Geographic clusters of the Dualarity genius. What defines a creative genius like Aristotle, Plato, Mozart, Da Vinci or Steve Jobs, and why do certain places at certain moments in time burst with creative genius? Why do places become hubs of cultural, political and technological prosperity? The American Journalist and author Eric Weiner wrote a super interesting book called The Geography Of Genius to try to answer these questions.

He selected seven clusters, places of genius, for his research and wrote his story by making seven stops across the world: Athens (from Socrates to Aristotle), Hangzhou (flourishing Song Dynasty as the center of science and poetry), Florence (art during the Renaissance under the Medicis), Edinburgh (the Scottish Enlightenment modern medical advances), Calcutta (chaos spurring creativity), Vienna (centre of music in the age of Mozart and a center of art and psychology in the age of Freud) and San Francisco (the Silicon Valley) and discovered that we get the geniuses we deserve. Music was hot in the 18th century so we got Beethoven, Bach and Mozart in Vienna. Technology is admired today so we get Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, even though most of them never finished their academic studies.

So why is this? What do they have in common?

By incorporating some of the following learnings we can get the best out of our teams or grow a part of our organisation to be healthy or mature, finding their Dualarity. We can create the conditions for genius to find its place and develop.

  1. A level of chaos unleashes creativity and sparks imagination – not anarchy, but a level of instability and intrigue, risk-taking and openness to experience. Obsession for operational excellence might not be good for every part of our business; getting closer to some kind of entrepreneurial chaos is good for us so we unleash the creative energy and ideas. We can test things out without reaching for excellence when failure is an option and the learning that comes with it is the reward. Encourage people away from the scared quadrant and show them that a level of chaos can be healthy.
  2. Diversity and a collision of cultures means an open tolerance for experiences and ideas such as sea ports, internet, open immigration. Today 50% of start-ups in San Francisco are headed by non-US born people. Having a diverse workforce blending different generations and mindsets is essential. Scared quadrant thinkers might feel threatened by diversity, so help them achieve a mature state of mind.
  3. Good judgement– to distinguish bad ideas from good ideas. We can do this by seeing and understanding what is happening and leveraging data for decision-making. And we do our best thinking while walking around. Here our maturity can be a real asset.
  4. Room for conflict – freedom of speech, places for public debate. Respect different opinions and encourage feedback from customers and employees. Handle feedback as a gift. Allow conflict without fear; enable the scared or injured to move into the healthy quadrant.
  5. Systems of mentorship. Find a good mentor, install a sustainable mentoring program, and even better, consider reverse mentorship. Mentorship can be a way of leading people out of the scared and injured zones into the light of maturity and health.
  6. Many geniuses borrow from others. They appropriate other people’s ideas then perfect them. Being innovative doesn’t mean you need to invent something.

To foster genius, we of course need some money, and we need to use that money to enable creativity. Most geniuses came from the middle-class not from the rich; genius is part of a culture that grows organically. The clusters of genius disappear when some of the above ingredients disappear, for example in Athens when the immigration politics changed. San Francisco is starting to show some signs of reduction in genius as too many are showing-off with their money. Most often complacency and arrogance drive the disappearance as the genius cluster matures, with each cluster surviving less than a full century. China will be the next place of genius as they start showing many signs of the above conditions.

A key lesson is not to copy the clusters of genius. Many cities try to copy the success of Silicon Valley, a former farming area. It didn’t invent new things like the transistor (New Jersey), mobile phones (Illinois), Internet (Switzerland) and venture capital (New York); it perfected inventions. San Francisco is where good ideas learned to walk.

Many cities are fighting to become the next San Francisco and have innovation hubs, like Rockstart in Amsterdam, Betahaus in Berlin, Numa in Paris, and in Belgium Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels are fighting for the title in Europe. However, cities inside a country should unify their efforts, like StartupDelta where Amsterdam, Den Haag and Eindhoven have joined forces and became one of the Top 20 global start-up ecosystems. The Netherlands organised a world-class start-up Fest Europe event in May 2016 and succeeded, by leveraging former European Dutch commissioner Neelie Kroes, to attract top CEOs of the tech world from Apple, Uber and Google. Only Davos has been able to do this in the past, so this could set the Netherlands ahead of all other European countries as a start-up epicenter.

This article was first published at and reproduced by kind permission of Olivier van Duüren.

Olivier Van Duuren speaker

An author, trend sensemaker, public speaker and executive coach, Olivier Van Duüren is a thought leader on personal and business transformation, and on the impact of the changes on our society and industry.

Feb 3, 2017 By webmaster