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THINKING METAPHORICALLY

 

HOW TO LOOK AT THINGS A DIFFERENT WAY

 

When Pablo Picasso, the Spanish artist, was a schoolboy, he was terrible at math because whenever the teacher had him write a number on the chalkboard, he saw something different. The number four looked like a nose to him and he kept doodling until he filled in the rest of the face. The number 1 looked like a tree, 9 looked like a person walking against the wind, and 8 resembled an angel. Everyone else in the classroom saw numbers on the chalkboard; Picasso perceived a variety of different images.

 

The connection between perspective and creative thinking has to do with habituation and over-familiarization. Over-familiarization with something – an idea, a procedure, a system – is a trap. Where creative thinking is concerned, that is the irony of the skill: the more adept you are at something, the less likely you are to look at it in a different way; the greater your skill of a particular discipline, the less you will be tempted to experiment with different approaches. Einstein put it best when he once said, “An expert is a person who has few new ideas; a beginner is a person with many.” Continue reading

What You Can Learn About Creative Thinking from Vincent Van Gogh and the Wright Brothers

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What would you think of someone who said, “I would like to have a cat provided it barked”?

The common desire to achieve or create great things provided it’s something that can be easily willed or wished is precisely equivalent. The principles of behavior that lead to great accomplishments are no less rigid than the biological principles that determine the characteristics of cats. Consider, for example, the life of Vincent Willem van Gogh.

He is generally considered to be one of history’s greatest artists and had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. His artistic accomplishments are not an accident, not a result of some easily magic trick or secret, but a consequence of his nature to work persistently on his art every day. He revered “the doing” in art. He wrote about his hard work many times to his brother Theo. In a letter he sent Theo in 1885 he stated that one can only improve by working on your art, and many people are more remarkably clever and talented than him, but what use is it if they do not work at it.

He did not begin painting until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works during the last two years of his life. In the first years of his career, van Gogh displayed no natural talent. David Sweetman’s biography “Van Gogh: His Life and His Art” gives a detailed description of his intention to be an artist and his insatiable capacity for hard work to become one. He turned himself into an artist by acting like an artist and going through the motions by turning out mostly bad innumerable rough sketches, day and night. In Van Gogh’s own words he said, “In spite of everything I shall rise again and take up my pencil and draw and draw.”

He received mild encouragement from his cousin, Anton Mauve, who supplied him with his first set of watercolors. Mauve was a successful artist and gave Vincent some basic instructions in painting. Their relationship was short-lived, however, as Vincent was incapable of receiving criticism of his art from Mauve. Mauve even went to Vincent’s father and told him it would be better for Vincent to stop attempting to be an artist and find another occupation that better suited his talent. It was then that Vincent unveiled what art critics label as his first “masterpiece,” The Potato Eaters.

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He turned himself into an artist by acting like an artist and going through the motions by turning out mostly bad innumerable rough sketches, day and night.

Lesson #1 Stop waiting and Take Action

The lesson about creative thinking I learned from Van Gogh is action. Just do it. Stop waiting and start working toward what you want. What we think, or what we know, or what we believe something is, in the end, of no consequence. The only consequence is what we actually do. In Van Gogh’s own words “Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile. You don’t know how paralyzing that is, that stare of a blank canvas is, which says to the painter, “You can’t do a thing.” The canvas has an idiotic stare and mesmerizes some painters so much that they turn into idiots themselves. Many painters are afraid in front of the blank canvas, but the blank canvas is afraid of the real, passionate painter who dares and who has broken the spell of ‘you can’t’ once and for all by getting to work and painting.”

It was very difficult at times, but he believed nobody can do as he wishes in the beginning when you start but everything will be all right in the end. Each day he made every effort to improve because he knew making beautiful paintings meant painstaking work, disappointment and perseverance. In the end, Van Gogh produced 2000 works of art between 1880 and 1890 (1100 paintings and 900 sketches). That’s 4 works of art a week for a decade, and he didn’t start making art until his mid twenties.

LESSON #2 Commit and Go through the motions

Van Gogh taught me to commit myself to a desire and go through the motions of working toward accomplishing it. His advice was if you do nothing, you are nothing. You must keep working and keep working come what may. Even when your final goal is not clear, the goal will become clearer and will emerge slowly but surely, much as the rough drawing turns into a sketch, and the sketch into a painting through the serious work done on it and through the elaboration of the original vague idea and through the consolidation of your fleeting and passing thoughts on it as you work.

Think of the first airplane. On December 8, 1903, Samuel Pierpont Langley, a leading government-funded scientist, launched with much fanfare his flying machine on the Potomac. It plummeted into the river. Nine days later, Orville and Wilbur got the first plane off the ground. Why did these bicycle mechanics succeed when a famous scientist failed? It was because Langley did the mental work and hired other people to build and execute his intellectual design for him.

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Lesson #3 Do your own work.

The Wright brothers did their own work. When they were working and producing creative ideas and products they were replenishing neurotransmitters which are linked to genes that are being turned on and turned off in response to what the brain is doing, which in turn is responding to challenges. When they constantly worked on their idea and learned through trial and error, they were energizing their brains by increasing the number of contacts between neurons. The more times they act, the longer they worked the more active their brains became and the more creative they became.

Their creative brains made them aware of the range of many potentials for each adjustment they built into their design. Their personal observations of the many alternative potentials led them to constantly change and modify their ideas that created the airplane.

When they constantly worked on their idea and learned through trial and error, they were energizing their brains by increasing the number of contacts between neurons. I like to metaphorically compare working toward a desired goal such the goals of Van Gogh and the Wright brothers to weight lifting.  If you want to build muscles you lift weights. If the weight is heavy enough it’s going to damage the muscles. That damage creates a chemical cascade and reaches into the nuclei of your muscle cells, and turns on genes that make proteins and build up muscle fibers. Those genes are only turned on in response to some environmental challenge. That’s why you’ve got to keep lifting heavier and heavier weights. The phrase, “No pain no gain,” is literally true in this case. Interaction with the environment turns on certain genes which otherwise wouldn’t be turned on; in fact, they will be turned off if certain challenges aren’t being faced.

Lesson #4 Don’t wait for perfect moments

Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect. There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful. We are what we repeatedly do.

Start Now

To get a feel for how powerful the simple act of just starting something creative and working on it is, try the following thought experiment.

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

Take out a sheet of paper and at least ten items, money, credit cards, keys, coins, etc. Your task is to create an assemblage that metaphorically represents you.

Here are the guidelines:

  1. In your mind, imagine an assemblage that metaphorically represents you. Do not think about the materials you have in hand. Instead think about the shape you would like your assemblage to have. What are the rhythms you want? The texture? Where would you want it to be active? Passive? Where do things overlap and where are they isolated? Think in general and overall pictures, and leave out the details. Do not think about great art; just think about who you are and what how you can represent yourself metaphorically.
  2. Now form a more specific idea of the final assemblage. As you look at the paper, imagine the specific assemblage you want to create. Make sure you’ve formed this image before you move to the next step.
  3. Place the items on the paper. Since the composing stage is already done, it’s time to bring your creation into physical existence. How closely did it come to your conception? Become a critic for the assemblage. Look at it for its own sake, independent of the fact that you have created it. Take the items off and go through the same procedures. Make the assemblage again.
  4. By conceptualizing and using materials you had on hand, you created an artistic assemblage from nothing.
  5. If you performed this exercise every day with different objects for five to ten straight days you will find yourself becoming an artist who specializes in rearranging unrelated objects into art. It is the activity that turns on the synaptic transmissions in your brain that turn on the genes that are linked to what you are doing, which is responding to an environmental challenge (i.e., the making of an assemblage).

………………..

Michael Michalko author of THINKERTOYS, CRACKING CREATIVITY, THINKPAK, and CREATIVE THINKERING www.creativethinking.net

THE TWELVE THINGS YOU ARE NOT TAUGHT IN SCHOOL ABOUT CREATIVE THINKING

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We learn about great ideas and we learn the names of the creative geniuses who created them, but we are seldom taught about how they got the ideas. My teachers mythologized the geniuses as genetically or intellectually superior to the ordinary person. They gushed over their accomplishments and had us memorize who did what and when, who created what and when focused on their discoveries rather than on the mental processes, attitudes, work habits, behavior and beliefs that enabled creative geniuses to be capable of looking at the same things as the rest of us and seeing something different.

Following are twelve things about creative thinking that I learned during my lifetime of work in the field of creative thinking that I wished I had been taught when I was a student but was not.

1.YOU ARE CREATIVE. The artist is not a special person, each one of us is a special kind of artist. Every one of us is born a creative, spontaneous thinker. The only difference between people who are creative and people who are not is a simple belief. Creative people believe they are creative. People who believe they are not creative, are not. Once you have a particular identity and set of beliefs about yourself, you become interested in seeking out the skills needed to express your identity and beliefs. This is why people who believe they are creative become creative. If you believe you are not creative, then there is no need to learn how to become creative and you don’t. The reality is that believing you are not creative excuses you from trying or attempting anything new. When someone tells you that they are not creative, you are talking to someone who has no interest and will make no effort to be a creative thinker.

2. CREATIVE THINKING IS WORK. You must have passion and the determination to immerse yourself in the process of creating new and different ideas. Then you must have patience to persevere against all adversity. All creative geniuses work passionately hard and produce incredible numbers of ideas, most of which are bad. In fact, more bad poems were written by the major poets than by minor poets. Thomas Edison created 3000 different ideas for lighting systems before he evaluated them for practicality and profitability. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart produced more than six hundred pieces of music, including forty-one symphonies and some forty-odd operas and masses, during his short creative life. Rembrandt produced around 650 paintings and 2,000 drawings and Picasso executed more than 20,000 works. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets. Some were masterpieces, while others were no better than his contemporaries could have written, and some were simply bad.

3. YOU MUST GO THROUGH THE MOTIONS. When you are producing ideas, you are replenishing neurotransmitters linked to genes that are being turned on and off in response to what your brain is doing, which in turn is responding to challenges. When you go through the motions of trying to come up with new ideas, you are energizing your brain by increasing the number of contacts between neurons. The more times you try to get ideas, the more active your brain becomes and the more creative you become. If you want to become an artist and all you did was paint a picture every day, you will become an artist. You may not become another Vincent Van Gogh, but you will become more of an artist than someone who has never tried.

4. YOUR BRAIN IS NOT A COMPUTER. Your brain is a dynamic system that evolves its patterns of activity rather than computes them like a computer. It thrives on the creative energy of feedback from experiences real or fictional. You can synthesize experience; literally create it in your own imagination. The human brain cannot tell the difference between an “actual” experience and an experience imagined vividly and in detail. This discovery is what enabled Albert Einstein to create his thought experiments with imaginary scenarios that led to his revolutionary ideas about space and time. One day, for example, he imagined falling in love. Then he imagined meeting the woman he fell in love with two weeks after he fell in love. This led to his theory of acausality. The same process of synthesizing experience allowed Walt Disney to bring his fantasies to life.

5. THERE IS NO ONE RIGHT ANSWER. Reality is ambiguous. Aristotle said it is either A or not-A. It cannot be both. The sky is either blue or not blue. This is black and white thinking as the sky is a billion different shades of blue. A beam of light is either a wave or not a wave (A or not-A). Physicists discovered that light can be either a wave or particle depending on the viewpoint of the observer. The only certainty in life is uncertainty. When trying to get ideas, do not censor or evaluate them as they occur. Nothing kills creativity faster than self-censorship of ideas while generating them. Think of all your ideas as possibilities and generate as many as you can before you decide which ones to select. The world is not black or white. It is grey.

6. NEVER STOP WITH YOUR FIRST GOOD IDEA. Always strive to find a better one and continue until you have one that is still better. In 1862, Phillip Reis demonstrated his invention which could transmit music over the wires. He was days away from improving it into a telephone that could transmit speech. Every communication expert in Germany dissuaded him from making improvements, as they said the telegraph is good enough. No one would buy or use a telephone. Ten years later, Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. Spencer Silver developed a new adhesive for 3M that stuck to objects but could easily be lifted off. It was first marketed as a bulletin board adhesive so the boards could be moved easily from place to place. There was no market for it. Silver didn’t discard it. One day Arthur Fry, another 3M employee, was singing in the church’s choir when his page marker fell out of his hymnal. Fry coated his page markers with Silver’s adhesive and discovered the markers stayed in place, yet lifted off without damaging the page. Hence the Post-it Notes were born. Thomas Edison was always trying to spring board from one idea to another in his work. He spring boarded his work from the telephone (sounds transmitted) to the phonograph (sounds recorded) and, finally, to motion pictures (images recorded).

7. EXPECT THE EXPERTS TO BE NEGATIVE. The more expert and specialized a person becomes, the more their mindset becomes narrowed and the more fixated they become on confirming what they believe to be absolute. Consequently, when confronted with new and different ideas, their focus will be on conformity. Does it conform to what I know is right? If not, experts will spend all their time showing and explaining why it can’t be done and why it can’t work. They will not look for ways to make it work or get it done because this might demonstrate that what they regarded as absolute is not absolute at all. This is why when Fred Smith created Federal Express, every delivery expert in the U.S. predicted its certain doom. After all, they said, if this delivery concept was doable, the Post Office or UPS would have done it long ago and this is why the experts at IBM said there were no more than six people on earth who had need of a personal computer. Thomas Edison is quoted as saying “His greatest blessing in life was the lack of a formal education. Had he been educated,” he said “he would have realized that what he accomplished in life was not possible to do.”

8. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. Albert Einstein was expelled from school because his attitude had a negative effect on serious students; he failed his university entrance exam and had to attend a trade school for one year before finally being admitted; and was the only one in his graduating class who did not get a teaching position because no professor would recommend him. One professor said Einstein was “the laziest dog” the university ever had. Beethoven’s parents were told he was too stupid to be a music composer. Charles Darwin’s colleagues called him a fool and what he was doing “fool’s experiments” when he worked on his theory of biological evolution. Beethoven’s parents were told he was too stupid to be a music composer. Walt Disney was fired from his first job on a newspaper because “he lacked imagination.” Thomas Edison had only two years of formal schooling, was totally deaf in one ear and was hard of hearing in the other, was fired from his first job as a newsboy and later fired from his job as a telegrapher; and still he became the most famous inventor in the history of the U.S.

9. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS FAILURE. Whenever you try to do something and do not succeed, you do not fail. You have produced a result. It’s what you do with the result that’s important. You have learned something that does not work. Always ask “What have I learned about what doesn’t work?”, “Can this explain something that I didn’t set out to explain?”, and “What have I discovered that I didn’t set out to discover?” Whenever someone tells you that they have never made a mistake, you are talking to someone who has never tried anything new.

Take the first airplane. On Dec. 8, 1903, Samuel Pierpont Langley, a leading government- funded scientist, launched with much fanfare his flying machine on the Potomac. It plummeted into the river. Nine days later, Orville and Wilbur Wright got the first plane off the ground. Why did these bicycle mechanics succeed when a famous scientist failed? Because Langley hired experts to execute his theoretical concepts without going a series of trials and errors.

Studying the Wrights’ diaries, you see that insight and execution are inextricably woven together. Over years, as they solved problems like wing shape and wing warping, they made several mistakes which inspired several adjustments all of which involved a small spark of insight that led to other insights. Their numerous mistakes led to unexpected alternative ways which, in turn, led to the numerous discoveries that made flight possible.

10. YOU DO NOT SEE THINGS AS THEY ARE; YOU SEE THEM AS YOU ARE. Interpret your own experiences. All experiences are neutral. They have no meaning. You give them meaning by the way you choose to interpret them. If you are a priest, you see evidence of God everywhere. If you are an atheist, you see the absence of God everywhere. IBM observed that no one in the world had a personal computer. IBM interpreted this to mean there was no market. College dropouts, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, looked at the same absence of personal computers and saw a massive opportunity. Once Thomas Edison was approached by an assistant while working on the filament for the light bulb. The assistant asked Edison why he didn’t give up. “After all,” he said, “you have failed 5000 times.” Edison looked at him and told him that he didn’t understand what the assistant meant by failure, because, Edison said, “I have discovered 5000 things that don’t work.” You construct your own reality by how you choose to interpret your experiences.

11. ALWAYS APPROACH A PROBLEM ON ITS OWN TERMS. Do not trust your first perspective of a problem as it will be too biased toward your usual way of thinking. Always look at your problem from multiple perspectives. Always remember that genius is finding a perspective no one else has taken. Look for different ways to look at the problem. Write the problem statement several times using different words. Take another role, for example, how would someone else see it, how would your favorite teacher, a physician, an author, a politician, and so on see it? Draw a picture of the problem, make a model, or mold a sculpture. Take a walk and look for things that metaphorically represent the problem and force connections between those things and the problem (How is a broken store window like my communications problem with my students?) Ask your friends and strangers how they see the problem. Ask a child. Ask a grandparent. Imagine you are the problem. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

12. LEARN TO THINK UNCONVENTIONALLY. Creative geniuses do not think analytically and logically. Conventional, logical, analytical thinkers are exclusive thinkers which means they exclude all information that is not related to the problem. They look for ways to eliminate possibilities. Creative geniuses are inclusive thinkers which mean they look for ways to include everything, including things that are dissimilar and totally unrelated. Generating associations and connections between unrelated or dissimilar subjects is how they provoke different thinking patterns in their brain. These new patterns lead to new connections which give them a different way to focus on the information and different ways to interpret what they are focusing on. This is how original and truly novel ideas are created. Albert Einstein once famously remarked “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

And, finally, Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them.

What I learned about Creative Thinking from Leonardo Da Vinci

If one particular thinking strategy stands out about creative genius, it is the ability to make juxtapositions that elude mere mortals. Call it a facility to connect the unconnected that enables them to see relationships to which others are blind. They set their imagination in motion by using unrelated stimuli and forcing connections with their subject.

In the illustration, Figure B appears larger than Figure A. It is not. They are both the same size. If you cut out Figure A, you will find that it fits exactly over Figure B.                    ARCS

Juxtaposing the smaller arc of A to the larger arc of B makes the upper figure seem smaller.  The juxtaposition of the arcs creates a connection between the arcs that changes our perception about their size. We perceive the arcs in terms of thought patterns that are triggered by what is in front of us. We do not see the arcs (equal in size) as they are but as we perceive them (unequal). Continue reading

What I Learned about Creative Thinking from Walt Disney

walt disneyWalt Disney was a high school dropout who was fired from his first job on a newspaper because he lacked imagination. Over the next few years, he suffered several business disasters and bankruptcy. He overcame his personal and financial challenges by using his imagination to create an entertainment empire that has touched the hearts, minds and emotions of all of us.

I learned imagineering from Walt Disney. The term “Imagineering” combines the words imagination and engineering and basically means engineering your dreams and fantasies back to earth into something realistic and possible. This enabled him to transform the dreams, fantasies and wishes of his imagination into concrete reality. Continue reading

What I Have Learned about Creative Thinking from Vincent van Gogh

Van_Gogh_Self-Portrait_with_Straw_Hat_1887-DetroitWhat would you think of someone who said, “I would like to have a cat provided it barked”? The common desire to achieve or create great things provided it’s something that can be easily willed or wished is precisely equivalent. The principles of behavior that lead to great accomplishments are no less rigid that the biological principles that determine the characteristics of cats. Consider, for example, the life of Vincent Willem van Gogh.

He is generally considered to be one of history’s greatest artists and his art had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. His artistic accomplishments are not an accident, not a result of some easy magic trick or secret, but a consequence of his nature to work persistently on his art every day. He revered “the doing” in art. He wrote about his hard work many times to his brother Theo. In a letter he sent Theo in 1885 he stated that one can only improve by working on your art, and many people are more remarkably clever and talented than him, but what use is it if they do not work at it. Continue reading

The Twelve Things You Are Not Taught in School about Creative Thinking

1. You are creative. The artist is not a special person, each one of us is a special kind of artist.
Every one of us is born a creative, spontaneous thinker. The only difference between people who are creative and people who are not is a simple belief. Creative people believe they are creative. People who believe they are not creative, are not. Once you have a particular identity and set of beliefs about yourself, you become interested in seeking out the skills needed to express your identity and beliefs. This is why people who believe they are creative become creative. If you believe you are not creative, then there is no need to learn how to become creative and you don’t. The reality is that believing you are not creative excuses you from trying or attempting anything new. When someone tells you that they are not creative, you are talking to someone who has no interest and will make no effort to be a creative thinker. Continue reading

Walt Disney’s Creative Thinking Technique

Walt Disney was a high school dropout who suffered several business disasters and bankruptcy.  He overcame his personal and financial challenges by using his imagination to create an entertainment empire that has touched the hearts, minds and emotions of all of us.

His summarized his creativity in one word: Imagineering. The term “Imagineering” combines the words imagination and engineering. Imagineering enabled him to transform the dreams, fantasies and wishes of his imagination into concrete reality.  Continue reading

HOW EDUCATION INHIBITS OUR NATURAL CREATIVITY

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Our natural creative genius is stifled from the time we are born.

NASA had contacted Dr George Land to develop a highly specialized test that would give them the means to effectively measure the creative potential of NASA’s rocket scientists and engineers. The test turned out to be very successful for NASA’s purposes, but the scientists were left with a few questions: where does creativity come from? Are some people born with it or is it learned? Or does it come from our experience?

The scientists then gave the test to 1,600 children between the ages of 4 and 5. What they found shocked them.

This is a test that looks at the ability to come up with new, different and innovative ideas to problems. What percentage of those children do you think fell in the genius category of imagination?

A full 98 percent!

But this is not the real story. The scientists were so astonished that they decided to make it a longitudinal study and tested the children again five years later when they were ten years old.

The result? Only 30 percent of the children now fell in the genius category of imagination.

When the kids were tested at 15 years the figure had dropped to 12 percent!

What about us adults? How many of us are still in contact with our creative genius after years of schooling?

Sadly, only 2 percent.

These are not isolated incidences — these results have actually been replicated many times. The question is “Does our education rob us of our creative genius?”

Albert Einstein was once asked what the difference was between him and the average person. He said that if you asked the average person to find a needle in the haystack, the person would stop when he or she found a needle. He, on the other hand, would tear through the entire haystack looking for all the possible needles. With creative thinking, one generates as many alternative approaches as one can.

Creative thinking is inclusive thinking. You consider the least obvious as well as the most likely approaches, and you look for different ways to look at the problem. It is the willingness to explore all approaches that is important, even after one has found a promising one.

Most of us have been educated to think exclusively which means we think in deficit by focusing our attention on specific information and excluding all else. Exclusive thinking is fine when we absolutely know which information is relevant and what is not. Many situations, in fact, most are ambiguous. In these instances, exclusive thinking leads us to neglect potentially important pieces of the puzzle. Exclusive thinking doesn’t merely inhibit irrelevant facts and perceptions. It can also smother the imagination.

We are instructed in schools to think reproductively by memorizing formulae, systems, and methodologies that others have used successfully in the past and to think logically and analytically. This instruction has created strong thinking patterns. When confronted with problems, these thinking patterns are activated with even a small bit of information and lead our thinking in a clearly defined direction toward something that has worked in the past for someone else, excluding all other approaches.

Think of your mind as a dish of jelly which has settled so that its surface is perfectly flat. When information enters the mind, it self-organizes. It is like pouring warm water on the dish of jelly with a teaspoon. Imagine the warm water being poured on the jelly dish and then gently tipped so that it runs off. After many repetitions of this process, the surface of the jelly would be full of ruts, indentations, and grooves.

New water (information) would start to automatically flow into the preformed grooves. After a while, it would take only a bit of information (water) to activate an entire channel. This is the pattern recognition and pattern completion process of the brain. Even if much of the information is out of the channel, the pattern will be activated. The mind automatically corrects and completes the information to select and activate a pattern.

This is why when we sit down and try to will new ideas or solutions, we tend to keep coming up with the same-old, same-old ideas. Information is flowing down the same ruts and grooves making the same-old connections producing the same old ideas over and over again.

Creativity occurs when we tilt the jelly dish and force the water (information) to flow into new channels and make new connections. These new connections give you different ways to focus your attention and different ways to interpret whatever you are focusing on. These different ways of focusing your attention and different ways of interpreting what you are focusing on lead to new insights, original ideas and solutions.

You cannot will yourself to look at things in a different way, no matter how inspired you are to do so. To illustrate, following are two rows of parallel dots which are equal in length. Try to will yourself to see the rows of dots as unequal in length. No matter how hard you concentrate and how long you look at the dots, the two rows remain equal.

UNEVEN DOTS

However, if you change the way you look at the dots by combining the dots with two convergent straight lines, your perception of the dots changes. When you do that, the top row appears longer than the other one.

COMBINING DOTS.LINES

The rows are still equal (go ahead and measure them), yet, you are now seeing something different. Combining the dots with straight lines focused your attention in a different way and caught your brain’s processing routines by surprise. This provoked a different thinking pattern that changed your perception of the illustration and allowed you to see something that you could not otherwise see.

If one particular thinking strategy stands out for creative geniuses throughout history, it is the ability to provoke different thinking patterns by using creative thinking techniques that enable them to perceive conceptual, analogical and metaphorical juxtapositions between dissimilar and unrelated subjects and information.

WAKE UP YOUR IMAGINATION

 

 

 

 

Following are tips to help you activate your imagination and make your thinking more dynamic.

• Take a walk around your neighborhood and look for something interesting.
• Make metaphorical-analogical connections between that something interesting and your problem.
• Open a dictionary and randomly point to a noun. Use it in a sentence. Force connections between the word and your problem.
• State your challenge as a question “In what ways might I………..? Then restate it 5 different times using different verbs.
• How is an iceberg like an idea that might help you solve your problem?
• Tape record your ideas on your commute to and from work.
• Keep a log of your ideas, intuitions and dreams. At the end of the week review your log. Any new insights?
• Create a prayer asking for specific help with your problem. What is it that you still need to understand?
• Spend 1 hour daily totally immersing yourself in the subject matter.
• Read a different newspaper. If you read the Wall Street Journal, read the Washington Post.
• What else is like the problem? What other ideas does it suggest?
• What or who can you copy?
• Create the most bizarre idea you can? Try to imagineer it into a realistic solution
• List all the things that bug you about the problem.
• Take a different route to work.
• Make up and sing a song about the problem while taking a shower.
• Listen to a different radio station each day. Listen for a message.
• Ask the most creative person you know.
• Ask five people how they would improve your ideas.
• Make up new words that describe the problem. E.g., “Warm hugs” to describe a motivation problem and “Painted rain” to describe a changing customer.
• What is the essence of the problem? Can you find parallel examples of the essence in other worlds? Do they create patterns that inspire any new thoughts.
• Take up doodling as a daily practice. Brilliant ideas often start as a scribble on a cocktail napkin or envelope.
• Go for a drive with the windows open. Listen and smell as you drive. Think about what it is you still don’t understand about the problem.
• Combine your ideas?
• Learn and use the creative thinking techniques creative geniuses have used throughout history.
• Create an idea piggy bank and deposit three ideas daily.
• Give yourself an idea quota of 40 ideas when brainstorming.
• How many of the ideas can you combine with each other?
• Can you substitute something?
• Which of two objects, a salt shaker or a bottle of ketchup, best represents your problem? Why?
• What can you add?
• What one word represents the problem?
• Draw an abstract symbol that best represents the problem.
• Think of a two-word book title that best represents the problem.
• Write a table of contents for a book about the problem.
• Can you think of other uses for any of your ideas?
• What is the opposite of your idea?
• Think paradoxically. Imagine your idea and its opposite existing simultaneously.
• Look in other domains. If your problem is selling, ask how do politicians sell? How do sports networks sell? How do religions sell? How do fast-food franchises sell?
• Laugh more. Be more childlike in your work.
• Think out loud. Verbalize your thinking out loud about the problem.
• List 20 objects into two columns of 10. Randomly connect objects from column 1 to column 2 to see what new products develop.
• How would Walt Disney approach the problem?
• Write the alphabet backwards.
• How would a college professor perceive it?
• How would an artist perceive it? A risk-taking entrepreneur? A priest?
• Imagine you are at a nudist beach in Tahiti. How could talking with nudists help you with the problem?
• Can you find the ideas you need hidden in the clouds?
• Learn how to tolerate ambiguity and dwell in the grey zone.
• Make three parallel lists of ten words. The first list is nouns. The second list if verbs and the third adjectives. Then look for intriguing connections between them.
• Make the strange familiar. What would a fantasy solution look like? Does this give you any clues?
• What if you were the richest person on earth? How will the money help you solve the problem?
• If you could have three wishes to help you solve the problem, what would they be?
• Wear purple underwear for inspiration
• Write a letter to your subconscious mind about the problem. Ask your subconscious to solve the problem. Then mail the letter to yourself.
• How would Donald Trump solve the problem?
• Forget the problem. Incubate it. Come back to it in three days. Stay conscious of any new thoughts that pop up during this down time.
• Look at the problem from at least three different perspectives.
• Imagine the problem is solved. Work backwards from the solution to where you are now.
• How would the problem be solved 100 years from now.
• Think about it before you go to sleep.
• When you wake, write down everything you can remember about your dreams. Next, try to make metaphorical-analogical connections between your dreams and the problem.
• Imagine you are on national television. Explain the problem and your ideas on how to solve the problem.
• What one object or thing best symbolizes the problem? Keep the object on your desk to constantly remind you about the problem.
• List all the words that come to mind while thinking about the problem. Are there any themes? Interesting words? Connections? Surprises?
• What if ants could help you solve the problem? What are the parallels between ants and humans that can help?
• Create a silly way to walk that physically represents your problem.
• Talk to a stranger about the problem.
• Keep a written record of all your ideas. Review them weekly. Can you cross-fertilize your ideas?
• How would an Olympic gold medal winner approach the problem?
• Read a poem and relate it to the problem. What new thoughts does the poem inspire?
• What associations can you make between your problem and an oil spill?
• If your problem were a garden, what would be the weeds.
• Change your daily routines. If you drink coffee, change to tea.
• List your assumptions about the problem and then reverse them. Can you make the reversals into new ideas?
• Describe your problem metaphorically. How is your problem like a half-eaten frozen pizza?
• Draw the problem with your eyes closed.
• Create a dance that represents your problem.
• Mind map your problem.
• Become a dreamer and create fantasies that will solve the problem.
• Become a realist and imagineer your fantasies into workable ideas.
• Complete “How can I _____?” Then change the verb five different times.
• Can you intuit the solution?
• Open a magazine and free associate off the photos.
• What have you learned from your failures? What have you discovered that you didn’t set out to discover?
• Make connections between subjects in different domains. Banking + cars = drive in banking.
• Immerse yourself in the problem. Imagine you are the problem. What would you feel? What are your hopes and fears?
• What are the parallels between your problem and the Gulf war.
• Hang out with people from diverse backgrounds.
• Create a funny story out of the problem. If you can, make it into a joke.
• Make analogies between your problem and nature.
• Imagine you are a member of the opposite sex out on a date. You are having a conversation about problems. How do you describe the problem to your date seductively?
• Force yourself to constantly smile when you are brainstorming.
• Select a book that is not related to your subject. Skim through the book looking for thoughts and ideas you can cross-fertilize with your problem.
• Sit outside and count the stars. Make all the associations you can between what you see in the sky and the problem.
• Walk through a grocery store and metaphorically connect what you see with the problem. How is the way meat is displayed like an idea I can use to solve my problem.
• How would you explain the problem to a six year old child?
• Cut out interesting magazine and newspaper pictures. Then arrange and paste them on a board making a collage that represents the problem.
• Write a six word book that describes your progress on the problem. E.g. “At present all thoughts are gray,” “I am still not seeing everything.”
• What is impossible to do in your business but if it were possible would change the nature of your problem forever?
• Suppose you could have Leonardo da Vinci work with you on the problem. What would you ask him?

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