuff to market ; the bulk of activity should be about finding needs and creating memorable solution. And Raves?.... not too often!
The challenge of designing products and services that will work can easily drive us into doing what we always how we always do it which tends to move into the non-creative zone (often called Stasis). The zone of innovation, creative is turbulent and unpredictable so can be an area of anxiety if the environment is not tolerant of surprise; there is often a misreading of turbulence as chaos and so people react unfavourably as they want to eliminate burn-through (failure) rather than adjust and manage it ; and chaos.. well it is just that chaos, but once in a while observing it might spark an idea.... well that's got that out of my system: the analogy probably only strikes a chord with engineers, and in Europe I'm not sure we are supposed to be creative....!