An Interview with Barton Kunstler
THE FUTURIST: Throughout history,
patronage and other forms of financial support have played a significant role in nurturing
creativity. Is this still very much the case?
Barton Kunstler: Someone always pays for
creativity. Renaissance patrons were not simply personal sponsors, though; their
commissions were very often public works. In ancient Athens, the city itself played the
role of patron. So patronage can be seen as one model of how a society pays for its
I see patronage more as an instrument of the
hothouse effect rather than its cause. When the hothouse effect takes off, it usually
generates the resources it needs.
THE FUTURIST: What, if any, role should
the public sector play in supporting business creativity?
Kunstler: One way might be through
supporting creative programs in public schools. Every school should be a creative hothouse
and, if it is, students will bring that creativity and high performance to the workplace.
Government should fund creative projects, but I dont think government is a suitable
engine of creativity in a business setting.
THE FUTURIST: Does the Internet culture
make it easier or harder to nurture a creative hothouse environment? In other words, is
face-to-face interaction among creative people an important element of the hothouse
Kunstler: The Nets wealth of
information, networks, highly visual environment, multiple applications, and global access
offer a version of the important but elusive hothouse factor of "rapid exposure to
meta-systems." But the Net itself cannot provide that automatically. Learning to use
the Net optimally is not about information management, but about knowledge management.
The Nets amazing--you can learn a lot about
five or six subject areas in a few hours, link ideas and data in very creative ways, but
you need the understanding and time to generate useful results.
THE FUTURIST: Are virtual organizations
more or less likely to pursue hothouse strategies? How might they adapt some of the
strategies you described?
Kunstler: The virtual organization is not
a likely hothouse candidate, but you can set up virtual workgroups that function as
hothouses for a short time.
Isolation makes people more prone to misinterpret
or overreact to the messages they receive. In a virtual organization, communication may be
dazzlingly fast, but connections between people become very tenuous and thin.
This interview is adapted from "Building a
Creative Hothouse: Strategies of History's Most Creative Groups" by Barton Kunstler,
THE FUTURIST (January-February 2001).
Barton Kunstler is a professor
and program director at the Lesley University School of Management. He also writes "A
Futurist View," a biweekly column for Metrowest Daily News. He lives in
Kunstler has also discussed creative hothouses in
"The Hothouse Effect: Time Proven Strategies of History's Most Creative Groups,"
Futures Research Quarterly (Spring 2000).
Interview posted on 5 July 2001.
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