A series of ten articles transferred from Dr. Huhn’s earlier blog posts

Some Fundamentals of the Creative Process and the Transfers into Real Life Innovations

Tenth article:

Phase IV of the creative process

The Realization of New Ideas by Overcoming the Protection Barriers of the Domain or the System

Very often, the topic of creativity is reduced to individual creativity. However, we have to view the whole picture: the resistance against THE NEW, the difficulties the creative person has to overcome to convince others about the relevance of the idea,

Understanding the defenses of the system helps to overcome them. According to the old Chinese proverb:

»If you want to reach your goal quickly, don't take the direct route.«

Prof. Csikszentmihalyi, in addition to his flow research, has spent his entire life working on precisely these questions: Why are some creative ideas realized, others stay with their creator and they don't succeed in being implemented in the world?

So if you really want to put your creative ideas into practice, you have to deal with some other aspects that go beyond the individual, you have to understand the the whole system.

Here Csikszentmihalyi finds two areas particularly important, which he calls »domain« on the one hand and »field« on the other.

1. The Domain

Each domain consists of its very own archive and organization of knowledge, of symbolic elements, its own rules, has its own designation system: it is a »small special world« (for example, architecture, in which we distinguish Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Classicism, Art Nouveau, Bauhaus, etc.). Other domains include painting, music, law, mathematics, carpentry, medicine, politics, etc.

All our culture is organized in domains, which can also have sub-domains.

Domains can hinder or promote creativity in several ways - three elements are particularly important:

the clarity of the structure,

the central position within the culture, and


Currently, domains with measurable results usually take precedence over domains with non-measurable results. This leads to the paradoxical situation that in domains that are relatively banal but easy to measure THE NEW finds acceptance easily. New developments have more difficulties to be accepted in other, very important domains where THE NEW is more complex.

In order to create something new within a domain, one must first know everything that exists. One cannot be creative in a domain to which one has no connection: You need to know the rules, have an overview of what you know, and have access to inner structures and processes. It is important to pay attention to an ever more dynamically growing amount of information.

The more a culture progresses, the more difficult it becomes to master more than a single area of knowledge. Domains formerly controllable by one person have long since been divided into subdomains, and highly specialized knowledge is created.

The consequences are obvious: creative developments in a certain domain are only possible if there is an excess of attention, if people's attention does not have to concentrate exclusively on ensuring their survival. Obviously, a certain wealth of social, business, and individual resource is needed to create the necessary scope for playful, divergent, creative thinking.

2. The Field - the goalkeepers and experts

»Creativity is any action, idea or thing that changes an existing domain or transforms an existing domain into a new one.

A creative person is a person whose thinking or acting changes a domain or creates a new domain - but this can only happen with the explicit or implicit consent of the field responsible for it«.

(Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

A creative person does not necessarily have to be different from others - what matters is whether his creative work is recognized and accepted within the domain.

For an idea to be effective, it must be dressed in terms that are understandable to others; it must be recognised by the experts in the field; and finally, it must be incorporated into their respective cultural domain.

The field describes all persons who monitor access to the domain. They decide whether to include a new idea or a new product in the domain. In a sense, they are the »gatekeepers« of the domain.

In the domain of music, there are competitions, conductors, music publishers, and concert organizers who decide who will be heard. In companies, this role is assumed by managers according to their hierarchical authority and their personal degree of acceptance for new things on the one hand and their company-oriented understanding of the balance between conservative, securing and future-shaping and innovation-creating forces on the other.

The field is necessary to determine whether innovation is worth the excitement - only a small percentage of the innumerable innovations are eventually incorporated into the culture. Culture must sort out most ideas in order to survive; otherwise, it would dissolve into chaos.

The experts in the field can influence the level of creativity in at least three ways:

- first, through either a reactive or a proactive posture,

- secondly, by using a narrow or wide filter when selecting news, and

- thirdly, fields can foster new developments if they have a good connection to the rest of the social system (outside the domain) and are able to channel support into their own domain.

3. Gaining access into the domain with the support of one or more gatekeeper(s)

It is the individuals within a field who decide what the future will look like, not abstract or anonymous powers. Anyone who wants to impose something new must take a close look at the gatekeepers in the specific domain. A large part of the gatekeepers will see its responsibility in preserving the stability of its domain and protecting it from new ideas.

Creative people often fail to implement their ideas because they try to carry their ideas directly into the domain. They bounce off a wall of defense, of incomprehension, are frustrated and unhappy. An understanding of the systemic connections would help them very quickly, for instance according to the old Chinese proverb: »If you want to reach your goal quickly, you should take a detour«.

Domäne. Individuumpng.png

For there are always some people who are a little wiser and understand that a domain also needs renewal, the fresh spirit of living transformation, in order to survive.

In order to make a creative contribution, one must not only be active in a creative system but also reproduce this system within oneself: i.e. the person must become familiar with the rules and content of the domain as well as with the selection criteria and preferences of the field, the views of the experts.

It is wise to then get in touch with the person or persons who wish to maintain and promote the liveliness of the domain.


In marketing, for example, it is crucial to identify the players in the field as early as possible: who decides what, what is the decision pattern of the persons concerned, how strong is the »keeper« part in them, how influential is the »development« part? Which allies, which possible opponents are there? How can these individual actors be met communicatively? How can security interests be taken into account and stronger innovation interests mobilized? This, too, can only be briefly hinted at here and requires excellent care in practical implementation!


As characteristics of the creative personality, but also of every organization, every company, the following are necessary

- the personal talent and the individual assertiveness (or its coordination in the respective subsystem),

- access to the domain,

- the access to the field, to think up the new and to the world.

Fears of instability, chaos, and lack of rules run like a red thread through every occupation with the topic of creativity. First and foremost, it is not so much about more creativity. It is about more courage and less fear of the new.

Moreover, the only way to overcome fear is to develop more love. Love for knowledge, for education - because we are afraid of the unknown.

We must ask ourselves the question every day if we also want to develop a love for the strange, that seems threatening to us as long as the distance is big.

And: Can we realize empathy for the individual human being, who is more than a productivity factor and KPIs?