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We dance

July 18, 2009

I love Joseph Campbell, the great American writer and mythologist. We will leave for another day what myths and comparative religion have to do with co-creation, but for now, let me focus on one of the stories he told (he was an amazing story-teller). The book Power of Myth, also the object of a well-known public television series, is an account of the dialogue between Joseph Campbell and journalist Bill Moyers. In the introduction to the book, Moyers recalls Campbell telling of an American delegate at an international conference on religion, trying to figure out what a Japanse Shinto priest was about.

“We’ve been now to a good many ceremonies and have seen quite a few of your shrines. But I don’t get your ideology. I don’t get your theology.’ The Japanese paused as though in deep thought, and then slowly shook his head. ‘I think we don’t have ideology,’ he said. ‘We don’t have theology. We dance.”

Joseph Campbell’s constant encouragement to experience life rather than theoretize about it is also a great prescription for co-creation. When people probingly ask me to justify why co-creation is different from, say, collaboration, crowd-sourcing, Wikinomics, or open innovation, I know they’re negotiating with me (and probably with themselves) for the right not to try any of them. Of course, my duty as a lecturer and consultant is to patiently walk through the similarities and differences, but I know the dialogue will ultimately be pointless.

Conversely, when I see a little light in someone’s eyes, I know I’m invited to dance. We take a few steps. I can sense when the questions are aimed at discovery rather than evaluation. I become less guarded in my answers. She’s really an interesting person. I’m making up new stuff now. Others are watching us. They sense the energy. They join us in the dance. These people are amazing. Where are these thoughts coming from?

As in Joseph Campbell’s story, I’m not sure co-creation has an ideology. We dance.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Luis Eduardo de Carvalho permalink
    August 10, 2009 1:08 pm

    Hi Francis !
    Thank you for sharing your ideas in the web, your blog is a just like the restaurant you described, Fire + Ice, I feel my self in a co-created experience.

    Well, talking about dancing and co-creation, I do agree on you, people dance. Dance is a sophisticated kind of dialogue and curiously, nowadays people prefer dance alone.

    As co-creation consultants our role is help companies dance with their clients, the way to invite them to dance, co-create the music to be played, the light and the most important the rhythm. By the way, see the wikipedia definition of rhythm:

    "Our sympathetic urge to dance is designed to boost our energy levels in order to cope with someone, or some animal chasing us – a fight or flight response. From a less darwinist perspective, perceiving rhythm is the ability to master the otherwise invisible dimension, time." (

    Thanks man, now I got the Rhythm, I will take it to my next dance class.

    I am already a follower of your Blog and just recomended it in my blog. See it, if you can understand portuguese.

    Brazilian hugs for you friend.

  2. Francis Gouillart permalink
    August 10, 2009 4:06 pm

    Hi Luis-Eduardo,
    I recognize your poetic mind in action with your comment on co-creation being about rhythm and dance. And who would know this better than the Brazilian samba dancer that you are?

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