What is Prospero?
Prospero is a method-independent approach for conceiving truly original and highly potent ideas, and birthing new creations (products, services, facilities such as this website, enterprises, events, community initiatives and so on) that generate widespread value, infuse people’s lives with meaning and joy, and enrich the world.
Prospero can be used on its own or in conjunction with design thinking, Agile or another now-to-new approach.
Find out how Prospero compares with design thinking
Read about the Prospero triad: practitioner, the manifest and the unmanifest
Read about now-to-new
What does the name mean and why did you choose it?
In Italy, Portugal and Spain, Prospero is a name for boys and men, signifying good fortune, success and prosperity.
Prospero is the central character in William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, a story of creative power, compassion and renewal. He is a magician with well-integrated masculine and feminine qualities.
For these reasons, Prospero seems a suitable name for an approach that enables people to co‑create with the unmanifest (representing the masculine principle) and the manifest (representing the feminine principle) in order to conceive and bring into being new creations with the potential to enrich the world.
How did Prospero come into existence?
Prospero is the most recent manifestation to emerge from the research and development work that has occupied much of my adult life.
Since the 1970s, I’ve been on a quest to find ever-better ways of bringing forth new creations that generate the greatest amount of value for the greatest number of beneficiaries.
The quest has involved extensive study, concentrated thought, concept development, experimentation and real-world application in my professional work, which for 30 years has been providing innovation and change consultancy services to a large roster of clients including Royal Dutch Shell, Diageo, Dogs Trust, European Commission, Findhorn Foundation, McCain Foods and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Read about Creative problem solving | Synectics | Co-creation | Design thinking | Agileopen innovation, which was being practised in Royal Dutch Shell several years before the publication of Henry Chesbrough’s bestseller, Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology.
I originated the term now-to-new during that era to represent a shift from the present situation (Now) to what’s needed instead (New) with the aim of generating maximum value. The now-to-new model I developed in the early 1990s and used throughout that decade is pictured below
I ditched the ‘circle line’ model for three reasons. First, the diverge-then-converge process at stages 3 and 4 tends to produce mediocre, derivative ideas. Second, the systemic nature of the approach, with its nested and iterative now-to-new sequences, was hard for people to grasp. And third, the process of conceiving ideas and bringing them to fruition does not happen in stages, no matter how much we might pretend otherwise.
The now-to-new model’s eventual successor, The Creative Lifecycle, also looks like a sequence of discrete stages, but this is not the case.
In this article, I tell how I once owned an extensive collection of non-fiction books covering a wide range of work-related topics such as strategy, leadership, marketing, problem solving, creativity, change, and innovation.
The collection also included a large number of titles of the sort you’d find in the Mind–Body–Spirit section of a decent bookshop. Authors included Alan Watts, Meg Wheatley, Gregory Bateson, Caroline Myss, Peter Russell, Stafford Beer, Fritjof Capra, and Lau Tzu.
I offloaded most of the books many years ago, but kept the four pictured below and incorporated some of their revelations into Prospero.
Who is Prospero for?
Prospero is likely to appeal to:
People who have read one or more of the books pictured below and thought “Yes, but how can I incorporate this into my work?”
”My researches between 1965 and 1970 into the creative process and genius, revealed that it is a non-material component rather than a material one that powers and informs all the genuine creative work of man, including all the great intellectual breakthroughs such as Einstein’s E=mc2. Further, and more importantly, I then realised that this non-material component – which I named primal media, or simply media – streams into our material realm from the eternal dimension beyond space and time, that it always (only) does this in an instant, when time stands still, as it were, and there is then zero relative motion between the eternal and the temporal elements. AlI this obeys a cosmic law that can be expressed as:-
Appropriate form requires and demands that Media-plus-Matter be Made Meaningful in time dt (the immediate Moment we label ‘now’).
This cosmic law is possibly the most fundamental and primary law governing the entire Universe, including all the activities, mutations, symbioses and other progressive (and cataclysmic) developments and occurrences in the natural world … Yet man can, and usually does, escape its action in his own life, work and play – though always to his, and his fellow’s, disadvantage … The equation describing this law became known as the “5M Equation” (the five M’s are underlined in the above) its chief occupation and constant orientation being the producing of meaning.”
Source: Edward Matchett, in his introduction to Creative Action: The Making of Meaning in a Complex World, second edition.
“As warriors we must remove the crown of emphasis from the tonal [the manifest] with a firm and gentle hand, but once deposed we must also ensure that the tonal is allowed to remain as the healthy and protected overseer of an essential aspect of our awareness. We accomplish this delicate feat by blending talking with action within a unique self-nurturing context. Warriors understand that the tonal must be convinced with words while the nagual [the unmanifest] is convinced with actions. By combining some of each in a new and harmonious mix, we accomplish our goal while allowing the members of the one true pair¹ to support and complement each in a way that ensures our ultimate survival.”
¹ The one true pair described by Tomas is tonal/nagual (in other words, manifest/unmanifest). I consider this the correct interpretation of the yin/yang symbol, in contrast to the usual attributions such as good/bad and positive/negative. Read more in The Prospero triad: the practitioner, the manifest and the unmanifest.
View the glossary entry for Talking with Angels
“Talking with Angels is the true story of four young Hungarians in search of inner meaning at a time of outer upheaval, the holocaust. In the darkest hours of World War II, these friends, three of them Jewish, seek orientation and meaning in their shattered lives. During seventeen perilous months, one of them, Hanna Dallos, delivers oral messages which Gitta Mallasz and Lili Strausz record in their notebooks. These teachings end abruptly with the deportation of Hanna and Lili to Ravensbrück in December of 1944. Only Gitta Mallasz survived to bring their story and these remarkable dialogues to the world. She always rejected any notion of authorship for this book, saying, ‘I am merely the scribe of the angels.’”
Based on the description displayed on the Daimon Verlag website, where you can order a copy of Talking with Angels.
Do I need to believe in the existence of angels?
“Riches cannot always be measured in money! Money and material things are essential for freedom of body and mind, but there are some who will feel that the greatest of all riches can be evaluated only in terms of lasting friendships, harmonious family relationships, sympathy and understanding between business associates, and introspective harmony which brings one peace of mind measurable only in spiritual values!”
Click on an image to order the featured book. These are not affiliate links. You can download Think and Grow Rich! here for free (pdf; 253pp). I suggest you treat it as a free sample then buy a copy of the physical book—you’ll probably want to annotate significant passages, of which there are many.
People who have been inspired by the words below and thought, “Yes, but how?”
Practitioners of co-creation and design thinking who are asking, “What’s next?”
- What might be a more organic and spirited approach to the creation of new products, services, facilities, enterprises, work practices, community initiatives and so on?
- How can we move beyond formulaic ideation processes and instead deploy the power of creative imagination to produce truly original and highly potent concepts?
- How can we put the idea of ‘self as instrument’ into practice?
- How can we meet the needs and respect the interests of all stakeholders, and not just customers?
View the article: How does Prospero compare with design thinking?
People who resonate with Agile, Dialogic Organisation Development and the writings of Otto Scharmer and Frederic Laloux.
Although you should note that now-to-new in general and Prospero in particular do not incorporate any concepts, principles or practices drawn these sources, the one exception being Otto Scharmer’s egosystem/ecosystem distinctions. Any new inclusions will be reported here.
People who like to combine rationality with imagination, intuition and inspiration.
People who challenge conventional thinking and accepted practices.
What are the main principles underlying Prospero?
We are here to enrich the world.
And enterprises exist to help people enrich the world.
“We inevitably comes to the conclusion that a group of people get together and exist as an institution that we call a company so they are able to accomplish something collectively which they could not accomplish separately. They are able to do something worthwhile—they make a contribution to society (a phrase which sounds trite but is fundamental).”
Source: David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett Packard.
“In the end, an organization is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value.”
Source: Lou Gerstner, former chairman and CEO of IBM, in his book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?
The human is a rig for creating the new.View the article: The human is a rig for creating the new
The process of bringing the new into being mimics human procreation.
Read more about The Creative Lifecycle
Truly original ideas having the potential to enrich the world come to us by means of creative imagination, and not through synthetic imagination, which produces derivative ideas and mediocrity.
Readiness work activates the power of creative imagination.
Be a locksmith, not a key cutter.
Instead of making a lot of different keys in the hope that one of them will fit the lock, understand the workings of this particular lock and make the one key that will allow it to open. Even better, become a master lockpicker.
Birthing the new and realising its value generation potential requires a judicious combination of three kinds of work: creating alone, creating together, and helping others create.
Read about John Heron’s facilitation decision modes and Robert Keidel’s organisation design variables
New article: The three types of now-to-new work (work in progress; to be completed
w/e 8 May 2021)
The maximum group size for a proper conversation is four.
Downstream work requires an unconditional service disposition.Read about unconditional service
‘Control as a service’ can help prevent problems and accelerate progress.
Air traffic control. Houston Mission Control Center. Railway signalling systems. Traffic lights. Racetrack marshals. Football referees. Cricket umpires. The Highway Code. Control as a service.
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. This is the captain welcoming you aboard our flight to Chicago. We’re just completing the paperwork and we’ll be pushing back in a few minutes. I’ve been asked to inform you that air traffic control has been abolished. As of today, planes will self-organise. My first officer and I will do our best to get you there safely and on schedule. Now fasten your seat belt, relax and enjoy the flight.”
Do I need to believe in the existence of angels?
No. Angels do not exist, otherwise we would be able to prove their existence. You can treat angel as a placeholder term, meaning something along the lines of a whisperer of words of wisdom, that cannot speak until invited, and whose origin is unknown and unknowable.
When you talk about the unmanifest, is this something like God, or Heaven, or the Holy Spirit?
No. The unmanifest is the unknown, beyond articulation, conceptualisation and rationalisation. There’s little or no value in concocting theories about what it is, what its purpose might be or how it works. It’s not even an it, otherwise it would be part of the manifest.
In the Carlos Castaneda books, don Juan Matus uses the term tonal when speaking about the manifest and nagual (“nah-wa’hl”) when discussing the unmanifest. He explains these distinctions lucidly and with characteristic wry humour in The Tonal and the Nagual, excerpted from Tales of Power by Carlos Casteneda.
Isn’t it just a load of nutjob nonsense?
Only if you choose to perceive it in that way. And if you do, no amount of justification will change that. Please close the door on your way out.
“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.”
Source: Albert Einstein.
“Faith is a critical but curious mind’s readiness to adopt a reality model (even if provisionally) for which there is less than absolute, empirical proof.”
Source: The Dialogic Imperative, Jay Gaskill.
“If I were dying, my last words would be, Have faith and pursue the unknown end.”
Source: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
“What you may not understand is: the whole game you have been playing is also based on faith. You have had faith in the rational mind. We are living in a society which is a temple dedicated to the rational man.”
Source: Be Here Now, by Ram Dass.