IMAGINATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEDGE

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Imagination is more important than intelligence. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is possible, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. It is arguably the most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to imagine and synthesize experiences we have never shared. Creative thinkers can imagine themselves into other people’s minds, imagine themselves into other people’s places, can even imagine forces of nature.

Think of how Albert Einstein changed our understanding of time and space by imagining people going to the center of time in order to freeze their lovers or their children in century-long embraces; this place is clearly reminiscent of a black hole, where, theoretically, gravity would stop time. Another time he imagined a woman’s heart leaping and falling in love two weeks before she has met the man she loves which lead to the understanding of acausality a feature of quantum mechanics.  And still another time he imagined a blind beetle crawling around a sphere thinking it was crawling in a straight line.

Try to solve the following thought experiment before you read the paragraph that follows it.

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT 

One morning, exactly at sunrise, a Buddhist monk began to climb a tall mountain. The narrow path no more than a foot or two wide, spiraled the mountain to a glittering temple at the summit. The monk ascended the path at varying rate of speed, stopping many times along the way to rest and to eat the dried fruit he carried with him. He reached the temple shortly before sunset. After several days of fasting and meditation he began his journey back along the same path, starting at sunrise and again walking at variable speeds with many stops along the way. His average speed descending was, of course, greater than his average climbing speed. Prove that there is a spot along the path that the monk will occupy on both trips at precisely the same time of day.

If you try to logically reason this out or use a mathematical approach you will conclude that it is unlikely for the monk to find himself at the same time of day, on the same spot on two different occasions. To solve it, visualize the monk walking up the hill, at the same time imagine the same monk walking down the hill. The two figures must meet at some point in time “regardless” at what speed they walk or how often they stop. Whether the monk descends two days or three days it makes no difference it all comes out to the same thing.

Now it is, of course, quite impossible for the monk to duplicate himself, and to be walking up the mountain and down the mountain at one and the same time. But in the visual image he does; and it is precisely this indifference to logic, this superimposing one image over the other that leads to the solution.

The imaginative conception of the monk meeting himself blends the journeys up and down the mountain and superimposes one monk on the other at the meeting place. The ancient Greeks called this kind of thinking “homoios” which means “same.” They sensed that this was really kind of a mirror image of the dream process which led to art and scientific revelations.

Whenever I think of the power of the imagination, I remember a story my grandfather Dido told me. At the time, he was thinking about the nature of time and space and wondered if time is linear or circular. The imaginary story he told was so effective that to this day I still contemplate it when I think about the nature of time.

He told me to imagine a time traveler who went back in time to shoot his younger self to see what would happen. How would this effect the future? He took a rifle with him, sought out his younger self and raised the rifle to shoot his younger self through his heart. But his aim was poor, so he hit his younger self in the shoulder instead, merely wounding him. The reason his aim wasn’t so good was because he had this shoulder wound from an earlier shooting incident!

MICHAEL MICHALKO

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PAID IN FULL

milkYears ago, a young boy, Tom Mitchell who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.

Instead of a meal he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry so brought him a large glass of milk.

He drank it slowly, and then asked, “How much do I owe you?”
“You don’t owe me anything,” she replied. “Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness.”
He said, “Then I thank you from my heart.”

As Tom left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strong also. He had been ready to give up and quit.

Year’s later that young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.

Dr. Tom Mitchell was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, a strange light filled his eyes. Immediately he rose and went down the hall of the hospital to her room.

Dressed in his doctor’s gown he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day he gave special attention to the case.

After a long struggle, the battle was won. Dr. Mitchell requested the business office to pass the final bill to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge and the bill was sent to her room.

She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She began to read the following words:Paid in full with one glass of milk.
Signed, Dr. Thomas Mitchell

Michael Michalko http://www.creativethinking.net

 

 

HOW NOT TO THINK

The ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Aristotle and Plato created the rules for thinking that were introduced into Europe during the Renaissance. These rules have evolved into logical thinking habits. Typically, we’ve learned how to analyze a situation, identify standard elements and operations and exclude everything else from our thinking. We’re taught to emphasize exclusion rather than inclusion. Then we analytically fixate on something that we have learned from someone else and apply that to the problem.

Suppose we are given a button to match, from among a box of assorted buttons. How do we proceed? We examine the buttons in the box, one at a time; but we do not look for the button that might match. What we do, actually, is to scan the buttons looking for the buttons that “are not” a match, rejecting each one in which we notice some discrepancy (this one is larger, this one darker, too many holes, etc.). Instead of looking for “what is” a match, our first mental reflex is to look for “what is not” a match. Give a young child the same exercise and the child will immediately look to find what is a match. This is because the child is thinking naturally and has not yet been educated to think exclusively.

PAYING ATTENTION

We sometimes say adults are better at paying attention than children, but we really mean the opposite. Adults are better at not paying attention. We’re educated to screen out everything else and restrict our consciousness to a single focus. This ability, though useful for mundane tasks, is actually a liability to creative thinking, since it leads us to neglect potentially significant pieces of information and thoughts when we try to create something new. To truly experience the difference between adult and children, take a walk with a two-year old. They see things you don’t even notice. The French poet Baudelaire was right: “Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will.”

Suppose you were given a candle, a cork board and a box of tacks. Can you fasten the candle in such a way that it does not drip on the floor? Typically, when participants are given a candle, cork board, and a box of tacks and asked to fasten the candle on the wall so that it does not drip on the floor, most have great difficulty coming up with the solution. We’ve been taught to divide a complex problem into its separate objects that can be labeled and separated into separate pre-established categories such as cork board, candle, tacks and box. This kind of thinking is again, by nature, exclusionary. We look for “What is not” instead of “What is,” and What can be.” Interpreting problems by excluding things through the prism of past experience will, by definition, lead the thinker astray. Once the box is perceived as a container for the tacks, it is not thought of as anything else.

By thinking of “What can be,” instead of “What is not,” our thinking becomes more abstract and conceptual as we dramatically increase possibilities and freedom of thought. Thinking “what the box can be” suggests using it as a platform by tacking the box to the board as a platform and placing the candle on top.

An experimental psychologist set up the task of making a pendulum. Subjects were led to a table on which had been placed a pendulum-weight with a cord attached, a nail and some other objects. All one had to do was to drive the nail into the wall using the pendulum weight and hang the cord with the pendulum on the nail. But there was no hammer. Most of the subjects were unable to accomplish the task.

Next, another series of subjects were given the same task under slightly altered conditions. The cord was placed separately from the pendulum-weight and the word pendulum-weight was not used. All the subjects accomplished the task. Their minds were not prejudiced by past experiences, labels and categories, so they simply used the pendulum-weight to hammer in the nail, then tied the cord weight and the weight to the cord.

The first group failed because the weight was firmly embedded in its role as a pendulum-weight and nothing else, because it had been verbally described as such and because visually it formed a unit with a cord attached. The visual gestalt of weight-attached-to-cord, plus the verbal suggestion from their experimenter made it impossible for them to change their perception of a pendulum-weight into a hammer. “This is not a hammer,” they thought.

In contrast, creative thinkers think productively, not reproductively. When confronted with a problem, they ask “How many different ways can I look at it?”, “How can I rethink the way I see it?” and “How many different ways can I solve it?” instead of “What have I been taught by someone else on how to solve this?” They tend to come up with many different responses, some of which are unconventional and possibly unique.

Can you move one of these cards to leave four jacks in the following thought experiment? Try to solve it before you continue reading.

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

5jacks-cards

To solve the experiment you have to rethink how you see the cards. How, for example, you can remove one card to leave four jacks when there are only three jacks to begin with? How can you manufacture another jack out of thin air? Can you shuffle or move the cards in such a way to create another Jack? Is there anything you can do with the cards to make another jack? The solution is to take the king and place it over the queen so that the right half on the upper-left “Q” is covered making a “C.” Now you have formed the word “jack,” and you have four jacks.

LEARN TO THINK PRODUCTIVELY

With productive thinking, one generates as many alternative approaches as one can. 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. 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.

We automatically accept what we are taught and exclude all other lines of thought. The same thing happens when we see something odd or unusual in our experiences. We tend to accept whatever explanation someone with experience tells us. This kind of thinking reminds me of herring gulls. Herring gulls have a drive to remove all red objects from their nest. They also have a drive to retrieve any egg that rolls away from the nest. If you place a red egg in the nest, when the gull returns she will push it out, then roll it back in, then push it out again, only to retrieve it once more.

At a seminar, I asked participants if they could give me examples of people doing something absurd because they simply reproduced what was done before. One of the participants, a quality management consultant, told us about his experience with a small English manufacturing company where he consulted to advise them on improving general operating efficiency.

He told us about a company report which dealt with various aspects of productivity. At the top-right corner of one form, there was a small box with a tiny illegible heading. The consultant noted that the figure ‘0’ had been written in every such report for the past year. On questioning the members of staff who completed the report, they told him that they always put a zero in that box, and when he asked them why they told him they were told do so by their supervisor. The supervisor told him he guessed it had to do with accidents but wasn’t sure. It had always been “0” for the twenty years he had been there, so he continued the practice.

The consultant visited the archives to see if he could discover what was originally being reported and whether it held any significance. When he found the old reports, he saw that the zero return had continued uninterrupted for as far back as the records extended – at least the past thirty years. Finally he found the box that catalogued all the forms the company had used during its history. In it, he found the original daily report, in pristine condition. In the top right corner was the mysterious box, with the heading clearly shown …… ‘Number of Air Raids Today’.

……………………………………………………………………………………….

MICHAEL MICHALKO

Creativity consists of seeing what no one else is seeing, to think what no one else is thinking, and doing what others had wish they had done. Become creative. 

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YOU BECOME WHO YOU PRETEND TO BE

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A Special Operations officer, told me a story about a Special Forces soldier who was captured by the North Vietnamese during the Viet Nam war. There was a bounty for the heads of all Special Forces personnel who participated in operation Phoenix at the time and the soldier figured his life was over.

He was trussed up and tortured. He knew if he kept to the hard line of name, rank and serial number he was dead. He then did something extraordinary. He changed his mental state by repeating a general statement continuously. During special forces training, he learned to repeat the sentence “Day by day, in every way, I’m getting stronger and stronger” twenty times, three times a day. He discovered that a simple mental thought repeated continuously occupies the mind exclusively and changes your mental state and behavior. He decided to use the same exercise.

The sentence he used during his captivity was “Moment by moment, in every way, I am becoming Christ and loving and understanding my enemy more and more.” At first, he was highly conflicted and hated his enemy. This caused a great deal of cognitive dissonance. He knew he couldn’t change his circumstance, so he knew he had to change himself. And he said eventually he believed what he was saying and it showed in his eyes and body language. He became what he pretended to be. He became like Christ.

As they tortured him, he told them he loved them, that he understood why they were torturing him and why they would kill him. He told them not to feel guilty about what they were doing to him because he understood and loved them and prayed for them.

At first, his torturers were highly amused and continued to torture him. But It’s hard to hate and torture someone who seems to genuinely love and understand you, so, over time, the North Vietnamese became confused and gradually the torture stopped. Then they began to feed him and heal his wounds. They kept his connection to the Phoenix secret so he wouldn’t be executed by their superiors. They became his friend instead of his enemy. They protected him until the end of the war. Now, after he was repatriated, he visits his former captors every three years in Hanoi to laugh and joke about their wartime experiences and celebrate life.

He became what he pretended to be.

 

MICHAEL MICHALKO

Give the Gift of Imagination  https://www.amazon.com/dp/160868024X/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_XUhvxb0YKA63R

 

 

THE PRESENT

present

Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every cent?.

Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. You cannot save it for the future.

How do you invest it? The clock is running. To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade. To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby. To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the soldier in Iraq who has a week to go before he comes home. To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet. To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the airplane. To realize the value of ONE-SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident..

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the “Present.”

MICHAEL MICHALKO.  Creativity consists of seeing what no one else is seeing, to think what no one else is thinking, and doing what others had wish they had done. Become creative. http://creativethinking.net/#sthash.SXV5T2cu.dpbs

CREATIVE THINKING RESOURCES

Creativity consists of seeing what no one else is seeing, to think what no one else is thinking, and doing what others had wish they had done. Become creative. Here is what you need:

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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