The impediments of learning, creativity and innovation

“You have to unlearn what you’ve learned” – Master YODA

Old knowledge (what we know, the way we know it) is the biggest obstacle to deep new learning, creative breakthrough and innovation.

Let me explain:

Lets take the 2 known positions of our mind,

1) The monkey mind – or the Ego position of our mind
2) The true nature – or the Eco position of our mind

  1. The Ego position of our mind is something that we are all very familiar with. For most of us, this is the standard operating mode.
    For the sake of illustration, I will compare the ego position of our minds as an “asteroid belt/field”.asteroid 1

From the very moment we come into this world, this asteroid field has been into construction. Some of the asteroids in this Ego belt hold the memories of the key relationships we had (mother, father, siblings, friends…society). This memories shape our habits and behaviors. Some other asteroids in this field are our believes and concepts formed about various things (money, love, relationships, religion, how to do this or that…etc).
So, in our daily life, we are operating from what we know and already learned, we download (Otto Scharmer) information and operate from our “Ego asteroid belt”.
The primary role of this Ego position is to defend the “comfort zone” or what we are familiar with and already know. That makes the Ego asteroid belt quite rigid and unfriendly towards anything new or unknown. Its defense mechanism is very subtle and extraordinary skillful in convincing us that the comfort zone is the best place to be.
The ego belt is fearful, reactive, impulsive and “believes” that by continuous activity it will create or come to a place of peace and satisfaction. This is impossible job, since the Ego belt is never satisfied with what is.

The Ego activity confuses productivity with activity

In everyday life, this furious activity is visible in our manic speed of life, in impulsive decision makings; more is better; developing new things we often don’t need; various forms of wanting end so on. On personal level this activity often leads to burn out and shows how unsustainable this position is.

2) The true nature of our mind

Now imagine the water in a mountain river naturally flowing, effortlessly moving between rocks, sand, the river vegetation, freely unfolding from one position to another.
Whatever comes in its way, water finds a way to continue flowing. No pushing, no complaining, just being, unfolding and constantly creating. Since I compared the Ego mind with an asteroid belt, by analogy I could compare the Eco mind with a vast and infinite space/universe. (try to imagine the infinite, and your self as part of it). This position of mind is the natural state of who we are. It’s the source of purest creativity. This is the being –the Eco position of our mind.

The Ego asteroid belt is a structure that impedes us to see the vastness and the bigger picture
of who we are including the potential of what we could be.

Now, back to learning, leadership and organizational development – “what this blog is all about it”.
Teams and organizations like individuals have asteroid belts from which they operate – we call this culture.
Since the position of the “organizational Ego belt”, would be to stay in the comfort zone, teams and organizations functioning from this operating mode will be downloading old knowledge which limits their creativity, innovation and productivity, unless they learn and develop new skills and practices (Teal) that bring people and whole teams into the natural flow of the Eco zone.

What are this new leadership skills and practices? In the blog and the Diamond Leadership book I constantly remind of them:

1) Practice of presence – mindfulness
this will help you to relax the Ego belt activity, so the natural flow becomes more available to you and your team mates. Teams need to learn to engage the flow.

2) Practice of inquiry and generative dialogue
It will help you to re examine the old knowledge, reflect on it from perspective of flow and Eco functioning, and allow space for the unfolding of the new creation.

3) Becoming comfortable with not-knowing and creative tension
Not knowing is one of the biggest obstacles in the lives of many leaders. We have learned from the previous generations that to “not-know”, or not have solution, is a weakness, should not be shown and immediate action (often impulsive and reactive) for solution/s must be taken.
Therefore leaders need to learn to sit in presence with the unknown, be comfortable with it and allow newness to emerge from the depth of not-knowing.

4) Systemic leadership , co-creation and collective thinking
5) Designing and holding key questions
6) Creating container where Ego belt can relax and Eco belt can come to surface.

Its time for Eco functioning my friends, and I know you know it.
Why not start the practices on your business meetings?


The themes I am writing about in this blog are expanded in my latest book Diamond Leadership available on Kindle.


Reinventing organizations – Frederic Laloux

Riding the creative rollercoaster – How leaders evoke creativity, productivity and innovation, by Nick Udal, Kogan Page 2014

Humble Inquiry, by Edgar H Schein, Paperback 2013

Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together – A Pioneering Approach to Communicating in Business and in Life, by William Isaacs, Doubleday 1999

Theory U – Leading from the Future as It Emerges, C. Otto Scharmer

The Unfolding Now: Realizing Your True Nature through the Practice of Presence, A.H. Almaas

Categories: Diamonding

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