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Absolute Beginners: a responsive creative approach

I've nothing much to offer There's nothing much to take I'm an absolute beginner But I'm absolutely sane

At the end of 2019 I like to share some thoughts and insights about what I like to call a responsive creative approach. 2019 was a year in which I joined and facilitated ArtOfAgile to learn from art and artists in our work. The combined insights inspired me to name our approach the responsive creative approach. The discovery of this approach is the most valuable part to me of our journey as ArtOfAgile team, besides all the fun and happiness we found together.

To unfold this discovery, I will tell you a little bit more about a responsive approach first. Then I like to zoom into the experiences during our ArtOfAgile journey to make sense out of ‘creative’ in responsive creative approach. I end with some reflective remarks about the infinity element in the perspective we take.

As long as we're together

The rest can go to hell

I absolutely love you

But we're absolute beginners

With eyes completely open

But nervous all the same

Responsive approach: story and dialogue

What makes a responsive approach relevant?

Our current society has a dominant negotiating culture. As a consequence of this, scientific findings are also the subject of negotiation. Consider, for example, the results of climate research.

A responsive approach (Abma and Widdershoven) makes use of experiential knowledge and personal stories, and therefore should also have a place in scientific research and policymaking. Communication with - and participation of - stakeholders improves the quality and applicability of research.

A responsive working method is based on the fact that there is not one reality. Various actors construct multiple realities at different moments. The purpose of this method is therefore not generalizing, but to provide insight into the peculiarities of the researched practice. When we give stakeholders a voice in the research, the knowledge gaps will be filled. In addition, the findings of research would rather be accepted because one feels personally involved in this way.

Two key concepts in responsive methodology are story and dialogue.

  • The dialogue is as "a conversation that has the character of a common learning process". By talking about personal experiences and sharing opinions, people learn to understand their situation better and insights from others can shed new light on the situation.

  • Stories play an important role in daily life and influencing each other. People tell stories to make situations understandable, but also to influence the behavior of others. Telling stories is a social process that always involves people.

If our love song

Could fly over mountains

Could laugh at the ocean

Just like the films

What about art and creative experience ?

How do these concepts of dialogue and storytelling relate to art and creativity? To answer this question, let’s share the journey of the ArtOfAgile team. With expressions of creativity we wanted to investigate the future of work. What does that look like? In retrospect we can say that we have followed a path to make a participative movie and to use this movie as a starter for a creative dialogue and storytelling process. This journey from the start of making a movie until the ed of The ArtOfAgiel Experience Event was as follows:

1. call for videos

People send us short video recordings (made with a smart phone) in which they showed their personal perspective on the future of work. This call for videos was inspired by the method that is used in with making the film 'live in one day' that is the result of thousands of submissions of short shots. The result of our call for videos van seen here:

2. creation of a script for a short movie

Based on the ideas of participatory video Simon Koolwijk practices to dialogue organizational and social issues (such as diversity and inclusiveness), a delegation from the ArtOfAgile team was inspired by the short videos and compiled a script. In a script workshop, the narrative elements are processed in a storyboard. The storyline was constructed in three blocks:

1. start to the context (who, where, when)

2. walk up to catharsis, in which the actions follow each other

3. outcome and moral of the story

3. Emerging creation process

Artists will recognize these moments when out of nothing coincidences and determine the development of their piece of artwork

While we worked out the script, in the first instance we aimed at sketching the struggle between the ideal and the negative future, the following occurred.

  • The image came back from the launch of the MacIntosh in 1984 by Apple. Inspired by the 1984 novel by George Orwell, Apple immediately came out in a 1-minute commercial, with the underlying message that the computer would lead to liberation a freedom

  • In searching for actors who wanted to play the script, three actors emerged who are strongly connected to improvisation theater

  • The realization arose that the novel 1984 was published in 1949, 35 years before 1984 and that - how coincidence - 2019 is again 35 years after 1984.

4. Shooting and editing Computer of the future

The short movie Computer of the Future was realized by taking the emerging creation process into account. The movie is about three co-workers in an office on January 2, 1984, the day after the Apple commercial was broadcasted. We see three actors improvising their future story on the situation in 2019, from the perspective of 1984.

After the shooting now Simon Koolwijk also had to improvise when editing the raw material. The shots were scripted to the minimum, no prepared shooting plan was available. Also, the improvisation of the second part was a long shot of which nobody knew upfront where this improvisation would lead to. Simon came up with solution to manage these unforeseen issues with editing. The result can be found here: Credits to all who contributed to this process!

5. Co-creation of the ArtOfAgile Experience Event

Inspired by the exhibition I saw in January 2019 in museum De Fundatie (Zwolle) by Yuri Honing & Mariecke van der Linden, we imagined a big exposition room with creations, made by participants.

During 2019 the team ArtOfAgile organized Atelier Sessions related to working with art: observation, reflection, experiential learning, what’s next that cannot be expressed in words. All these Atelier sessions focused on the central theme “The Future of Work”.

I asked our ArtofAgile team and also new and also young people for help to co-create the design for the ArtOfAgile Experience Event. The script for this event was created during this workshop. Especially good to mention was the idea to create a Big Art Room ( a Bijutsu Obeya) with three timezonde Earth (2055), Moon (2090) en Mars (2125). And...we created the idea to finish with a message to our world about The Future of Work, what resulted in the creation of Islands of Sanity.

Islands of Sanity

6. ArtOfAgile Experience Event

On 3 December 2019 we organized the ArtOfAgile Experience Event. About 80 people joined this event situated in the auditorium of Capgemini. Leidsche Rijn, Utrecht. We started with an empty space, 4 prepared workshops, al load of material to express ourselves and chairs positioned in half circles in front of a movie screen, like a movie theatre.

The short movie The Computer of the Future was this time the starting point of creation process, together with all the participants. After they had watched the movie we split up the participants in 4 workshops, to create a piece of art about an aspect of The Future of work in a certain time zone. The aspects we asked them to focus on where one of the following:

  • Leadership & collaboration

  • Technology

  • Diversity & inclusion

  • Purpose & ecosystem

Besides the request to focus in their creation process to focus on an aspect, we also used the rhythm of 35 years. Orwell wrote the book in 1949, the move was situated in 1984, we are living in 2019, the first time zone called Earth is situate in 2055, the next time zone called Moon is situated in 2090 and the last time zone is situated in 2125 and is called Mars.


Before the break the participant created their expressions about a specific aspect in a specific time zone in one of the workshops:

  • Sculpture and give the sculpture a name

  • Drawing and making an Elf (an elf is a poem of 11 words and 5 lines, 1, 2,3, 4 words and ending with 1 word)

  • Taking a phot from a constructed tableau vivant and adding an elf

  • Making a movie

Break - building Bijutsu Obeya

During the break the Bijutsu Obeya was organized by splitting up the big room in three time zones an put the created art in every time zone. Obeya means Big Room in Japanese and is a lean concept for improving rational decision making. A Bijutsu Obeya is Japanese for Big Art Room and stands for improvement of creative imagination of future possibilities.

Bijutsu Obeya

After the break the participant get paper and pencils and the started with writing down the questions they had right on the doorstep of the Bijutsu Obeya and start looking for answers.

Islands of Sanity

At the end of The ArtOfAgile Experience Event – after the participants had experienced the creative expression of each other about all the topics in the different time zones. They were asked what message they have for the future of our planet. They posted hexies on a blue planet with reflection on it a created together one piece of art: Islands of Sanity (inspired by Margaret Wheatley).

There's no reason To feel all the hard times To lay down the hard lines It's absolutely true

Nothing much could happen

In reflection: a responsive creative approach

In reflection on the passed year and the ArtOfAgile Experience, we explored the power of a responsive approach by the use of creativity. In dialogue the story about the future of work has been developed:

Nothing we can't shake

Oh, we're absolute beginners

With nothing much at stake

As long as you're still smiling

There's nothing more I need

I absolutely…

Absolute Beginners

Is the end of The ArtOfAgile Experience Event the end of the dialogue and storytelling? No, it is not. Stories about the future of work are being told anytime anywhere. To me it was a great experience to have been part of this story and to express so many future perspectives into one piece of work ‘Islands of Sanity’. The story about the future of work will continue in dialogue and storytelling. As Absolute Beginners.


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