Creativity demands that we should approach a problem on its own terms and look for a multiplicity of ways of looking at it and a multiplicity of ways of solving it. We are not taught that. Instead, we are taught that there are clear constraints on thinking. When confronted with a problem, we are taught to analytically select one approach, excluding all others and work within a clearly defined logical direction to solve the problem.

We are taught Aristotelian logic which is black or white thinking reasoning. For example, it states that identity is “either this or that.” A = A or A is not A. Look at a chair. A chair is either a chair or it is not a chair. It must be one or the other. It cannot be both according to the constraints of logic.

Yet suppose I take a wooden chair and gradually dismantle it … take a leg off, break off a bit of the back, cut away half of the seat, and so on. At what point exactly does it cease being a chair and start becoming a heap of wood? The point cannot be determined because the chair has no power to define itself. Nor is there any ideal chair form that magically appears when all the wood is arranged a certain way at a definite point in its assembly. Only your mind can make the distinction between the chair and a heap of wood. There are no systems of thinking, no logical rules, no steps or procedures, and no decision trees that can help you decide when to cease calling it a chair or to begin calling it a pile of wood.

Look at the rotating pink dot in the illustration below. The dot is either a pink dot or it is not a pink dot. Yet, if you look at the black + in the center, then the moving dot will turn green. Now, stare at the black + in the center of the picture … really concentrate on it. After you concentrate your focus on the + for a little while, all of the pink dots will slowly disappear, and you will only see a green dot rotating. This, of course, is not logical. Dots cannot change colors and dots cannot disappear right before your eyes.

The Green Dot

The illustration used in this exercise was developed by M Bach & JL Hinton ©2005.

This illustrates one difference between a logical person and a creative person. Ask a logical person to identify the pattern and the person will identify it as a pattern with a rotating pink dot. A creative person, on the other hand, will identify the pink dot and then will look at the pattern in many different ways to find all of the different colored dots and patterns.