Last weekend I attended Professor Esa Saarinen’s seminar, and as always I was touched and inspired by his thinking. Few days earlier futurist Jarno M. Koponen wrote a beautiful blog post about creative future thinking. Both of these gentlemen touched on a question I’ve been thinking lately:

How to be creative in a hectic entrepreneur/knowledge worker life?

I’ve earlier blogged about Esa Saarinen’s theory of Systems Intelligence and the two thinking systems that we all have: the automatic, associative, and intuitive, and rational, systematical one. This theory of Saarinen’s emphasizes how we often have a surprisingly narrow sense of ourselves – meaning that we seldom utilize our associative, intuitive System 1 in our work life, instead we are blocking it by System 2 kind of rational thinking.

Futurist and designer Jarno M. Koponen brought up an interesting topic in his Futureful blog: the role of reading and writing in a creative process and future thinking. For him, written words lead to constructive reflection and reflection leads to action. Further he describes how everyone’s creativity is different, how we all have our own ways of nourishing our creative thinking.

Touché! These two gentlemen made me look closer at my mental habits: how do I approach challenges and act in various business situations.

I recognize the need to mix the associative and intuitive with the Rational Riitta. As a knowledge worker I need to be more open and creative in order to find solutions that are not the obvious ones. One of my methods is to imagine the present situation couple of years ahead from now. Often this opens up a couple of new doors for thoughts.

Other means I often turn to are writing (not always publicly as now), reading (The Power of Pull is waiting for me), mindmapping, enjoying visual beauty in form of photographs and movies from different decades, and listening to the music. I am letting System 1 to have a proper leg room during the flight. There’s one more thing empowering me: positivity.

The Power of Positivity

Esa Saarinen discusses positivity in a wonderfully inspiring way. Most of us easily understand the value of the positive emotions; still we systematically understate the long term effect of positivity. This is what Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Saarinen’s research partner, claims. Similarly to Saarinen’s thoughts, Fredrickson says: we can expand our awareness, by taking in from all of our senses. Fredrickson’s urges us to invest in things that bring us positive emotions; music, dance, books, walk in the woods, a hobby you love.

Fredrickson also speaks about 3-to-1 tipping point ratio meaning that we need three positive emotions to lift us up for every negative emotion that drags us down. Further she states “in the long term, our positive emotions broaden and build, and therefore result in more resilience and life satisfaction.” If you became curious, read more about Fredrickson’s thoughts in her research paper ”The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotion” (pdf).

I found this lovely video (6 min) by Barbara Fredrickson, warmly recommended:

My favorite part of the video is her recommendation: create the mindset of positivity by being open, appreciative, curious, kind, and most of all, real. Very beautiful and doable!

A Serendipity Hippie

Inspired by these ideas I recently named a group of my friends, including myself, as ‘Serendipity Hippies’. I think the name describes quite well the attitude and spirit I wish to nurture.  As a startup entrepreneur and a knowledge worker I need to be a Serendipity Hippie too – I need to keep my both ‘systems’ active, let intuition, interaction and positive emotions affect my actions and decisions, which in turn hopefully nourishes my creativity, and also help me to develop ’Hagelian’ trust-based relationships.

Via all these means and with help of my social (media) interactions I wish to give creativity and serendipity a chance, every day.

Finally, I would like to share a story Barbara Fredrickson told her audience during one of her lectures:

“One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Negativity. It’s anger, sadness, stress, contempt, disgust, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame, and hate. The other is Positivity. It’s joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and above all, love.’ The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’ The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed’.”

We can become better versions of ourselves.


  1. exploring contexts and themes in seemingly unrelated areas to my core has helped a lot. in a sense, one aggregates these in our thinking which in turn leads to big ideas or a new approach.

    enjoyed reading your post. thanks! incidentally i created some twitter lists with the core theme, serendipity. Instead of focusing on specialised lists, the focus was on blending interests, cultures and so on…

  2. Hi Riitta,
    Loved the post, especially the ”wolf” story. It is amazing how little fables like this can provide a wealth of insights into our behavior.

    Which brings me to another point. Both positive and negative people can be creative. Generally we associate creativity with the positive side in terms of building, innovating, improving a current ’status’. However, the same neurons and pathways can be used to unleash creative destruction (physical, emotional, or mental) by delving and nurturing negative thoughts. I am not a psychologist, but would go out on a limb and say that some of the depression we see in people is because of negative creativity where they took a situation and kept ”feeding” it till it became a totally consuming obsession.

    I agree with you that for us to move forward in life, we have to feed the right wolf and create a mindset that is positive stable within certain limits (we as humans are fallible to variations in our emotions – that is okay as long as a certain threshold is not crossed on either side -positive or negative).


      1. Thank you, Syamant & Ned, for your comments!

        Indeed, fables often are surprising accurate, hundreds of years after first told. Some of the issues are universal and timeless…

        Creativity is a topic I am not an expert at, but very eager to study in my daily life. Thank you both for your good points related to it.

        Just found an interesting post by Daniel Pink – – Pencil as Power Tool where he quotes illustrator Mike Roche:

        “Sketching provides a unique space that can help you think differently, generate a variety of ideas quickly, explore alternatives with less risk, and encourage constructive discussions with colleagues and clients.” Most important, “it’s not about the quality of the drawing, but about capturing and communicating ideas from one mind to another.”

        Well there’s another positive idea for us!

  3. Hi BR! Thank you once again for your lovely blogpost! When I read your blogs, I have this strange feeling like you were smiling or even laughing while you write. Say it isn’t so! )
    I was (again) impressed about your topics and the way you discussed with them. A couple of quick notes though:
    I was wondering, if there is really only two types of thinking: associative and rational. I mean: where is the thinking as such, inner activity, that an individual can only ‘produce’ through her own active will. If it were the case that only these former ones existed, there would be no ‘human’ part in thinking and something highly important and interesting was missing.
    Positivity… What is actually your impression about it: Has this theme actually developed since the 80’s, the way people are dealing with it? I must say I’m not that impressed. Why? My experience is that if one is really willing to gain permanent results, one has to be much more specific with practising and it has to be consequent. Otherwise there is too much room for delusions and self-deception – two shadows always following when one strives for surpassing oneself. Or like you said: for better versions of ourselves.
    But like I said in the beginning, you have humor and that makes you the lucky one. )