Creative thinking for the living planet – ecospin doctors

Think of the word Forest bathing. What do you imagine? What images flash through your mind? What feelings vibrate in your body?

Then think of the word Environment and explore the images and feelings.


The words we use to express our ideas, emotions and thoughts are not neutral. Our language is not innocent rather it may alter how our reality is interpreted. And this in turn may change the way we act and react. Advertisers and spin doctors use words to manipulate us and to change our behaviour.

In an article by George MonbiotForget ‘the environment’: we need new words to convey life’s wonders” it is suggested that if we want people to engage with the living world, we should stop using certain words. The language is crucial to how we perceive the natural world and George wants help to find better ways of describing nature.

Consider this quote from the writer Robert Macfarlane.

“If Moses had promised the Israelites a land flowing with mammary secretions and insect vomit, would they have followed him into Canaan? Though this means milk and honey, I doubt it would have inspired them.”

So let us assume that we want to change how people perceive the natural world and also that we are prepared to live with the consequences and actions that may follow for a change. Let us play saving the natural world spin doctors.

What creative tools can we use to find new words and ways of describing the living world? How can we help people who care about the ??? to be more creative?

Let us begin with some examples of words and descriptions that estrange people from the living world.

  • Sites of special scientific interest, no-take zones and reference areas are words used to describe places on land and at sea in which nature is protected.
  • The term animal reserve is cold.
  • The word extinction does not suggest our role in the extermination.
  • Professionals often describe animals and plants as resources or stocks, this way of referring to them suggest that they are here to serve us.

Describing animals and plants as resources and stock may lead to  the idea that we can use them and also that when resource or stock disappear we can stock up with another animal or plant. We can also breed and manipulate them in whatever manner we like. Not all of us may agree with this way of treating and looking on animals and plants, nevertheless the choice of words lure us into this way of thinking.

An approach to change the words that is suggested by George in his article is to use our awe of nature in our descriptions. Such as calling protected areas “places of natural wonder” to show that they are not only beautiful places but also that we need to work towards protecting and saving these areas.

Instead of the word environment we could use “living planet” or “natural world”.

However, names like places of natural wonder, living planet or natural world are in our opinion still distant, objective descriptions. The words have a bleak  image and not enthusiastic action calling resonances that signal the moods you may have experienced while looking at the photos in this blog post.

Let us take an example from the world of cooking. Like it or not, word choice plays a huge role in the way we perceive food.

Stanford University California decided to investigate just how food affects our tastes. The study took place in a large university cafeteria and every day one new vegetable dish was labelled in one of four ways – basic (“green beans”); healthy restrictive (“healthy choice beans with no sugar”); healthy positive (“smart choice high-fiber beans”) , or indulgent (“sweet sizzling green beans)”.

The labels changed on a daily basis, yet, there were no changes with how the vegetables were prepared or served. Research assistants recorded the number of diners who chose the vegetable and weighed the mass taken from the bowl. In short, the study found that more people choose the beans when they were described as sweet sizzling green beans.

The new indications for environment and other related words should also be value/loaded. Compare the term extinction with exocide, as suggested by the lawyer Polly Higgins.

So, we should generate some new words and test them as is usually done in marketing research. Forest bathing is one of them. Perhaps meadow dancehall or the mountain place of love. But we are sure, you have better suggestions, let us know.

Need some inspiration, below is a poster with words to describe nature from culture around the world. A rich tapestry to inspire you to care and to experience these words for yourself.

“The earth has music

for those who listen”

William Shakespeare

Happy Thinking!



Circular Economy and Problems with More-of-the-Same Approach to Thinking

The circular economy is a concept has gained in tremendously in popularity in recent years.

The circular economy model is described as a pragmatic win-win solution. Almost a magical fix to our environmental problems. The overall aim is to use closed-loop  production to ensure that resources are in play for as long as possible.

Our approach to economy is linear – we make products out of materials, we use it, and often, throw it away not long after. Produce, use, throw, repeat. Yet, this current linear model is undermining the foundation of our future.

From January 1 to August 2, the world’s 7.5 billion people have used as much of Earth’s biological resources as the planet can regenerate in a year – Earth Overshoot Day. During the remaining five months of 2017, our human consumption will be depleting Earth’s capacity to regenerate resources such as fresh water, fertile soils and forests. In short, we are consuming resources that Earth cannot replace. We are living beyond our means.


The goal with circular economy is to create an economy that relies on renewable energy and to minimise and eradicate waste through careful design.

The main principles can be defined as:

  • Design out waste.
  • Build resilience through diversity.
  • Work towards using energy from renewable sources.
  • Think in ‘systems’.
  • Think in cascades.

Circular economy is described as not only a way to easing climate change and problems related to waste but also as a way to ensure economic growth and creating more jobs. Companies can continue to grow and flourish under the circular economy.

Some business benefits with circular economy:

  •  Optimising the use of materials

This can lead to singificant cost savings, for example, Dutch based multinational Philips saved €471 million last year by simplifying its operating model.

  • Realising new revenue streams

Circular economy can help a  company to rethink its product or service. This  can help them to find  new revenue streams, product or service innovations.

  • Enhancing stakeholder relationships

The  companies display themselves as a responsible business

Sounds like more or less a miracle cure. But is it?

When exploring ideas and suggestions is vital to explore positive as well as negative aspects . Eagerness to sell an idea can lead to an overoptimistic view as well as overlooking the real issues with a suggestion.

There are two main problems with the vision. Firstly, it rests on the assumption that there is an endless supply. On a finite planet, a continuous economic growth might be a problem or not even an option. Secondly, is the idea to increase global corporations power really a viable solution to our ecological  crises?

If given a choice, most of us would choose economic growth rather than eclogical stbility. But maybe we need to reconsider this choice if we are going to avoid a catastrophe.


One possible solution to the lack of resources in the future is that  future scientists will find some unknown planet that can solve our problems. But the question is whether it is fair to make such a gamble. Perhaps many of us are prepared to make such a gamble because we do not think that we are gambling on our own personal future.

Furthermore, should global companies be left to the shaping of the circular economy? Perhaps the changes should be owned by citizens. Perhaps there are ways to enhance citizens power

The idea that by re-using materials and maximizing our recycling we can cure-all problems is relying on too simplistic analysis of the situation. Perhaps more-of-the same thinking will not solve the ecological crises.


Light Lightbulbs

To be creative and innovative is to be open to the idea your own ideas limited by your own experiences. You need to light several lightbulbs filled with possibilities to create something new.


A simple way of looking at it is: if you do not explore lots of possibilities and light several lightbulbs, ideas cannot shine. A closed or resticted mindset will never allow lightbulbs to glow.  Our own beliefs hinder or restrict creative thinking.

Often we are, though it may be difficult to admit, restricted by our assumptions and ideas about how things should be done. We have a fixed mindset about what certain groups of people, animals or non-living things should, ought to or can do. These fixed ideas limits the way we search for new insights.

Being open to possibilities means to be open to gathering more points from which to develop ideas. Think of the well know tune – Happy Birthday and try to transform it while still ensuring that everyone recognises the tune. . .


Perhaps the experience of a jazz muscians will open up your mind to other music styles that you can use to transform the tune. Like Beethoven, Mozart or hip hop. . . a cappella. . .

How can you open your mind to new things? Science fiction is a great tool to help reframe our

Provoking our minds is one way.

Reading books is one way where we can enter different worlds and experiences. Science fiction is a great tool to help reframe our perespectives on the world. Like travelling to new places, it creates a way for us to question our assumptions. Assumptions are useful because they give us a short cut to understand the world. They help us to be more efficient. But they can stand in the way when we want to change things and invent things.

Science fiction can offer more that escapism on a sunny day on the beach. By presenting alternative realities we  are confronted with questions – what do we think, how we think, why we think.

The novel 1984 by George Orwell, was not really about 1984 but 1948, the year that the book was written. Today, this classic novel has become very popular and this shows that a great book provides insights into human nature.

Why not select a couple a sceince fiction books and challenge your thinking?

New York is always on my mind on hot summer’s day after having spent a sumemr there. The book New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson is on my reading list this summer. Rising sea levels flood Manhattan and the streets are turned into canals. As climate change accelerates, rethinking infrastructrues becomes more improtant. Link to a review in The Guardian.

Happy Summer Think Diving!

Or Happy Winter Think Diving if you live in the Southern Hemisphere!

P.S. Robots are often used in modern sceince fiction. Here is a  robot that grows like a plant! What assumptions are challenged?

Surprising and Dramatic

How long will it take?

Nutrients matter!


Some TED-talks are worth resharing. Nutrition reseracher Julia Rucklidge works at the University of  Canterbury, NZ. In the speech below she talks about the critical role of nutrition in mental health. She explains why this knowledge could change the way we treat mental illness.

She published a double-blind study in the  British Journal of Psychiatry which showed that those taking a product co-formulated† by Hardy Nutritionals® Founder David Hardy experienced “statistically robust improvements” over those taking placebo. A double-blind study is a study where neither the reseracher nor the participants know who  is receiving a particular treatment. Adults taking the nutrients reported more than double the improvement in ADHD symptoms compared to participants taking a placebo. ADHD symptoms included attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

A study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology supports the idea that nutrients can be used to reduce aggression as well as violence in children who are prone to these types of behviours. This has been known since the 1990s so this reult is simply a reafirrmation about what already is known. Yet, there has been few changes with improving the nutrients intake. If a drug were show to reduce aggresion with n side efftects, would you ignore it?

Of course, there is no big money to be made in nutrients as compared to medication. So we need constructive ideas about how to use the exsiting data to make policy changes. Go here to read some comments about how this can be done. And please share your own ideas here!

More-of-the-Same or a Breaktrough Innovation?



In  a recent post What’s (not) an Innovation? we mentioned that an innovation consists of a new combination of

  • a function – the innovation has the purpose of satisfying a need
  • a principle – there is a mechanism or idea how to deliver that function
  • a market – the innovation has a value that can be traded.

But still remains the question:

  • When is an innovation really breaking patterns more than other innovations?
  • When is an innovation incremental?
  • When radical?
  • When is a technical solution just more-of-the-same routine engineering?
  • What is the difference with a scientific invention?
  • When is it patentable?

Valeri Souchkov presented a new classification scheme for solutions or inventions, based on the original classification by Genrich Altshuller.

world-conference-triz-future-2008-57-november-2008-university-of-twente-enschede-the-netherlands-5-638Principles (scientific discoveries) cannot be patented. The levels of inventions 2 to 4 are patentable. So, a new combination of a principle with a function and a market can patented, regardless the fact that the new combination of principle and function in another market already exists. Below you will find 4 examples of patentable solutions, based on the same principle and the same function, but with different applications. That is to say: fulfilling different needs and as such, serving different markets.

Principle: quickly increasing/decreasing pressure, the Function that is used is to remove things; 

Applications (market):

  1.  remove seeds from peppers
  2.  remove shells of cedar nuts
  3.  remove sunflower seeds
  4.  remove dust
  5. splitting imperfect crystals




Actually, in the examples above we see here concept extraction at work, or in other words “How to Search for (Patentable) Ideas”:

  1. Look for the concept behind an idea (concept= a function and a principle or mechanism)
  2. Apply the concept to other areas (product/market combinations)



Design Your Own Creative Thinking Techniques


Creative thinking can be learnt. How? By using thinking tools.

There are many tools for creative thinking, examples can be found in the following books:

As the author of this overview, Paul E. Plsek, noticed,  there are at least 250 unique tools in these seven books.

So, if you master those 250 unique tools, are you then supposed to have a 10th Dan in creative martial arts?


As we earlier noted in our post Thinkibility Ultimately Explained we compared  Thinkibility with “football-ity”, similar to something shown by stars as Johan Cruijff. It is not just agility and ball control. Nor velocity, or skill. It is more, much more.

Thinkibility is about virtuosity in thinking. What makes  someone regarded as  one of the finest thinkers in the world  in particular for their dexterity, capable of executing extremely fast and fluent  thinking? When can we say a person has a brilliant and showy technical skill of thinking? How do we describe it adequately, like we do in “in a final bravura the ballerina appeared to be floating in water”, or “the music ends with a display of bravura”.

For sure, mere mastering the techniques is not what you makes “a thinking star”. Again we have to turn back to our metaphor that links creativity to sports:

In a weekend self-defense seminar, the training exercises go exactly as planned: the attacker throws a straight punch at your face from three feet away, or tries to stab at you with a rubber knife from just such an angle. You learn to block, counter-attack, disarm, get away, and with a little practice, you can be consistently successful employing the technique.


Then reality sets in. You spar. You change training partners. And things don’t go exactly as they did when you were learning in slow motion. The technique you thought you had mastered fails you.


That doesn’t mean that the technique was useless. The techniques work, and work well, when the principles behind them are well understood, and when practice makes them second nature.

Innovation Lessons from a Martial Arts Seminar by Brad Barbera

Basic Principles

But what are the basic concepts or principles underlying those creative thinking techniques?

1. Attention


2. Escape


3. Movement



4. Focus



The four principles in a scheme.


4. Information is channeling itself into a thinking pattern. There are many thinking patterns possible. The choice of the thinking pattern is the subject of the FOCUS stage –> 1 The information that itself organized into a thinking patterns leads to a compelling, unconscious,automatic outcome of the thinking, if left unattended –> 2 Escaping from current thinking is the next stage –> 3. Once escaped, there is a need to move away from the standard thinking and a desperate effort to move to a practical idea.



We could use these principles to design creative thinking techniques as a situation unfolds itself, as in a street fight.

See here an example about a challenge of Improving Information Flow in a Medical Clinic and one for  “I want the local business section of the newspaper to feature a story on us hailing the innovative services that we have brought to our clients.”