The Spark that Ignites the Creative Idea: An Examination of the Group Practice of LAUNCH
Beck, Elizabeth Stephens
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LAUNCH is a multi-organizational initiative led by NASA, Nike, USAID, and Department of State to seek and accelerate disruptive innovations to address intractable sustainability issues. The focus of this embedded case study is the evolution of the idea of LAUNCH through the lens of group practice. The empirical evidence includes detailed documentation of artifacts, group practice constructs, interaction and process maps for the five embedded cases, sentiment analysis of 25,000 email interactions, as well as a unique contribution of insights from a LAUNCH co-founder and participant-observer that were continually woven back into the conduct of LAUNCH group practice. The study looks at the conduct of group practice in a continual pull and tug across four construct continuums: tall-flat governance, expedite-explore deliberations, control-create idea generation, and electron-proton behaviors. Process maps of the group activities and artifacts demonstrate the continual tension along these continuums, which is supported by sentiment analysis of email interactions among group members. Plotted over time, sentiment analysis illustrates successive waves of positive and negative interactions during deliberation around development and implementation of ideas and processes. These findings are described using scientific metaphors from atomic physics and quantum mechanics. The behaviors of individuals within the LAUNCH core group resemble subatomic particle behaviors, while the group interactions sentiments resemble quantum theory wave behaviors, such as light waves. The quantum revolution resolved the scientific dilemma of wave and particle behaviors of matter and energy" which is much like the duality of the conduct and behavior of individuals and the interconnected interactions in group practice, and its effect on the rise and fall (wave) of ideas. The particle-wave duality in quantum theory sparked the big idea for a quantum theory of social dynamics, proposed in this study. The proposed theory applies to the conduct of group practice, behaviors exhibited by individuals and groups of individuals, and the generation of ideas evoked by disruption through social interactions. The proposed theoretical tenets may shed light on the broader understanding of the social dynamics embedded in group practice: 1) group practice is convened around and bound by a shared goal " the strong force; 2) individual actions influence the conduct of group practice in positive and negative ways; 3) individuals convened in group practice interact with one another through interconnected wave patterns of sentiment that affect the rise and fall of ideas; 4) individual behaviors and group interactions fluctuate in dynamic patterns of interference that disrupt the conduct of group practice; 5) individuals and groups of individuals mutually reinforce one another and amplify ideas with in-phase behaviors, while obstructing people and progress with out-of-phase behaviors; 6) disruptive thinking is a discomfort factor necessary for idea generation in a socially constructed world; and 7) creativity that arises in response to disruption can evoke idea-generation, new knowledge, and new ways of knowing.
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