In prototyping the Living Lab, and working with our client, Hilversum Municipality we have made discoveries pointing to new ways of working in the field of creative problem-solving. Research proves that consciousness training, and the cultivation of embodied skills (like imagination), are more effective in optimising creativity than structural or systemic interventions.

The Lab focuses on human interaction in teams, with the structure of work and manner of working, evolving from human interaction. Organisational practice focuses on structure and system, with interchangeable humans as an implicit assumption. Human replace-ability within systems gives rise to efficiency, but a focus on the quality of the interaction between humans gives rise to organic work systems, increasing productivity and quality.

We developed the Fundamentals – the functional requirements for creative problem-solving by teams of humans – and practice them separately, combining them into sequences, tasks or ‘games’. They are structured according to a model moving through ‘I’ (the individual), ‘you’ (another individual), ‘we’ (the team formed) and ‘it’ (the task embarked on).

Day 1 on the Hilversum project was spent on ‘Fundamentals’. The day started without introductions, and there was no facilitation of interaction. Through a series of games, the group interacted without knowing each other’s names. Names were learned through a game around midday – but learning the name was not the goal of the game, but necessary for it. Group games evolved through the second part of the day.

Participants introduced themselves in terms of function (company, position, career) in the late afternoon. This formed a natural bridge into the project, because it was made explicit how the individuals, their company background and their knowledge, related to the project.

Our approach has applications for building teams in very short periods of time, introducing humans as people (who they are, what their qualities and capacities are) rather than as functions (their jobs) or knowledge carriers (specific to their jobs).

A participant: ‘This was the least embarrassing, most effective team-building experience I have ever had”. That is because they experienced each other as specific people – which we express as a principle of ‘people over function’.

by Gary Carter