I believe the mind is like the universe. You have billions of bits of thoughts, observations, and information floating around in your conscious and subconscious mind, totally unobserved, with each bit presenting a multitude of possibilities which evolve and change over time. These thoughts are in multiple states such as words, phrases, metaphors, images, feelings, dreams, symbols, abstractions, voices, and so on. Particles of thought pop up out of nothingness and become entangled with other thoughts influencing each other instantaneously. Much like subatomic particles, these entities have no real existence; they exist only in a probabilistic state of many different possibilities.
Just as subatomic particles do not exist unless observed, your subconscious thoughts do not exist until you observe them. In other words, there is no thought independent of you, the observer. It is your conscious choice that is responsible for manifesting both the proverbial falling tree and the you who hears it. No observer, no sound, no tree.
When you are brainstorming for ideas and have a thought, the value of that thought depends upon how you interact with it. We are educated to be critical, judgmental, logical thinkers and to instantly evaluate and judge thoughts based on our past experiences. If there is any ambiguity, the judgment is invariably negative and the thought dissipates back into nothingness. The ordinary mind has no tolerance for ambiguity because it is conditioned to simplify the complexities of life. We are taught to be exclusionary thinkers, which means we exclude anything that is not immediately related to our subject.
Creative geniuses do not think this way. When they brainstorm for ideas, their first objective is to observe and record all thoughts and ideas as possibilities. They observe without judgment. This is why all their thoughts and ideas come into existence as possibilities. Creative geniuses also think inclusively which means they include everything no matter how unrelated or absurd. This is a basic requirement of creative thinking. Creative thinking requires the generation of associations and connections between two or more dissimilar subjects.
Creative geniuses intuitively know that it is important to record their thoughts. By recording all possibilities, without judgment, they think discontinuously, which is why geniuses have a tolerance for ambiguity. Much like quantum gravity, as we understand it now, discontinuous thought seems to do away with cause and effect. The logic of tock following tick or output following input just doesn’t apply in the quantum gravity universe or in the discontinuous thinking processes of the creative mind.
The key to productive creative thinking is to harvest the quantum wave-like proliferations of thoughts which abound in our subconscious mind. We make these real by observing, recording and interacting with them. A habit to consciously cultivate is the habit of keeping a written record of your thoughts and ideas in a notebook, on file cards or in your computer. A record not only guarantees that the thoughts and ideas will last, since they are committed to paper or computer files, but will goad you into other thoughts and ideas.
HAPPY HOUR AT THE FACTORY
A supervisor at a Buffalo factory was constantly annoyed at the failure of employees to fill out their time sheets promptly. Filling out a time sheet is a necessary evil, but it’s usually the last thing someone wants to do at the end of a long week. It’s a long, boring, and tedious process, so when it’s the final piece that separates someone from their hard earned weekend, it’s likely filling out the time sheet will get shelved for another time.
The supervisor had made a habit of keeping a daily journal where he recorded random ideas, thoughts, questions and so on as they occurred to him throughout the day. One day while reviewing his journal while simultaneously thinking about time sheets, he came across his rough sketch of a new idea for a bicycle tire pump. The pump resembled a beer can which inspired him to think of beer as the solution to the time sheet problem.
He created the Drink Time Sheet, a fridge full of free beer for employees to enjoy… after they’ve completed their time sheets. The fridge is electronically locked, tied to the office’s time sheet system. The fridge can only be opened when 100% of the office’s time sheets are completed, enticing employees to get their time sheets in early and to encourage any stragglers to complete theirs as early as possible as well.
A record of ideas enables you to cross-fertilize ideas, techniques and conceptual models by transferring them from one problem to the next. Jot down your observations of the natural world and ideas others had come up with in other fields. Routinely comb a wide variety of diverse publications for novel ideas that sparks your interest and record them in your notebook. Your idea needs to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you are working on.
THE EARLY BIRD GETS THE DONUT
A baker was looking for ways to increase his revenue. His idea journals contained several ideas of how other companies created demand through scarcity. He observed that when goods are scarce, demand rises. The more scarce the more demand. His thought was how to sell more donuts by making them scarce.
He opened a donut shop incorporating the concept of scarcity. Housed in an old bank vault, the shop is open at 8:30 AM Tuesdays through Fridays and 9:30 AM on Saturdays for a very small window of time. Once the last donut is sold the doors are shuttered, which typically is an hour or two after opening. His business is thriving selling coffee and around 1000 donuts a day all because of the buzz he created by creating a viable business off of scarcity.
The more problems, ideas and thoughts that you record and review from time to time, the more complex becomes the network of information in your mind. Think of thoughts as atoms hanging by hooks on the sides of your mind. When you think about a subject, some of these thoughts become loose and put into motion in your subconscious mind. The more work you put into thinking about a problem, the more information you put into your long-term memory by systematically recording them, the more thoughts are put into random motion. Your subconscious mind never rests. When you quit thinking about the subject and decide to forget it, your subconscious mind doesn’t quit working. The thoughts keep flashing freely in every direction through your subconscious. They are colliding, combining and recombining millions of times. Typically, many combinations are of little or no value, but occasionally, a combination is made that is appreciated by your subconscious as a good combination and delivered up to the conscious mind as a “mind popping” idea.