Increasingly, I am interested in the dynamics between concepts like authenticity, creativity/innovation and identity. Let's look at the individual concept first before diving into their interrelationships.
From a macro (economic, technological) perspective we are in highly innovative global marketplace/network with a strong focus on culture, creativity, knowledge, wisdom, core competencies, alliances and learning capacity as key drivers for sustainable competitive advantage (SCAs). Different leading strategists and thinkers like Gary Hamel, C.K. Prahalad, Richard Florida, Peter Senge, Charles Handy, Michael Porter and Peter Drucker underscore their importance. The soft factors dominate the competitive landscape relative to the more traditional hard factors. Due to the intensified competitive landscape we increasingly live in an Age of Excellence. Real excellence is more about thinking inside-out relative to outside-in, even though best practices, benchmarking and competitive/market intelligence remain important.
From a micro (psychological, spiritual, social, cultural, individual/group) perspective we see a migration from status through consumption towards status through (creative) skills. Open source, mashup/remix and peer production communities, tools and sites thrive and one of the values driving these is authenticity and self expression. Innocentive, Yet2, Wikipedia, machinima, SecondLife, Linux, YouTube, Flickr, blogs, podcasts and CurrentTV are examples. Chris Anderson, Yochai Benkler, Henry Jenkins, Don Tapscott and Alvin Toffler all wrote recent interesting books in this respect. On top of this, Thomas Friedman talks about the globalization of individuals and entrepreneurship (after the globalization of nations in 1500-1800 and globalization of companies in 1800-2000). These trends co-evolve.
- It is a complex concept. On the one hand, (analytical) creativity is stimulated by intensified information acquisition and processing. On the other hand, (out of the box) creativity is stimulated by information discernment, reflective moments, distance and intuition. It's hard to feel your intuition when you are stressed with information overload.
- To be and feel authentic in my view has to do with balance in life. Linda Stone wrote about Continuous Partial Attention (CPA) claiming we are in an information overload mode. As a result, more people look for a new balance between information seeking and information discernment. This resonate with the current spiritual movement (Eckhart Tolle as an example).
- Joseph Pine II wrote a landmark book on the Experience Economy in 1997. For me, the most important part of this book is about Transformation, the phase after the current Experience Economy phase. Transformation is about self discovery and knowledge, talent spotting and authenticity. As a matter of fact, Joseph Pine II will publish his next book on authenticity in Q4 2007.
- Digital media in general (Second Life, WoW, simulations, A-Life, serious gaming) allow for deeper exploration of identity (see Shelley Turkle). Also, due to the inherent social nature of the current Web we increasingly know other people and thus know ourselves as a result. Identity is not about a vacuum, it is about finding your own core while other people mirror you and themselves. Increased transparency, sociability and communication spurs identity awareness.
- Biotech will increase the saliency of identity for citizens due the inherent qualities of DNA. What can be more central to your identity than your DNA ? Not only for this moment but also historically (your roots) as well as your future potential and talents. And DNA profiles for citizens are around the corner (Joel Garreau, Ray Kurzweil).
- Right now there is a lot of buzz around Attention Data (here some link to Attention.xml in my earlier post). Everything we do gets increasingly captured, digitized and stored. And we increasingly allow it, embrace it, like it and use it. This leads to an intensified and objectified self knowledge: which sites do I visit most frequently ? which tags or themes invite to me to click or read ? which items do I share and recommend to others ? which themes inspire me to publish blog posts, photos and videos ? how does this evolve over time ? (see the evolutionairy tag clouds and other visualization tools on the Web).
My thesis is that the macro and micro trends as stated above reinforce each other. It is all about creativity and as a result identity and authenticity become more important themes. And this means in my view that the next big phase on the (mobile) Web in particular and in life in general will be about ways for self discovery, talent spotting, transformation and spirituality. Digital media are about information, communication/sharing, transactions/eCommerce, entertainment and eLearning. Web 1.0 was primarily about information and eCommerce, Web 2.0 basically about sharing and entertainment, Web 3.0 will be the phase for eLearning, both individually as well as collectively, harnessing the learning benefits of both the Semantic Web as well as platforms like Second Life, Croquet and Outback Online.
To me identity, authenticity and creativity are mutually reinforcing forces. On a micro and macro level. Economic and competitive drivers meet psychological and social needs. It is a virtuous cycle of increasing returns on many levels. This also explains why the younger generations have a different (more open/liberal) view on privacy on the Web. You can be more (truly) creative when you know your identity and are authentic. True creativity and innovation is about intrinsic motivation and talent exploitation. Besides being more productive (and excellent in some cases), as a bonus, you are more happy as well. And creativity feeds back to identity and authenticity, especially in todays Social Web with its transparent reputational systems and ways to express ourselves.