Hacking the Black Box of Creativity

While it’s become increasingly trendy in marketing, management literature, organizational development, and TED Talks of all stripes to evangelically sing the praises of “creativity” – to espouse the merits of fostering a “creative culture,” to extol the innovative power of “creative leadership” – the very notion of creativity begs the question of what it is, where it comes from, and how it happens.

What do we mean by creativity? Creativity, by definition, is the generation of an enriching kind of novelty, of something constructively and enliveningly new. Creativity is not “business as usual,” but rather an unusual way of doing business, whether that “business” is biotech, hospitality, engineering, education, art, or any domain of human inquiry and practice.

Creativity, by definition, is self-generative. In other words, creativity breeds creativity as a potentially infinite process. (In this way you might even say it’s a bit like love in the sense that the expression of love, like creativity, doesn’t deplete it but multiples it.)

Where does creativity come from? It might seem at first too simple an answer, but creativity comes from life, from living systems, whether that living system is an anthill, a rainforest, or an organization of people. Creativity is inherent in living systems; it is not something that we import from the “outside” or overlay “on top.” What we call “creativity” has to do with unlocking the creative potentials of a living system.

A doctor cannot make a broken arm heal. The greenest thumb cannot make a garden grow. An artist cannot make the muse arrive. What each can do is create the conditions that unlock the creative potential and power of the living system of the body, the garden, or the artistic process: the doctor sets and casts the arm; the gardener tills and fertilizes the soil, the artist seeks inspiration from masterworks or places of deep personal significance.

How does creativity happen? All living systems are systems in relation: you won’t ever find a living system without its environment. You won’t ever find a living thing that’s not in relation with something else, whether that’s a plant in relation to soil and sunlight or a person in relation to other people and the aesthetic of the space around them.

The law of nature is “organism and environment”: they go together like chocolate and peanut butter, or, more accurately, like mountains and valleys or a sea and the shore. It is a living system’s relationship with its environment from which it draws its life and creativity (and then in turn creatively enriches its environment, which in turn creatively enriches the living system) in a mutually reciprocal, never-ending process.

At Zen Media, we’ve got our finger on the pulse of the answer to the what, where, and how of creativity. Located at the crossroads of architecture, interior design, digital analytics and advertising (we practice what we preach by drawing our creative power from the relationship between these diverse environments of expertise), we’re industry leaders at creating the environmental conditions to unlock the creative potentials of your organization or enterprise.

By collaborating with you to co-create collectively meaningful, enrichingly novel, aesthetically inspiring, creativity-potentiating built environments, we’re your “next level” solution to “having it MADE” by hacking the “black box” of creativity.


She is the founder & CEO of Zen Media. She has been named the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Forbes, Businessweek, and Inc have all recognized her as one of the Top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs in the field of marketing. Shama has built a global audience and is known for helping brands succeed in the digital age. She is a bestselling author, an international keynote speaker, and has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Marketing for four years in a row.



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