From the monthly archives: November 2011

Creativity through simplicity

“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity. – Charles Mingus

What means simplicity in creativity?

To create complicated stuff is not the same thing as creating complexity or to create simplicity is not to create the obvious. Making our ideas take shape does not necessarily have to be so complicated or complex.

The complications arise from difficult-to-use tools and projects too elaborate and full of questions and options, a synonym for an offer without measure to please Greeks and Trojans. When we created something it doesn’t have to satisfy everyone and not be the solution to a very wide range of problems.

If our purpose is to solve a problem we must identify and define it. Our solution must solve the problem in a simple way and this can happen if in the real problem is identified the source that gives origin.

We have reached the peak in creativity not when we have nothing more to add, but when there is nothing to suntract.

Faced with a problem we must withdraw from our analysis everything that is not part of the problem but always keeping the whole as background image. This implies not grasping in speculation to make everything more complicated and distracting. A possible way of separating the wheat from the chaff is to reformulate the problem so that it is understandable to everyone since the resolution of problems almost always passes by interdisciplinary teams.

To understand the problem let us withdraw the negative charge and turn it into challenge or opportunity.

To use creativity and transform problems into challenges may mean walking towards simplicity, i.e. search be creative through simplicity.

 “The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.” This philosophy runs counter to a typical tech company’s approach, where the goal is always to upgrade and add as opposed to subtract. It’s true, for the consumer to pay more and get less defies conventional wisdom and seems to contradict economic principles. But simplified technology doesn’t necessarily mean less functionality.”

Pay more and receive less can challenge the conventional wisdom if “more” means “number of things” or “number of options to choose from.” But if our proposal is the delivery of new experiences and differentiated by intensity and relevance the “less” becomes “more” and vice versa.

Here is a good example:

“With emphasis on old-world simplicity and using only the freshest ingredients, Pellegrino brings her own special brand of panache to the dining table: simplicity over complexity—with just the right dash of derring-do. Chef Carla Pellegrino, no doubt, is Bratalian to the core.

(Panache is used to describe a dashing confidence of style, or a certain flamboyance and courage.)

I think we have no doubt that it takes courage to create with simplicity, especially when our creativity is judged by the most discriminating observers.

Simplicity does not sell! Is it true?

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Questions for a starting point

There are organizations aged in the landscape of business that resemble large blocks of stone covered with fungi and lichens that time helped create. Those are static organizations and even may have color but are not creative and don’t evolve.

However it is not dramatic that stone blocks that exist in our landscape, if we have sculptors able to turn them into works of art target of admiration of crowds. Otherwise these companies may become obstacles to the development of ecosystems and well-being of people.

In the same landscape we can also observe white spaces waiting for innovative businesses, large or small but agile and able to evolve.

A new company starts with a white space, and most times there is a need to unlearn in order to fill these spaces. The advantage of having a white space is that, we can start something without having a well-defined begining that restricts our creativity. This point may appear later.

Creativity is a process accessible to all human beings and inherent in any discipline or act of our daily life.

Creativity is the result of the habit of acting, thinking, questioning and be curious, but above all to be persistent in seeking a dream.

The white spaces are particularly conducive to resolution of problems that can pass through the creation of a new business. A white space is the ideal environment for a dance between the divergent and convergent thinking.

When we work a white space, our divergent thinking occurs spontaneously, as a free flow, so that many ideas are generated quickly.

Faced with a problem, for example the creation of a business model, many possible solutions are explored in a short space of time, and many unexpected connections are drawn in this space.

It is this space that, after the divergent thinking process has been completed, the ideas and information will be organized and structured through convergent thinking. Everything which is not applicable, i.e. all the information and all ideas not relevant are “scratched” of our drawing or superseded by other more attractive.

What is happening with the white space is an addition of ideas and information without necessarily having the initial concern of a point of arrival.

But if we’re in an organization similar to a block of stone and we want to transform it into a sustainable organization, then it will be necessary to unlearn a lot of what are known reorganizations.

These organizations are normally organizations with many years accumulating garbage of information and work processes and all of these large portions of material not useful should be withdrawn. We must however be careful with the kind of tools we use for that material is removed quickly and evenly and without damaging the rest. At these times of cleaning it is fundamental keep always the image of the whole to not create imbalances.

We can mark specific rows using appropriate tools to measure a work area to be addressed (a white space) and create new paths or make necessary refinements and improvements.

Above all what I think is important is that “there isn’t a single direction, nor a single process or single methodology to reinvent an organization”.

In some cases the addition is needed, in other cases it is the subtraction.

Are you ready for this kind of change?

Are you ready to make a dramatic change to improve your organizational performance? Here are some questions to challenge you to get to your white space opportunity:

–      What will enable us to win in the way we want?

–      How will we know when we are winning this way? What evidence or trend exists that allows us to make this claim?

–      How can we influence our desired outcomes in a way that adds value, is rare and is very hard for our competitors to imitate? What noticeable “levers” can we pull?

–      What do our customers have to believe about us that is different from how they see our competitors?

–      What are we willing to do that our competitors are not doing in order to win? What is our ‘good pain’?”

We have a tendency to speak on creativity with products and services, technologies and experiences and rarely talked about creativity in management or organizational behavior.


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Different paths

The research is the beginning of studies of the needs and characteristics of persons for whom a product or service is being produced.

Many products or services require that users interact with them in order to accomplish its tasks, but many of them when they were conceived the fundamental concern were not users.

What happens normally is being thought of as systems to perform a specific set of functions instead of being thought to be easy to learn, effective use and capable of providing a pleasant experience to the user.

With a quick observation of what surrounds us, we easily realize what this means. Television Commands, travel sites or mobile phones are a good example of this.

How we interact with them?

How long we take, to engage effectively with them?

These issues and others should be raised since the beginning of the development of such innovative goods and should always be contextualized.

When the answers are not satisfactory we must ask to what extent the research on the needs of users of these products and services was considered in its design. Most of the time are satisfied the needs of those who produce to the detriment of the needs of those who use, i.e. the product or service is of great usability but only to experts in the field leaving the common user to learn until you get a new template.

This interaction between the user and the product becomes more important if our prime target is the set of older people already accommodated to its comfort zone. Allow, for example the elderly, a quick understanding of the articles placed at their disposal so that they use them effectively and make its use a rewarding experience is to resolve a good amount of problems with which they are confronted.

If in the design of these products we realize who will use, to what end they use it and what type of activities they held to interact we are combining effectively the results obtained in the research with the competences of whom is building it.

This combination allows us to establish which types of interfaces needed for an easy use and to a significantly rewarding experience.

“The best products don’t focus on features, they focus on clarity. Problems should be fixed through simple solutions, something you don’t have to configure, maintain, control. The perfect solution needs to be so simple and transparent you forget it’s even there.”– Jon Bolt

The importance of understanding how users act and react to certain products and services and how they communicate and interact makes it necessary that innovative teams are interdisciplinary. Psychology and sociology have a great contribution to make but the participation of these is only effective if there is a communication process established in accordance with a common language.

For interdisciplinary teams work well it is necessary or advisable that the process involves four “basic activities:

1. Identifying needs and establishing requirements

2. Developing alternative designs that meet those requirements

3.Building interactive versions of the designs so that they can be communicated and assessed

4. Evaluating what is being built throughout the process

These activities are intended to inform one another and to be repeated. For example, measuring the usability of what has been built in terms of whether it is easy to use provides feedback that certain changes must be made or that certain requirements have not yet been.”

Those activities become crucial when we think about resources needed people of older generations. We are used to that a good quantity of the products, made available on the market, excels by their complexity, as if they were a fun game of its constructors. Older generations may not share the same needs of these constructors.

If, since the start of the projects are interdisciplinary teams of fact, the restrictions placed on that stage and that cause bottlenecks in the development of projects, cease to exist and the complexity is transformed into simplicity of use.

To reduce technical complexity means elegance and ease for the user.

“Additional features can often feel like a simple and natural extension, an easy way to make extra revenue. Despite the sometimes low cost of designing additional features, there are hidden costs. ”“- Jon Bolt

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Between lines there are spaces

Business people should improve their capacity of vision of the whole rather than were predominantly prisoners of focus on efficiency and profitability.

As people of decisions, managers and business leaders should have its focus more on consumer, i.e., in people.

“The word intelligence comes from a Latin derivation meaning “entering through the lines.” People are always using their intelligence to enter or read into the lines of what you are saying or not saying. They fill in the white spaces between your words almost automatically, because it gives them a sense of understanding, control, or security.” – Reldan S. Nadler

But people are complex and often unpredictable which makes them little desirable to the eyes of managers of organizations when they need to set directions and options of business development. On the contrary the numbers (data and statistics) are friendlier treatment, because they do not reveal emotions and almost never tries to find in them a true meaning.

Furthermore, the heads of the organizations, without data and without people, that is, only with a blank space to fill with the help of creativity and knowledge tend to consider a mysterious panorama and ridiculous!

What happens is that many of these business people fear failure, have aversion to unpredictability and have a great concern for the status.

If we want to think about doing something in a dimension that represents a new learning experience for everyone, not only for leaders and managers, but yes to people linked to the business, we must create a new mentality, we have to be design thinkers.

We can’t decide between one thing and another, we have to draw a route forward.

The difference between these two ways of doing things is significant. The way to decide assumes that alternatives already exist (case study), but decide it will be difficult. Design view assumes that new options must be imagined (by using the design process), but once imagined, decide it will be easy. The truth is the success in the 21st century. XXI depends on finding the correct mixture of these two modes.

The new products, services, processes, technologies, business models, etc., don’t happen by chance, they must be designed and drawn!

The business failure in obtaining returns on innovation efforts and their investments remains a concern. We must simplify the complex and produce it in scale.

The source of this failure may be bad ideas, few good ideas, the support of misconceptions, an incorrect marketing model, lack of capacity for the implementation or preparation for the market.

But often, or even almost always, this failure is linked to missing view of white spaces, where the insertion of a draw or symbol provides a relief in the battle against adversity. A blank space is a place where we or a company may have room for maneuver. Using effectively the blank space we can create an invisible order that will improve the readability of any intent or proposed action.

To use the blank space means that we are not dependent on a multitude of representative data for analysis and that always leads us to what should be done and not to what can be done. It is an independence that plunges us into uncertainty and fear, which departs us from routine and prejudice, but that turns into passion as we envision the path of success.

This space challenges us to become aware of our environments, our spaces, both internal and external and challenges us to relax the control and to assume an attitude of openness and collaboration.

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People and emotions

Passive attitudes of consumers and users of yesterday have nothing to do with active and provocative attitudes of “clients” of today.

They are active because increasingly, people engage in creative processes and provocative because they challenge the creators for attempting to make sense and meaning in the world of creativity.

What was before the test to verify the effectiveness of innovative products and services, is today by co-creation and innovation and no longer reside in silos to open the door to collaboration and cooperation.

Even more! The challenges are no longer relate almost exclusively to the products and focus now more than ever on social services and in areas that require systemic solutions fundamental when we face the needs of consumers.

This is a role assumed by Design thinking.

Although traditionally designers focus their attention on improving the appearance and functionality of the products, the realization of the value of their work meant that this would result in a state of mind more open and with a broader application.

Design Thinking incorporates the consumer perception and a quick way of prototyping always surrounded by an optimistic thinking in solving problems.

Design thinking depends on our ability to be intuitive, recognize patterns for the construction of ideas that carry emotional significance, in addition to the functionality, and where the consumer feedback is crucial to the final result.

Don Norman in an article titled “Emotional Design: people and things” lifts the veil of problematic products and people that buy them and where can read:

“I proposed a framework for analyzing products in a holistic way to include their attractiveness, their behavior, and the image they present to the user — and of the owner. In this work on design, these different aspects of a product were identified with different levels of processing by people: visceral, behavioral, and reflective. These three levels translate into three different kinds of design. Visceral design refers primarily to that initial impact, to its appearance. Behavioral design is about look and feel — the total experience of using a product. And reflection is about ones thoughts afterwards, how it makes one feel, the image it portrays, the message it tells others about the owner’s taste…

Products differ in their appeal on the three design dimensions, but so too do people and situations. Vegetable peelers are primarily bought for their behavioral aspects. Wall clocks might be bought for their visceral appeal, or their reflective image. Some people are behavioral, emphasizing the behavioral level in their choices. Some are visceral, going by appearances. Some are reflective, considering what others will think — although it is the rare person who will admit to this trait

These distinctions are the essence of our findings. Design is a complex business, not only because the products themselves are complex, but because of the complexity of people and their needs. “

In fact people are complex and are much more complex as more we sidelined from empathy, that is, our deeply felt need of the understanding.

Openness, curiosity, optimism, and a tendency to learn by doing, experimentation, are fundamental in order to fit these two “complexities”.

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Connection is the keyword

We participate in social networks, because there we can say something about us and we can meet a lot of our curiosity about the world.

But our participation is not a passive activity nor devoid of causality. We have a need to build relationships to share joys, disenchantment or just information, but above all because by doing so we feel we grow.

When we contacted with people who have different mindsets and opinions we began to see things through different lenses and the colorful that is viewed enriches us. We seek to gain a deeper understanding of this huge choice of thoughts and ideas.

As we set our relationships and begin to interact more systematically targeted we are building our community.

But, why social networks?

Why don’t we stay by traditional conversations within our core group of friends and family? Why we do not stay just in our usual territory and we go to the Antipodes?

Why not just to our workplace?

Today we face situations where the work projects and enterprises are increasingly complex and people who work in them are located throughout the world. A new imperative has arrived! We need to discuss problems and solutions, and only the agility afforded by the networks as a tool makes it possible to achieve good results.

Collaboration tools are an important means to transform travel times and the cost of a late reply ceases to be a problem. We are distant from one or multiple clicks.

Even if employees of a company working on the same premises or building, sharing in network enables the development of creative thinking through the collision of ideas and critical thinking through reflection.

It is this reflection that seems important to do now!

What needs are we trying to meet when we dive on social networks?

How our curiosity does helps us grow?

What communities we seek to create or develop?

Pamela Rutledge wrote a very interesting article, addressing the needs Hierarchy model – Maslow, where we can find a good source of reflection about the importance of connections in the satisfaction of our needs.

“Social networks allow us to see, as never before, the interrelated nature of society and the palpable development of social capital from the emerging and intricate patterns of interpersonal relationships and collaboration.  The strength of our networks and our bonds improve our agency and effectiveness in the environment.  Our need for survival through connection plays out through every successful social technology.

  • Collaboration and teamwork allow us control our environment
  • Reciprocal and trusting relationships create effective collaboration
  • Social comparison establishes organizational structure, leadership and order
  • Social validation and social identity maintain emotional engagement and enhance attachment to our mates and our group
  • Competence contributes to the survival of our group and our sense of security and safety”.

Our active participation in social networks can be seen as a way to meet a variety of needs, not necessarily distributed equally by all of us.

To what extent?

To what extent my basic needs (Maslow-physiological) can be seen on social networks such as need of presence?

To what extent my need to create a structure on social networks means security need?

To what extent my love and belonging needs have to do with the construction of communities?

To what extent the satisfaction of my need for self-realization can be translated into social networks for optimization?

The analysis of our needs can still be made through the work performed by Maslow (1948) but will new technologies and social networks have created new necessities?

I would like to hear your opinion!

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

When we talk about rewarding innovation in an organization, it doesn’t make sense to reward an idea without thinking about reward all who collaborate in transforming the idea in the Organization’s product or service.

Reward the employees of organization means recognition and is a result of a management desire and an act of collaboration.

Nowadays the retention of some employees in an organization is a permanent challenge for HR professionals and is even more difficult when the set of these collaborators is composed of different generations, which have very different views on the resources available, about values or ethics in the workplace.

Today, with the uncertainty in the market, the best way that a collaborator has to ensure its future, is to ensure the future of his organization. Even organizations that strive to enhance the differences and promote alternative points of view discover that there are many challenges and have to learn to manage conflict of healthy way, because the dissatisfaction or frustration generates acute conflicts.

On the contrary reward creativity and innovation, providing individuals the tools and an inspiring environment and facilitator of development of ideas, favors a dynamic of personal and organizational growth.

Organizations that lead to innovation through recognition are guided by basic principles of encouragement of specific behaviors such as the creation of project teams.

These organizations recognize systematically and consistently those who contribute with ideas, knowledge and availability and in special way volunteers, agents of change and innovative models. To do so they keep the names associated with contributions and tell stories of success that refer to innovations be they incremental or not.

Make innovation auto-rewarded is a bold mission but when the authors are considered models by peers and managers the Organization awards the collective effort. After all they are connecting innovation to the core of company culture.

But how can we recognize and reward?

When an organization establishes extrinsic rewards for innovation must be attentive to some issues that might arise, such as:

-Assign more importance to money than he currently has.

-Confuse compensation with reward.

-Stifle team with individual recognition.

-Ignore the underlying issues behind the behaviors

-The reward decreases with time.

However to introduce so persistent, intrinsic motivation, many innovative organizations, encouraged:

-The recognition of peers.

-The establishment of working structures conducive to the cultivation of relevant innovations.

Rewards and recognition, especially the balance between intrinsic and extrinsic incentives, influence how employees approach their responsibilities.


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Elements of thought

The two forms of logic, inductive and deductive reasoning, were those that we learn to use more frequently throughout our life.

These two modes, based on the scientific tradition, allow a person to declare at the end of a process of reasoning if a statement is true or false.

Advances in statistical methods provide us with increasingly powerful tools to inductive reasoning. This causes, when some people get together to make decisions, very few shirk of deduction and induction, to create an argument and prove a case under discussion.

The world around us evolves and the acquisition of knowledge is no longer an abstract exercise, purely conceptual. It is an exercise that involves interaction and research about everything that surrounds us. Understand things no longer imply progress towards an absolute truth. It implies an interaction that evolves from systemic form, with the environment where we entered and which in turn undergoes the influence of other environments.

This interaction can lead us to Peirce’s words that at some point argued that no new idea can be proven deductively or inductively using past data. Today we must put the question about what may be true.

Tradition tells us that the analytical thinking leads to reliable consistency but intuitive thinking that is focused on the validity, leads us to what we should build.

This way we can use the analytical thinking to reduce the risk of manufacture or warehouse management and use the intuitive thinking to design and build new products.

It seems to be no doubt that most decision makers like to see the world through an analytical framework, quite attractive to plan and manage resources, but that, in view of the data about the survival of many companies, becomes frightening to the creation of new ones.

Asking questions is a sustainable way to find new paths, new opportunities and new businesses. Great ideas or ideas that add value do not necessarily arise from the top of the pyramid. They can arise from everywhere in the business environment.

For the design thinkers it becomes necessary to speak the two languages of reliable and valid and transform unfamiliar concepts in familiar concepts.

What if …?

Those seeking the validity cannot prove that their ideas will work, but would the future also brings good things?

“Well, the future is rarely completely different from the past, so what most companies do, which is honing and refining what they have always done—enhancing consumer experience in incremental ways, say—is a good thing. The problem is, they must link this to an element of intuitive thinking, or they can’t make serious moves forward rather than just incremental ones. Where you will particularly get into trouble is if you are busy honing and refining your offering while the world is changing, and you ignore scattered warnings about change, because they aren’t yet systematic enough for your information systems to register them” Roger Martin

Design thinkers choose to adopt a form of logic that does not generate evidence and operates in the realm of what could be!

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Collaboration and speed

According to Teresa Amabile, when people believe they are more creative under pressure of deadlines in fact they are not and however it seems to be true also that little pressure also not conducive to creativity.

To be a successful creative you need to find the balance of work, between the use of time to get an idea and cast it and the time to dwell on the idea until you consider it successful.

The pressure that the time has on us, it seems really has a significant negative impact on creativity, and however at first glance seems otherwise. Although there is a feeling of more creativity at these times the creative provision under the effect of temporal constraints is of little value.

Seems to be something contradictory, but is not! The feeling is not held because motivation is one of the factors that interact in this scenario by feeding these feeling and providing different behaviors to face constraints.

For example, when there is time pressure and creative thinking in a particular project, means that employees of an organization are focused and protected and have a feeling they are doing important work giving rise to intrinsic motivation. On the other hand when developers do not have focus, walk distracted, are busy with small activities and spend their time in meetings looking for inspiration or support there is stress and there is not creative thinking.

In other environments, often the collaboration is required and although there are no time constraints strong creative thinking develops, but centered in a person, benefiting the exploitation to the detriment of the resolution of problems because the motivation is not geared towards teamwork. Interestingly this was an outstanding aspect that I checked in the last Global Jam where I participated.

When the level of collaborative work is reduced, despite many calls to co-creation, there is little motivation for creativity.

“In our diary study, people often thought they were most creative when they were working under severe deadline pressure. But the 12,000 aggregate days that we studied showed just the opposite: People were the least creative when they were fighting the clock. In fact, we found a kind of timepressure hangover — when people were working under great pressure, their creativity went down not only on that day but the next two days as well. Time pressure stifles creativity because people can’t deeply engage with the problem. Creativity requires an incubation period; people need time to soak in a problem and let the ideas bubble up.

In fact, it’s not so much the deadline that’s the problem; it’s the distractions that rob people of the time to make that creative breakthrough. People can certainly be creative when they’re under the gun, but only when they’re able to focus on the work. They must be protected from distractions, and they must know that the work is important and that everyone is committed to it. In too many organizations, people don’t understand the reason for the urgency, other than the fact that somebody somewhere needs it done today. Teresa Amabile

One of the advantages of time restrictions is to prevent the trap from perfectionism. We should not however think that to be good enough is better than nothing, because it does not allow us to achieve excellence.

The restricted time executing something or in his creation involves almost always an increased speed and when we manage effectively the effects of speed we create the opportunity to verify the failure earlier. The failure is crucial to innovation. There is less time spent with the wrong idea and there is no more time to work the idea that fits in our purpose.

Above all the speed, when causing the failure, allows unlocking the trash we produce which otherwise would be saved only to complicate the management of our activity.


What do you think of this?

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Accustomed to routines and copying what we call good examples or good practices often we think that there is no time for new ideas!

Something tells us that not having time is not having the notion of the things we have to do or maybe a little more dramatic, not having time is unaware of how long time it has!

Despite this apparent confusion, lose the notion of time is one of the clearest creative flow characteristics.

To be creative is not only the moments of serendipity, where suddenly staring at the stars, arises an idea. To be creative also means get the best ideas aligning the components of the environment around us or the environment where these ideas can be implemented.

Whenever we encounter a problem we appeal to our creativity and to the others to find a solution. However, many times we spend a lot of our time with negative feelings and surrounded by problems that are perceived as obstacles to our welfare and that sudden energy for the transpose generally occupies us shortly. Being creative requires energy and is so good and so useful that deserves more space in our agenda. We must be ambitious and convert problems into opportunities.

We should be aware that without ambition we got nothing and without work, we do not reap fruit.

For this reason we must put hands to work and create spaces translated in time available to facilitate our creative activity. Creativity works often with time constraints but not always.

If we define the problem clearly and we check the constraints we if are not leaving guided by negative thoughts, we take a step forward in the development of our “creative agenda”.

If we choose a place or environment that seem welcoming, for example nature, which leads to the observation and contemplation the time flows without giving it. The timeline is so dedicated to solutions rather than drilling straight into the abyss of obstacles.

In our day-to-day lives, many ideas come and go. It doesn’t matter whether they are good or bad because this is not the time to evaluate. Instead we must take the pencil and paper or our preferred tool for writing and we note those ideas. Often when reviewing our collection of annotations found the useful on old ideas.

While we were noting, we were able to see shapes, movements and colors, hear noise and melodies or feel scents and touch something with varying degrees of sensitivity.

We feel!

And thus, it was not only the satisfaction of a balanced management of time, it were also left impressions that changed the way we perceive the world tomorrow. Basically we create a new frame of reference, to incorporate future information.

Above all we create a timeline, that is, willingness to creativity. The regular exercise of this kind of experience refines our creative capacity.

To observe and analyze a complex system like ours, we, the environment and interactions, allow us, through creativity, face problems of balanced and sustainable manner.

Creativity is not only necessary to write a book, make a film or paint a picture, it is necessary every day, even to dream.


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