Foto: Christoph Jänichen

Foto: Christoph Jänichen

Dr. Gerhard Huhn

Lawyer, sales director of a consumer goods company in Switzerland, publisher, university lecturer, experienced creativity and mental trainer for more than 40 years in companies such as Henkel, BMW, Deutsche Leasing, HeidelbergCement, Serviceplan, pilot Group, etc.

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I was born in November 1945 in Gelsenkirchen, grew up in Witten, also in the Ruhr area, the industrial center of Germany. I balanced the boredom of school lessons with photography - the German magazine DER SPIEGEL even printed a photo of government member Franz Josef Strauß - and with the publication of a school newspaper »ceterum censeo«. After my military service, I moved to Berlin in April 1967, right in the middle of the beginnings of the student movement, to study law at the Free University of Berlin. 

In 1968 I interrupted my studies for the winter semester to work as a German teacher in Eskilstuna, Sweden, (after several trips to Sweden during my school and military service). There I made first essential experiences with alternative teaching methods. In the school as linguistically unqualified, I learned Swedish in three months and then fortunately there I learned also to speak English (which had not worked in 7 years of school lessons. Also, my course participants were able to communicate in German even after three months. 

1st discovery: for successful teaching and learning it depends on the right, individually appropriate method.

Then I made an even more exciting (and from today's point of view extremely momentous) discovery in a Stockholm bookstore: 

 
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To my great surprise, in »Kreativitet och uppfinnings förmoga«, the Swedish edition of an American book, it was not only claimed, but often stated, that creativity is not an exclusive talent of a few geniuses, but is to a greater or lesser extent a characteristic of every human being. 

Once discovered, the ability to come up with ideas can be developed and strengthened. The different methods and techniques can help.


2nd discovery: Everyone - including me - can be creative.

For now over 50 years, I have been fascinated by the topics of learning and creativity. Initially, for personal reasons, to cope better with the challenges of studying and life. However, quite soon the knowledge gained was transferred to other people.

Since I financed my studies myself and wanted to earn a reserve for my exam preparations, after a few unsuccessful attempts and a further interruption of my studies I finally became so successful as a sales representative of a US-American direct sales company that I advanced to sales director for Switzerland in a flash career. 

There I was able to mobilize the self-motivation and enthusiasm of the employees in my daily work with the unconventional learning and training methods of this company. At the same time, the quarterly sales and profit reports to the parent company were a permanent challenge for me and the creativity of everyone involved. So the contents of the books became a reality very early on, not only for me but for the whole company. 

Due to the early accidental death of the founder and the inaccuracies of his successors, my excursion into the corporate world came to an abrupt end. But at least now I could finish my studies.

During my legal clerkship, I started a workshop for students together with my brother, who studied medicine, to give them proven instruments for the successful accomplishment of their studies. 

It became clearer and more apparent: the psychology of learning quickly reaches its limits when it comes to the practical. Since the mid-1970s I have been delving more and more into brain research, which at that time was increasingly accessible to laypeople, in order to penetrate my two main interests of learning and creativity more deeply. 

A third interest was added by the practical work. At the international leadership conferences, the company's founder repeatedly reminded us that there were countless books and workshops on employee motivation. However, we shouldn't let this confuse us. His credo was: As a manager, you can't really motivate other people. It is more important to recognize the self-motivation of people and to strengthen it. However, most managers slow down their employees or demotivate them. That was unconventional but extremely helpful. At the beginning of the 1990s, this personal experience was confirmed by Reinhard Springer's documentation and reflections in his book on the »Myth of Motivation".

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3rd discovery: As a manager, you cannot motivate employees. It always depends - at least in the long run - on their self-motivation.

At the beginning of the eighties, I started my own business as a lawyer and at the same time founded a publishing house where I published books on applied brain research. »Unicorns are real«, »Free Flyght« by Barbara Meister Vitale, »Intuitive Management« by Weston Agor, »Mind Mapping« by Mogens Kirckhoff, »Being in Your Right Mind« by John Moore, »Frankenstein's Castle« by Colin Wilson, »Present Yourself!« by Michael Gelb, »Decisions« by Bruce Becker and »The Right Brain Experience« by Marilee Zdenek - all licensed editions from Scandinavian and English-speaking countries were published by »Synchron Verlag«.

Since then, I have also sought direct personal contact with the researchers and pioneers whenever possible. Very early I met Karl Pribram, whose »Plans and the Structure of Behavior« fascinated me, Klaus Hoppe, who cared for the »Split Brain« patients of Roger Sperry and his team and made significant contributions to creativity research, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Heinz von Foerster, whom I was allowed to visit three times in his house in Pescadero, Paul Watzlawick, Dietmar Hansch, Joseph Weizenbaum, Michael Gelb, Mogens Kirckhoff to mention only a few of the best known. 

The first meeting with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who was also formerly a creativity researcher, was of lasting intensity in 1995. He has occupied me with his FLOW concept for many years now, and I have been in close contact with him ever since.

In 2015, Prof. Csikszentmihalyi was awarded the "CREO" Award of the German Society for Creativity and, as a Berlin member, I was honored to hold the laudation for him in the Auditorium Maximum of Freie Universität. (from left: Prof. Csikszentmihalyi Ph.D., Mrs. Sasse-Olsen (†), Prof. Dr. Mehlhorn, Dr. Huhn, Prof. Dr. Geschka).

In 2015, Prof. Csikszentmihalyi was awarded the "CREO" Award of the German Society for Creativity and, as a Berlin member, I was honored to hold the laudation for him in the Auditorium Maximum of Freie Universität. (from left: Prof. Csikszentmihalyi Ph.D., Mrs. Sasse-Olsen (†), Prof. Dr. Mehlhorn, Dr. Huhn, Prof. Dr. Geschka).

4th finding: Professor Csikszentmihalyi's flow concept brings together all aspects of learning, motivation, and creativity.

Through him, I met Martin Seligman, Jeanne Nakamura, Barbara Fredrickson, Howard Gardner, Antonella Delle Fave, Gerd Gigerenzer and Falko Rheinberg at the international conferences for Positive Psychology. 

The encounter with the writer and creativity expert Marilee Zdenek, whom I invited to Berlin in 1988 on the occasion of the German publication of her book »The Right Brain Experience«, and with whom we organized a two-day creativity workshop with more than 700 participants, has become particularly influential for my own work. We then met several times first in Los Angeles, then Santa Barbara, but also once in San Franzisko and 2014 on the occasion of her 79th birthday in Berlin. From her, I could learn most of what I use in my own workshops.

Marilee Zdenek with Hendrik Backerra (right, author of »Creativity Techniques«) and Dr. Gerhard Huhn at a creativity workshop 2014 in Berlin.

Marilee Zdenek with Hendrik Backerra (right, author of »Creativity Techniques«) and Dr. Gerhard Huhn at a creativity workshop 2014 in Berlin.

During my time as a publisher, I was able to make intensive personal experiences with the development of the "vertical dimension of creativity."

In 1987 I held my first own creativity workshop at the Ruhr University Bochum, which was followed by others in companies such as Nixdorf, Bosch, Service Plan, Kraft Foods, Unilever, Lehnkering, Clausecker-Bingel, BMW, Henkel, and pilot group.

I left the legal profession in 1990 with a dissertation on "Creativity and School" and a doctorate in law. For more than seven years, in addition to my already fulfilled time, I had been working on the unconstitutionality of school guidelines for some of the artistic subjects in various federal states because of violation of Article 2 paragraph I of the Basic Law.

After the publishing rights of the books of my synchronous publishing house had been transferred to the GABAL publishing house, I have been working exclusively as a trainer, author and lecturer at German and international colleges and universities since 1992. 

I have worked with students at the Bavarian Academy of Advertising, the Maximilian University Munich, the former University of the Arts, the Technical University, the Humboldt University and the Free University, all in Berlin. I have held guest professorships in Auckland, New Zealand, and Concepción, Chile.

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From 1994 to 2007 I led together with other lecturers the legendary "Mind Flow Mallorca" seminars in various monasteries on the island with hundreds of participants.

Overall the years, the central role in the workshops, especially in the concrete development of product ideas, claims or new processes in companies, besides the various methods, was the development of the vertical dimension of personal creativity.  

Since 2010/2011, together with the graduate psychologist Laura Ritthaler, I have headed the Flow Academy we founded in Berlin, where we offer specialized training programs for coaches. Learning and creativity also play a crucial role in this training. 

Given the uncritical enthusiasm for the digital, I would now like to warn against seeing the solution of all the massive economic, social and political problems in the hope and concentration on omnipotent algorithms or solely on creativity methods and techniques. And at the same time make it clear that it is not a question of either - or, but of both. With this in mind, I have decided to strengthen my work on the development of personal creative resources in a new format. You are cordially invited to join us!  

Information about the workshop in Switzerland

Link to Flow Academy