What I Was Not Taught In School About Creative Thinking

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.

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.

(Michael Michalko is the author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Thinking Strategies of Creative Geniuses; Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck, and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work. http://www.creativethinking.net)

How a horse inspired the telegraph

When most people use their imaginations to develop new ideas, those ideas are heavily structured in predictable ways by the properties of existing categories and concepts. In school you are taught to define, label, and segregate what you learn into separate categories. The various categories are kept separate and not allowed to touch each other, much like ice cubes in a tray. Once something is learned and categorized, your thoughts about it become frozen. For example, once you learn what a telegraph is, whenever someone mentions “telegraph” you know exactly what it is.

Samuel Morse invented the telegraph but he became stumped trying to figure out how to produce a signal strong enough to be received over great distances. The traditional solution was to use a generator. They made large and larger generators but they were still not sufficient to power a signal coast to coast. He worked long and hard on the problem.

Leonardo da Vinci wrote in his journals that creative thinking requires the ability to generate a host of associations and connections between two or more dissimilar subjects, creating new categories and concepts. You force connections between dissimilar subjects to provoke new thinking patterns in your brain. These new patterns generate new associations and connections which lead you to original ideas you cannot get using your usual way of thinking.

Imagine, for a moment, that thought is water. When you are born, your mind is like a glass of water. Your thinking is inclusive, clear, and fluid. All thoughts intermingle and combine with each other and make all kinds of connections and associations. This is why children are spontaneously creative.

However, in school you are taught to think exclusively. When confronted with a problem, you examine your mind’s ice cube tray and select the appropriate cube. Then you take the cube and put it in a glass, where your thinking heats and melts it. For example, if the problem is to “power the telegraph coast to coast,” the glass will contain all you have learned about the telegraph and ways to power it and nothing more. You are thinking exclusively, which is to say you are thinking only about what you have learned about the telegraph and exclude everything else. No matter how many times the water is stirred, you end up creating, at best, a marginal improvement.

One day Morse was waiting for a ride at a horse relay station. Idly waiting, he contemplated ways to power the telegraph while simultaneously thinking about tired horses being exchanged at the station. He made the observation that one can travel coast to coast by periodically changing horses at horse relay stations. He then forced a connection between powering the telegraph with exchanging horses at relay station to solve his problem. The solution was to give the traveling telegraphic signal periodic boosts of power. This made the coast-to-coast telegraph possible.

Morse tried to solve his problem using one cube from the ice cube tray (the telegraph) with no luck. It was when he dropped another cube (horse relay stations) into the glass that the two dissimilarities conceptually blended into the solution. Da Vinci reported that is impossible to simultaneously think of two dissimilar subjects without connections being made. DaVinci labeled this technique as “Connecting the Unconnected. In my work in the field of creative thinking I discovered that this is a commonly used technique used by creative geniuses throughout history to provoke different thinking patterns.

Michael Michalko

www.creativethinking.net

This computer can read your mind

24The game is powered by an incredible Artificial Intelligence that thinks up its own questions and generates answers based on what it has learned. 20Q’s AI is not pre-programmed, and its “Uncommon Knowledge” is generated when it comes up with something that seems odd and doesn’t fit in with what the AI knows. It makes its own judgment calls on how to interpret information, becoming more “intelligent” over time by refining distinctions through play. You are encouraged to answer based on your initial reaction to questions. The more you play 20Q while focusing on a particular object, the more the AI will learn about it. Pit yourself against the amazing 20Q AI as it learns by playing with you. See how you do. Click on the link below and start playing.

LINK: http://20q.net

(Michael Michalko is the author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Thinking Strategies of Creative Geniuses; Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck, and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work. http://www.creativethinking.net

 

 

A Simple Test of Your Logical Reasoning Ability

 

animals

Peter Cathcart Wason was a cognitive psychologist at University College, London who pioneered the Psychology of Reasoning. He progressed explanations as to why people make certain consistent mistakes in logical reasoning. The problem described below is a variation on the Wason selection task that was devised by Peter Wason. The Wason selection task was originally developed as a test of logical reasoning, but it has increasingly been used by psychologists to analyze the structure of human reasoning mechanisms.

Consider the following problem. Four cards are laid out with their faces displaying respectively, an A, a B, a 4 and a 7.

A    B    4    7

You are told that each card has a letter on one side and a number on the other. You are then given a rule, whose truth you are expected to evaluate. The rule is: “If a card has a vowel on one side, then it has an even number on the other.” You are then allowed to turn over two, but only two, cards in order to determine whether the rule is correct as stated.

Which two cards do you turn over?

If you worked this problem silently, you will almost certainly miss it, as have the large percentage of subjects to whom it has been presented. Most subjects realize that there is no need to select the card bearing the consonant, since it is irrelevant to the rule; they also appreciate that it is essential to turn over the card with the vowel, for an odd number opposite would prove the rule incorrect.

The wording of the problem determines the perspective most people mentally default to almost immediately. Most people assume that the object is to examine the cards to ascertain that if a card has a vowel on one side, then it has an even number on the other; and if a card has an even number on one side, then it has a vowel on the other side. This assumption leads them to make the fatal error of picking the card with the even number, because the even number is mentioned in the rule. But, in fact, it is irrelevant whether there is a vowel or a consonant on the other side, since the rule does not take a stand on what must be opposite to even numbers.

On the other hand, it is essential to pick the card with the odd number on it. If that card has a consonant on it, the result is irrelevant. If, however, the card has a vowel on it, the rule in question has been proved incorrect, for the card must (according to the rule) have an even (and not an odd) number on it.

The content of this specific problem influenced the way we constructed our perception of the problem. This perception created the assumption that leads to error. This should give one pause about mentally defaulting to first impressions. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote in his notebooks that one should always assume that your first impression of a problem is usually biased toward your usual way of thinking. He suggested looking at your problem in at least three different ways to get a better understanding.

“If a card has a vowel on one side, then it has an even number on the other.” Here we are working with letters and numbers. Transposing the words to read “If a card has an even number on one side, then……….” Clarifies the problem and gives us a different perspective on even numbered cards. It becomes apparent that what even numbered cards have on the other side has no significance. The rule is only concerned with cards that have vowels on one side.

Sigmund Freud would “reframe” something to transform its meaning by putting it into a different framework or context than it has previously been perceived. For example, by reframing the “unconscious” as a part of him that was “infantile,” Freud began to help his patients change the way they thought and reacted to their own behavior.

The important thing is not to persist with one way of looking at the problem. Consider the following interesting twist, again using four cards. This time, however, we reframe the problem by substituting journeys and modes of transportation for letters and numbers. Each card has a city on one side and a mode of transportation on the other.

LOS ANGELES    NEW YORK    AIRPLANE    CAR

This time, the cards have printed on them the legends, respectively, Los Angeles, New York, airplane, and car; and the rule is reframed to read: “Every time I go to Los Angeles, I travel by airplane. While this rule is identical to the number-letter version, it poses little difficulty for individuals. In fact, now 80 percent of subjects immediately realize the need to turn over the card with “car” on it.

Apparently, one realizes that if the card with “car” on it has the name “Los Angeles” on the back, the rule has been proved incorrect; whereas it is immaterial what it says on the back of the airplane since, as far as the rule is concerned, one can go to New York any way one wants.

Why is it that 80 percent of subjects get this problem right, whereas only 10 percent know which cards to turn over in the vowel-number version? By changing the content (cities and modes of transportation substituted for letters and numbers), we restructured the problem, which dramatically changed our reasoning. The structure of a problem colors our perspective and the way we think.

The significant point about this test is that we are incredibly bad at it. And it doesn’t make much difference what the level of education is of the person taking the test. Moreover, even training in formal logic seems to make little difference to a person’s performance. The mistake that we tend to make is fairly standard. People almost always recognize that they have to pick up the card with the vowel, but they fail to see that they also have to pick up the card with the odd number. They think instead that they have to pick up the card with the even number.

One of the most interesting things about this phenomenon is that even when the correct answer is pointed out, people feel resistance to it. It apparently feels “right” that the card with the even number should be picked up. It feels right because your initial perspective is biased toward the usual way of thinking. It is only when you look at it from different perspectives that you get a deeper understanding of the problem.

………………………………………..

Learn how creative geniuses throughout history looked at problems using multiple perspectives.

 Read https://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Creativity-Secrets-Creative-Genius/dp/1580083110/ref=pd_sim_14_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=CAJTPVGTFC7R940PAQSN

 

 

 

 

 

HOW WOULD A YOUNG GIRL SOLVE YOUR PROBLEM?

 

lipstick-printsBecause our perceptual positions determine how we view things, it’s important to learn how to shift our perspective to look at our subject in different ways. One way to shift perception is to try and look at the subject from someone else’s perspective. Soren Kierkegaard, the nineteenth century Danish philosopher, called this kind of thinking the “rotation” method .” He was thinking of crops while simultaneously thinking about perspective. You can’t grow corn indefinitely on the same field; at some point, to refresh the soil, you have to plant hay.  Similarly, to grow a different perspective, it’s helpful to adopt a different role to expand your creative consciousness toward your problem.

All of us with a little thought can come up with easy ways to change our perspectives by adopting a different role. Peggy Dupra a middle school principal had a problem with her female pupils who were experimenting with lipstick. The girls were kissing the mirrors in the bathroom leaving their lip prints on bathroom mirrors. The maintenance department constantly asked her to have the pupils stop this practice. Peggy lectured, pleaded and threatened the girls with detention, but nothing seemed to help.

Peggy invited me to discuss the problem with her teachers. I talked about perception and how we see no more than what we expect to see. My message was that if you change the way you look at the problem, the nature of the problem will change. I dimmed the lights and asked them to do a little exercise. The exercise I had them perform was to think back in time to when they were the same age as their students.

They thought of their life experiences, pictured their parents, friends and relatives as they looked then. They began remembering all sorts of past friends, and, importantly, how they really felt at the time about the world. The more they remembered the more they felt like young school girls. After a few minutes, they became aware of random thoughts and images from years ago.

They had a ball remembering those days. One teacher laughed when she thought of her best friend Ellen of years ago and how they always tried to gross each other out in a game they called “Yechhhh!” She remembered one time when they spread the rumor that the cafeteria was using sewage water from a ditch to make pizzas to save water. Once the students heard the rumor, they refused to eat the pizza.

Suddenly Peggy got an insight from the teacher’s story. She said “That’s it!” What rumor can we start that will stop the girls from kissing the mirrors? They came up with several and eventually agreed upon one. After conspiring with the janitor, Peggy invited a group of girls into the bathroom saying she wanted them to witness the extra work they made for the janitor cleaning their lip prints.

The janitor came in and stepped into an open toilet stall. He dipped his squeegee into a toilet, shook off the excess toilet water then used the squeegee to clean the mirrors. The students were appalled. They immediately told all their friends that the janitor was using toilet water to clean the mirrors. Changing the teacher’s perspective of the problem from an adult to a young girl introduced a clever solution to the problem that they probably could not have discovered using their usual way of thinking.

Michael Michalko

 

(Michael Michalko is the highly-acclaimed author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Thinking Strategies of Creative Geniuses;  Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck, and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work. http://www.creativethinking.net)

 

 

 

 

HOW LEONARDO DA VINCI HELPED ME GET MY BOOK PUBLISHED

Years back, I submitted my first manuscript Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques to a number of commercial publishers. All the major publishers responded that they did not review manuscripts that were not represented by agents. When I approached the major agents, I was told that they not represent anyone who was not published. It was a classic Catch-22.

I regarded this as simply another challenge to be overcome. I thought about the creative thinking techniques of Leonardo da Vinci that I researched and wrote about in my book. He believed that it is impossible for the human mind to deliberate on two separate ideas or objects, no matter how dissimilar, without eventually forming a connection between the two. These connections excite the mind and lead to creative ideas that you cannot get using your usual way of thinking.

Leonardo called this technique “connecting the unconnected.” Accordingly, I took out a deck of Tarot cards (Gypsy fortune-telling cards) that I played with from time to time. I shuffled the deck, closed my eyes, and randomly pulled out a card. The card I pulled was the “Death” card. Intrigued, I began to wonder what connections could I force between death and getting a publisher to read my manuscript. What does death have to do with publishers reviewing manuscripts?

I thought of death: the causes, grieving, burials, how animals and birds die, how fish die, rituals, memorial services, the undertakers, decomposition, cultural attitudes, wakes, preparations for burial, epitaphs, gravestones, eulogies, obituaries, and so on. I spent a lot of time wondering about the essence of death. What does death mean?

Then one day as I walked leisurely through the woods not thinking of anything in particular, a thought came to me out of the blue. I thought death means leaving one’s loved ones and friends behind. Suddenly, I had my idea. I thought of people leaving one publisher for a better job with another publisher. Thus, leaving one’s friends and colleagues behind.

I went to the library and looked up Publisher’s Weekly, the publishing industry journal. Inside I found a section titled “People on the Move.” It described people’s movement in the industry. I discovered that one of the editors (I’ll call him Tom) who refused to review my manuscript had moved on to become editor-in-chief for a competing publisher. I became interested in the people he left behind at his former publisher.

My idea was to write a letter to Tom’s former editor-in-chief where he worked before he left to work for a competitor. My letter read as follows:

Dear Editor-in-Chief:

My manuscript that your editor Tom was so excited about is finally finished. I promised Tom that he would be the first publisher to review and evaluate it. I would not submit it to other publishers until he made a decision to publish or not to publish.

However, I cannot locate Tom. Your company’s receptionist told me he is no longer employed by your company and was not able to advise me who to contact for his current location. If you know, I would very much appreciate it if you would please let me know how and where I can contact him so I can deliver my promised manuscript.

Sincerely,

Michael Michalko

I sent this letter to three different publishers about three different editors who had accepted better jobs with other publishers. All three publishers demanded the manuscript immediately. One called and threatened me with a lawsuit unless I delivered the manuscript to them ASAP. All three wanted the publishing rights and got into a bidding war for the contract. I received a lucrative advance from the high bidder. All offers were from companies who claimed they would not review manuscripts not represented by agents.

Thank you, Leonardo da Vinci, for showing me once again how to get the unconventional idea by connecting the unconnected.

(Michael Michalko is the highly-acclaimed author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Thinking Strategies of Creative Geniuses; Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck, and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work. http://www.creativethinking.net)

Your Words Shape Your Thoughts

 

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle was responsible for producing some of the greatest advances in human thought.  Modern society and education have tended to focus more on the discoveries resulting from these strategies than on the mental processes through which the discoveries were made. Many of his discoveries were the result of his work with language.

According to Aristotle, words are sounds that become symbols of mental experience through the association with past experiences and the processes of the subconscious mind. As a result, words can both reflect and shape mental thought. By using verbal prompts, he was able to draw out related ideas through the process of association and generate a multiplicity of different perspectives.

Below is an illustration of scattered dots and splashes. Can you spot any specific object in the illustration? Spend a few moments trying before you read further.

dog-dots

 

 

The chaotic spread of dots and splashes create a visual noise that monopolizes the brain and leaves so little processing power that it’s difficult for the brain to consciously perceive the object, making it effectively invisible. However, if I asked you to spot the dog, the word “dog” will trigger your subconscious mind. Your subconscious will process thoughts and information about your experiences with dogs and will shape the way you perceive the patterns in the illustration. Eventually, you will spot a dog in the center. One word changed your perception.

Words also shape thought. To start with, it’s helpful to carefully choose words when phrasing a problem. Imagine you are the person in the illustration below. Your challenge is to tie together the ends of the two strings suspended from the ceiling. The strings are located so you cannot reach one string with your outstretched hand while holding the second. The room is bare, and you have only the things with you that you have in your pocket today. How do you solve the problem?

Initially, you might state the problem as: “How can I get to the second string?” Phrasing it this way gives you only one perception of the problem and you would then waste your energy trying to get to the second string, which is not possible.

In order to avoid settling for your first perception of the problem, the phrase “In what ways might I…….?” will invite you to look for alternative perceptions.  For example, if you phrased it (In what ways might I and the string get together?), you will likely come up with the solution—to tie a small object (such as a key, ring, watch, or belt) to the end of one string and set it in motion like a pendulum, then grab it while still holding the second string in your hand.

In each and every experience there is a multitude of other experiences lying in wait. Once you chose one you marginalize the others. To say it very simply, the moment we call something “a” we have marginalized all of its other possible states (b, c, d, e, and so on) into nothingness because we don’t see them. Once the problem was shaped as how to get to the second string all other possible perceptions were marginalized.

When you look at a problem using a multiplicity of perspectives instead of one stabilized view, you bring forth a new understanding of the possibilities. The important thing is not to persist with one way of looking at problems. Try to come up with different ways to look at them. When Richard Feynman, the Nobel Laureate physicist, was “stuck” with a problem, he would look at it in a different way. If one way didn’t work, he would switch to another. Whatever came up, he would always find another way to look at it.

CHANGE THE WORDS. A quick and easy way to generate a multiplicity of perspectives is to simply change the words. For every word a person uses, there is a mediating response which provides the meaning of that concept for that individual.  Many times they may not be responses in the usual sense but all provide meaning of that concept for that individual. When you change the words in your problem statement, you initiate an unobservable process in your mind that may lead to a new perspective.

Toyota asked employees for ideas on how they could become more productive. They received few suggestions. They reworded the question to: “In what ways might I make my job easier?” They were inundated with ideas. Even tiny changes with words can lead to unpredictable, cataclysmic results.

Examine your problem statement, identify the key words, and change them five to ten times to look at your problem through different perspectives. Suppose you want to increase sales. Look at the different perspectives created by just changing the verb:

In what ways might I discover sales? In what ways might I adapt selling techniques from others?

Provoke sales? Advertise sales? Target sales? Inspire sales? Teach sales? Encourage sales? Grow sales? Evolve sales? Complement sales? Acquire sales? Predict sales? Segregate sales? Motivate sales? Invest in sales? Renew sales? Combine sales? Organize sales? Upgrade sales?

Following is a list of verbs to use as a tool when formulating problem statements. Simply scan the list changing the verb when appropriate and you will find yourself producing several different ways to look at your problem.

verbs-action

 

PLAYING WITH VERBS AND NOUNS. Playing with verbs and nouns encourages you to think of perspectives that you would probably not think of spontaneously. Try changing the nouns into verbs and verbs into nouns in your problem statement. For example, a problem might be “How to sell more bottles ?” Changing the verbs into nouns and nouns into verbs makes this into “How to bottle more sales?” Bottling sales now suggests looking for ways to close sales, instead of ways to sell more bottles.

The problem “How to improve customer relations?” becomes “How to customize related improvements?” This new perspective leads one to consider customizing products and services for customers, customizing all relevant aspects of the customer relations department, and so on.

TRANSPOSE THE WORDS. One of Aristotle=s favorite ways to test a premise was what he called Aconvertibility.@ He felt that if a premise were true than the negative premise should be convertible. For example, if every pleasure is good, some good must be pleasure. By simply transposing words, you achieved a different perspective. Sometimes changing the order of words in a problem statement will create a verbal-conceptual chain that may trigger a different perspective.

In the following illustration, words were arranged in two different series, “A” and “B,” and subjects were asked to solve certain situations. When “skyscraper” was listed first, subjects tended to come up architectural concepts, and when “prayer” was transposed with Askyscraper@ and listed first, it increased the likelihood of a religious direction.

SERIES A                                                                      SERIES B

SKYSCRAPER                                                               PRAYER

PRAYER                                                                       SKYSCRAPER

TEMPLE                                                                       TEMPLE

CATHEDRAL                                                                CATHEDRAL

To change the order, transpose the words in your problem. Following are some examples:

In what ways might I get a promotion?

To: In what ways might I promote myself?

 

In what ways might I advertise my T-shirts?

In what ways might I use my T-shirts to advertise?

 

In what ways might I learn how to use the Internet?

In what ways might I use the Internet to learn more?

“All words are pegs to hang ideas on.”
Henry Ward Beecher

 

For more information about how to look at things differently, read Cracking Creativity (Secrets of Creative Genius) by creativity expert Michael Michalko

http://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Creativity-Secrets-Creative-Genius/dp/1580083110/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=16NCRBEMHRCEQ1RAZG5V

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW TO CREATE A GOOD MOOD WHEN YOU NEED ONE

voltaire

Our attitudes influence our behavior. But it’s also true that our behavior can influence our attitudes. The Greek philosopher Diogenes was once noticed begging a statue. His friends were puzzled and alarmed at this behavior. Asked the reason for this pointless behavior, Diogenes replied, “I am practicing the art of being rejected.” By pretending to be rejected continually by the statue, Diogenes was learning to understand the mind of a beggar. Every time we pretend to have an attitude and go through the motions, we trigger the emotions we pretend to have and strengthen the attitude we wish to cultivate.

You become what you pretend to be. The surrealist artist Salvador Dalí was pathologically shy as a child. He hid in closets and avoided all human contact, until his uncle counseled him on how to overcome this shyness. He advised Dalí to be an actor and to pretend he played the part of an extrovert. At first Dalí was full of doubts. But when he adopted the pose of an extrovert, his brain soon adapted itself to the role he was playing. Dalí’s pretense changed his psychology.

Think for a moment about social occasions — visits, dates, dinners out with friends, birthday parties, weddings, and other gatherings. Even when we’re unhappy or depressed, these occasions force us to act as if we are happy. Observing others’ faces, postures, and voices, we unconsciously mimic their reactions. We synchronize our movements, postures, and tones of voice with theirs. Then, by mimicking happy people, we become happy.

CIA researchers have long been interested in developing techniques to help them study the facial expressions of suspects. Two such researchers began simulating facial expressions of anger and distress all day, each day for weeks. One of them admitted feeling terrible after a session of making those faces. Then the other realized that he too felt poorly, so they began to keep track. They began monitoring their bodies while simulating facial expressions. Their findings were remarkable. They discovered that a facial expression alone is sufficient to create marked changes in the nervous system.

In one exercise they raised their inner eyebrows, raised their cheeks, and lowered the corner of their lips and held this facial expression for a few minutes. They were stunned to discover that this simple facial expression generated feelings of sadness and anguish within them. The researchers then decided to monitor the heart rates and body temperatures of two groups of people. One group was asked to remember and relive their most sorrowful experiences. The other group in another room was simply asked to produce a series of facial expressions expressing sadness. Remarkably, the second group, the people who were pretending, showed the same physiological responses as the first. Try the following thought experiment.

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

  • Lower your eyebrows.
  • Raise your upper eyelids.
  • Narrow your eyelids.
  • Press your lips together.

Hold this expression and you will generate anger. Your heartbeat will go up ten or twelve beats per minute. Your hands will get hot, and you will feel very unpleasant.

The next time you’re feeling depressed and want to feel happy and positive, try this: put a pen between your teeth, in far enough so that it stretches the edges of your mouth out to the left and right without feeling uncomfortable. Hold it there for five minutes or so. You’ll find yourself inexplicably in a happy mood. You will amaze yourself at how fast your facial expressions can change your emotions. Amazingly, an expression you do not even know you have can create an emotion that you did not deliberately choose to feel. Emotion doesn’t just go from the inside out. It goes from the outside in.

HOW TO CREATE A GOOD MOOD

Psychologist Theodore Velten created a mood induction procedure that psychologists have used for years to induce a positive mind-set, especially in psychology experiments. It’s a simple approach that involves reading, reflecting on, and trying to feel the effects of some fifty-eight positive affirmations as they wash over you. The statements start out being fairly neutral and then become progressively more positive. They are specifically designed to produce a euphoric state of mind.

Velten’s Instructions: Read each of the following statements to yourself. As you look at each one, focus your observation only on that one. You should not spend too much time on any one statement. To experience the mood suggested in the statement, you must be willing to accept and respond to the idea. Allow the emotion in the statement to act upon you. Then try to produce the feeling suggested by each statement. Visualize a scene in which you experienced such a feeling. Imagine reliving the scene. The entire exercise should take about ten minutes.

VELTEN MOOD INDUCTION STATEMENTS

  1. Today is neither better nor worse than any other day.
  2. I do feel pretty good today, though.
  3. I feel lighthearted.
  4. This might turn out to have been one of my good days.
  5. If your attitude is good, then things are good, and my attitude is good.
  6. I feel cheerful and lively.
  7. I’ve certainly got energy and self-confidence to share.
  8. On the whole, I have very little difficulty in thinking clearly.
  9. My friends and family are pretty proud of me most of the time.
  10. I’m in a good position to make a success of things.
  11. For the rest of the day, I bet things will go really well.
  12. I’m pleased that most people are so friendly to me.
  13. My judgments about most things are sound.
  14. The more I get into things, the easier they become for me.
  15. I’m full of energy and ambition — I feel like I could go a long time without sleep.
  16. This is one of those days when I can get things done with practically no effort at all.
  17. My judgment is keen and precise today. Just let someone try to put something over on me.
  18. When I want to, I can make friends extremely easily.
  19. If I set my mind to it, I can make things turn out fine.
  20. I feel enthusiastic and confident now.
  21. There should be opportunity for a lot of good times coming along.
  22. My favorite songs keep going through my mind.
  23. Some of my friends are so lively and optimistic.
  24. I feel talkative — I feel like talking to almost anybody.
  25. I’m full of energy, and am really getting to like the things I’m doing.
  26. I feel like bursting with laughter — I wish somebody would tell a joke and give me an excuse.
  27. I feel an exhilarating animation in all I do.
  28. My memory is in rare form today.
  29. I’m able to do things accurately and efficiently.
  30. I know good and well that I can achieve the goals I set.
  31. Now that it occurs to me, most of the things that have depressed me wouldn’t have if I’d just had the right attitude.
  32. I have a sense of power and vigor.
  33. I feel so vivacious and efficient today — sitting on top of the world.
  34. It would really take something to stop me now.
  35. In the long run, it’s obvious that things have gotten better and better during my life.
  36. I know in the future I won’t overemphasize so-called “problems.”
  37. I’m optimistic that I can get along very well with most of the people I meet.
  38. I’m too absorbed in things to have time for worry.
  39. I’m feeling amazingly good today.
  40. I am particularly inventive and resourceful in this mood.
  41. I feel superb! I think I can work to the best of my ability.
  42. Things look good. Things look great!
  43. I feel that many of my friendships will stick with me in the future.
  44. I feel highly perceptive and refreshed.
  45. I can find the good in almost everything.
  46. In a buoyant mood like this one, I can work fast and do it right the first time.
  47. I can concentrate hard on anything I do.
  48. My thinking is clear and rapid.
  49. Life is so much fun; it seems to offer so many sources of fulfillment.
  50. Things will be better and better today.
  51. I can make decisions rapidly and correctly, and I can defend them against criticisms easily.
  52. I feel industrious as heck — I want something to do!
  53. Life is firmly in my control.
  54. I wish somebody would play some good, loud music!
  55. This is great — I really do feel good. I am elated about things!
  56. I’m really feeling sharp now.
  57. This is just one of those days when I’m ready to go!
  58. Wow, I feel great!

You’ll find yourself feeling good about yourself and thinking harmonious thoughts. When you are in a good mood, you find your body exhibiting it in your behavior. You’ll smile, and you’ll walk briskly.

MONA LISA’S SMILE

mona-lisa

Leonardo da Vinci once observed that it’s no mystery why it is fun to be around happy people and depressing to be around depressed people. He also observed a melancholy atmosphere in many portraits. He attributed that to the solitariness of artists and their environment. According to Giorgio Vasari, Leonardo, while painting the Mona Lisa, employed singers, musicians, and jesters to chase away his melancholy as he painted. As a result, he painted a smile so pleasing that it seems divine and as alive as the original. …………………………………………………………………………………………………

(Michael Michalko is a highly-acclaimed creativity expert and the author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Thinking Strategies of Creative Geniuses; Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck, and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.  http://www.creativethinking.net)