Steven F. Freeman

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Creativity and Innovation Research

page last modified: 10/26/2011 06:06 PM

Most people who go on to doctoral studies do so in an area of strength. But some take up a topic out of deficiency, and I'm in that group. I had always been able to ace tests, excel in individual actiivities and generally do well on independent tasks. But with groups and organizations, no. From my first encounters at school, I’ve pretty much always been at odds with institutions and conventions; with counter-cultural alternatives no less than the dominants.

Withdrawal may be a temporary solution, but hardly a satisfying one. It may be difficult to live and work with people, but

  1. If you want to have impact on the world, it virtually has to be part of a larger group. In a world of 7 billion people, it takes more than one person to have an impact. Probably you need at least 36. [1]
  2. "No man is an island [2], including me.
  3. I really do kind of like people. I enjoy interactions. I like cities...

So I used my strength -- perfect 800s on the GRE verbal, quantititative and analytical sections -- to earn a PhD scholarship which I used to try to overcome my weakness -- matriculating in a Ph.D program in Organization Studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

What I learned, as it pertains to Creativity and Innovation, is that there is good reason to resist organizational influence. Organizations are literally designed to stamp out Creativity and Innovation. Modern organizations have their roots in two relatively recent human developments: the modern army and the mass production factory. [3] 

Improvisational Movement

Improvised Dance (Tango)

Coordinated Creativity: Lessons from the Improvisational Arts

Lecture notes


Article on how and why I came to love Argentine tango

"LeaderTango"  created by Andrei Villarroel:

  • 1]  According to the Talmud, in each generation there are at least 36 righteous men in the world, for whose sake the world escapes destruction. This is based on Yeshayahu 30:18 "ashrei kol-chochei lo blessed are all those who wait for him", where the word lo has the numerical value of 36 (Sanhedrin 97b). Hence the popular belief that there are, concealed, 36 tzaddikim, otherwise referred to as nistarim (anonymous), who sustain the entire world wherein they are dispersed. According to Yoma 38b, one righteous man can ensure the existence of the world. No sooner is one righteous man removed from the world than he is succeeded by another righteous man as good as he. The righteous man is he who is saturated with Torah and possesses within himself the instrument of dealing a deadly blow to the evil inclination (yetzer ha-rah).
  • 2]  John Donne (1623) Devotions upon Emergent Occasions XVII: : No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
  • 3]  Charles Perrow, Organizing America: Wealth, Power, and the Origins of Corporate Capitalism (2002, Princeton University Press). For more on the military model and the European armies that were the first truly large, modern organizations, see Christopher Bassford, Clausewitz in English: The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America  (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994). A revised version, Clausewitz and his Works (2008), can be found on the internet at:
  • Web City Pages