So what’s your taste in skeletons?
Structure is critical. I had a fascinating discussion with a friend of mine the other day. Joanna’s an ex-lawyer and writer who teaches creative thinking amongst other things, so we have a lot of overlap in where we play. The fascinating thing is where we differ, and we tracked this back to the different structures or skeletons we favour.
There are 3 kinds of skeletal structures that appear in the animal kingdom, each with various advantages and disadvantages…
Endoskeletons are hard internal support structures that allows for huge flexibility and growth, that can adapt to environmental stress and self-repair, but which leave all the soft stuff vulnerable.
Exoskeletons are hard external support structures that vary from elastic to hard shells that provide protection from environment and predators, but limit how big the creature can get and have to be shed (thus making the creature vulnerable) to allow the beastie to grow..
Hydrostatic skeletons are soft fluid filled support structures found mainly in aquatic critters like octopi an jellyfish. Great for a low energy existence but suitable to the rigours of dwelling on land as most would dry out and be too flimsy to stand up on their own.
Turns out that while Jo & I can both play with either, we have different preferences. Jo favours the exoskeletal model. As she put it, she wants nice solid boxes so that she can go crazy with creating stuff inside them. That’s what allows her to be at her most creative and most effective. Me? I’m an endoskeletal chick. My drive is to get to the core of something – an objective or idea or issue – so that I can then be ingenious in leveraging it to do amazing things. So it’s no surprise that she teaches creative thinking (Juicy Thinking ™) in a way that provides people with a rich array of proven techniques – boxes – to give them more effective ways of doing things. I on the other hand teach Studio Thinking ™, using art techniques to rewire people and give them more effective ways of being, so they can then change how they do things and create results. Drawing, for example, is all about learning to see invisible underlying structures and using them as shortcuts to get better faster results, then applying that principle in every other situation you can conceive of.
The cool thing was that having each realised our personal preferences a while back (albeit without making this distinction), we were both amazed that the more we work with them and build them into the way we structure the work we do, the more creative freedom we have and the more effective we become with less effort.
Organisations – which after all are just organisms – fall into the same distinctions. Virgin would be of a more endoskeletal persuasion, with a core philosophy and purpose that allows them to play in a variety of markets, while Kellogg would do the exoskeletal thing, where a clear understanding of their core business means that they can be highly creative in a very defined context.
Either way, the question is not which one is better. They are both brilliant and useful in different ways. The questions that are more useful to ask are:
- Which one is more effective in what situation? Which one is in play in each situation? Can you recognise and work with it?
- Which one do you favour? What type of structure gives you the security you need to be most free and effective in creating things? Where do you feel most at home?
- Which does your organisation favour? How do you work with that, and how does it support your way of doing things?
And Hydrostatic Skeletons? It would seem that our current environment is too harsh for them. On the other hand, maybe that’s exactly the sort of skeleton we’ll need when we finally learn to live in a flow state…