Robert Fritz studied music composition and theater at the Boston Conservatory of Music where he earned a BM and MM in composition. He also studied on scholarship at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse, Germany. He studied cinematography at Maine Media Workshops formerly Rockport Workshops. In the late 1970s, Peter Senge, Fritz, David Peter Stroh and Charles F. Kiefer founded Innovation Associates, a management consulting firm. Fritz’s study of music composition along with his close contact with Senge’s work in system dynamics, became a major influence for his exploration of the relationship of structure to behavior. His books on structural dynamics are based on his pioneering work with Blue Shield of California, La France, Harvard Vanguard, IBM China, and Ortynsky Automotive among others.
Structural dynamics has been used extensively in corporations, education, and third-world development. The Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme adopted this visionary approach as its fundamental operating principle. In 2009, URDT won recognition for its programmes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for Changemakers “Cultivating Innovation: Solutions for Rural Communities”. Fritz has worked with the Swedish governmental agency Vinnova. He has consulted with the US Department of Defense Special Ops on issues of terrorism, and has also introduced his work to the US Air Force and Department of Transportation. The Managerial Moment of Truth (co-authored by Bruce Bodaken) was chosen as one of BusinessWeek best books of 2006, and Harvard Business Review placed it on their executive reading list.
The creative process
Fritz developed his ideas about the creative process from the arts rather than psychology, making a distinction between the creative process and creativity. Creativity usually focuses on idea generation and comes from suspending the norm. However, Fritz argues that to advocate withholding critical judgment in favor of free association, brainstorming, or other systems in an effort to bypass the usual thought processes will not guarantee successful creativity or accomplishment of the goal. In the arts a consummate professional must produce consistent quality outcomes and meet rigid deadlines. Rather than freeing the mind, an artist focuses the mind, often by using structural tension–the relationship between two related data points. With repeated application and refinement what was once the unusual then becomes the usual. A desired outcome or goal, the first data point is contrasted with its relational current reality, the second data point. As the creative process begins, a difference exists between the desired state and the actual state, and this difference creates a useful tension. The composed tension is not psychological nor is it associated with stress, anxiety, or pressure. Rather it is structural. Clarity about the desired outcome and the actual situation, establishes a structural tendency that moves the structure toward tension resolution; and strongly motivates the best actions to achieve the desired outcome. The actions may be conventional. But often inadequate resources limit the conventional means to accomplish goals. Therefore, invention and innovation emerge naturally bringing forth new ways to accomplish goals. Fritz argues against glorifying inspiration. Professionals can create irrespective of their circumstances. Ideas about structure and the creative process fundamentally underscore Fritz’s observations that like other structures, the mind seeks equilibrium. By nature, the mind desires a state of equilibrium and attempts to create order out of disorder. Fritz advocates using the mind to compose a structured state of non-equilibrium (structural tension) in order to originate new ideas. The mind then generates structurally relevant ideas which do not emerge using usual thought processes.
Problem-solving vs. creating
Fritz argues for a distinction between problem-solving and creating. Problem-solving is taking actions to have something go away: the problem. While problem-solving has its place, as a persistent approach, it limits accomplishment. The elimination of a problem does not mean that the desired result can be created. As distinguished, solving a problem does not by design lead to a creation. Creating is taking action to bring into being that which does not yet exist: the desired outcome.