Courage, Conscience, Community and Creativity.
Earlier this year, we in enkel U ran a 6-week course we called Changemaking 101. 15 changemakers and budding changemakers came together in our Vic Park MiniLab every Tuesday night to explore change on a rather deep level. One of the main themes was the relation between changing ourselves and our changemaking capability.
The course was based on the four key values we have in the enkel collective: Courage, Conscience, Community and Creativity.
So instead of basing the series on traditional subjects, we decided to theme the nights Courage, Conscience, Community and Creativity (with Communication and Celebration thrown in to make it six sessions over the six weeks).
Five of the participants were also co-facilitating the events. I co-hosted Creativity (based on my model of Five Types of Creative Thinking) and helped Mike with Courage (which he showed by giving a very personal account of his changemaking journey).
How are our 4 values related?
Over the series I reflected on how these four values are related. When designing the course, we thought about the order of them. Does courage come before creativity? Is community needed for courage? Is conscience required for community? What’s the logical process; which value comes before and after another one? This confused me and I left these thoughts.
But then, as often happens, a few months later I realized that all these four are related to each other not in a process but in a system. Being conditioned to think in a linear fashion, we often start with a linear process, to later take a systems perspective. This is sometimes helpful, sometimes not.
Anyway, I started to draw the system and will here try to outline the relations and links I see between the four values / concepts.
Another insight from the changemaking course was that we all have individual, often different definitions of values, which makes any system like this subjective. So this is my personal interpretation of how these values are interrelated.
Co-creation (Community and Creativity)
There’s lots of talk about co-creation these days. Everyone wants to co-create the future, collaborate and break down siloes across functions, organisations and disciplines. This is very hard though, as I’ve written about earlier here. But also necessary in our world, defined by rapid change, where the search for solutions to our huge societal and environmental challenges has become more complex.
Conscious Creation (Creativity and Conscience)
Conscious creation is one of my favourite dilemmas. What is good creativity? How do we know that the output of our creative process will benefit the world rather than make things worse? How can we combine creativity and conscience to some sort of wise creativity? Creativity that makes things better for all.
In all creative efforts there’s a dark side that we often can’t anticipate. Unintended and unknown consequences, which later emerge.
The latin phrase Cui bono, translates as “for whose benefit?", and is used in legal and police investigations to find out who has a motive for a crime. American sociologist Peter Blau also used used the concept of “cui bono” to differentiate organisations by who primarily benefited — whether it was owners, members, specific others or the general society.
So I think that’s a good question to ask when (or before) creating something: For whose benefit?
Conscious Community (Conscience and Community)
Conscious community is a tricky one. Here we’re talking about collective rights and wrongs, groups of people who share a set of values.
In enkel U we teach a theory of human development called Spiral Dynamics, which looks at shared values in communities. This is a developmental model, i.e. it suggests that various communities or groups of people (nations, organisations or whatever) see the world differently and have different levels of conscience as they develop over time.
American existential psychologist Rollo May talks about universal spiritual principles and guidelines. We are all connected to one source. A concept which exists in all religions and wisdom traditions. We are not separate, but the same. Operating as a conscious community is therefore paramount for the health and thriving of all people and our planet.
Rollo May’s book The Courage to Create, influenced much of my thinking when I drew up the model above. In this book he writes about four types of courage; physical, social, moral and creative. If we skip physical, there are three links between May’s types and the enkel values as illustrated above.
Social Courage (Community and Courage)
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
- Winston Churchill
Dr Lisa Dungate and Jennifer Armstrong who have written lots on child and family psychology defines social courage as “not conforming to the expectations of others, being willing to show your true self even if it means risking social disapproval or punishment. It means being able to express opinions and preferences without checking to see if they are in line with “everyone else’s” opinions and preferences.”
So pretty much not giving a damn about what others think.
Moral Courage (Courage and Conscience)
In his Analects, Confucius says: ‘Perceiving what is right and doing it not reveals a lack of Courage.’ In short, ‘Courage is doing what is right’.
“I would gladly give my life if it would advance the cause of truth.”
- Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
Rollo May uses Russian author Alexandr Solzhenitsyn as an example of moral courage. He was an outspoken critic of Soviet communism and knew that he would end up in the labour camps in Gulag, but still continued to speak his mind. May writes that Solzhenitsyn’s courage didn’t only come from his “audaciousness, but also out of his compassion for the human suffering he saw about him during his own sentence in the Soviet prison camp.”
I.e. there’s perhaps a link between moral courage and empathy.
Creative Courage (Creativity and Courage)
“He is the man truly — courageous, wise, ingenious — who can use his thoughts and ecstasies as the material of fair and durable creations.”
- Henri David Thoureau
Rollo May writes: “Whereas moral courage is the righting of wrongs, creative courage, in contrast, is the discovering of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which a new society can be built.”
Henri Matisse said that creativity takes courage. I.e. real, important creative output and innovation needs more than just artistic talent, being able to think creatively and seeing things that others can’t see. The creator must also have courage to put themselves and their creative output out in the world for others to see and judge as well — no matter how strange or embarrassing it might be.
David Kelly of global design firm IDEO talks about creative confidence in his 2012 TED talk. This “is the ability to come up with breakthrough ideas, combined with the courage to act. Individuals with creative confidence live up to their potential to identify and launch creative solutions that solve unmet needs and create maximum impact on the world around them.”
In the figure above, I have also included “The Courage to Create” as a link between creativity and courage.
During the Changemaking 101 course and recent general discussions in enkel, we have probably spoken most about courage out of all our four values. I find it a fascinating concept, so will explore it a bit more here.
Some questions that came up during the Changemaking 101 were;
- What does courage mean?
- How is it related to leadership?
- How can we act courageously?
Here follows some definitions from various thinkers and philosophies I find interesting.
Rollo May again:
“The acorn becomes an oak by means of automatic growth; no commitment is necessary. The kitten similarly becomes a cat on the basis of instinct. Nature and being are identical in creatures like them. But a man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day by day. These decisions require courage.”
Courage is one of the seven virtues of Bushido, the code of moral principles followed by the samurai, an ethical code of conduct that “permeated life, from childhood to elderhood, often not even written, but carved in the heart of the samurai”. (Courage stems from cor — latin for heart).
So according to Bushido there is a spiritual aspect of courage; “a calm presence of mind”.
Josef Albers, founding member of the Bauhaus movement and school of architecture said:
“The best education is one’s own experience. Experimenting surpasses studying. To start out by ‘playing’ develops courage, leads in a natural manner to an inventive way of building and furthers the pedagogically equally important facility of discovery. Inventiveness is the objective. Invention, and re-invention too, is the essence of all creative work (proficiency is a tool and hence is secondary). Instruction in professional techniques hampers inventiveness.”
I.e. Albers ties the concept of courage to creativity and play.
According to Martin Seligman, often called “the father of positive psychology”, courage has four sub-categories; bravery, perseverance, honesty and zest.
- He defines bravery as “the ability to stand up for what is right in difficult situations.”
- Perseverance can for example be “continuing along a path in the midst of and after having faced opposition and perhaps failure”.
- Honesty is to have ”integrity in all areas of one’s life and the ability to be true to oneself and one’s role in the world across circumstances”.
- The fourth, zest, is ”feeling alive, being full of zest, and displaying enthusiasm for any and all activities”.
Courage — In between cowardice and foolhardiness
But in the same way as there’s a dark side of creativity as I discussed above, there’s also a dark side of courage.
Courage can be seen as a balance between cowardice and foolhardiness, as seen in Jim Lanctot’s Virtue Continuum here. In the same way that it’s fruitless not to step up, one cannot risk too much or lose touch with reality. Remember the hubris of Icarus.
The man in the photo below, August Landmesser, enthusiastically worked his way up the Nazi ranks, until in 1935 when he fell in love with Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman. He was expelled from the party and had the courage to refuse to salute Hitler during his christening of a new German Navy vessel. Read more about the tragically powerful story behind the lone German who refused to give Hitler the Nazi salute. Was Landmesser courageous or foolhardy?
Courage is in other words a very ambiguous concept, which can mean many things. There are sub-concepts like play, bravery, doing what’s right, a calm presence of mind, zest, honesty, a balance between cowardice and foolhardiness, and more.
I any case I’ll continue to think about it and how it relates to our other three values. I believe there’s something very important in the concept courage, and we’ll definitely explore it more together in enkel U next year :)
Applications for our Changemaker program are now open. More info about the curriculum, program and enrolment is found here.