Archives for May, 2012

Creative Thinking

Using Research to Enhance Creative Thinking

There may not yet be a "unified field theory" in the science of creativity that definitively explains what it is and how the creative mind operates (see my previous post Do We Have a Science of Creativity?), but a number of research findings provide information in support of developing our creativity and innovation.

In her American Psychological Association article "The science of creativity," Amy Novotney notes psychologist Robert Epstein, PhD. considers stress and time constraints as inhibitors of creativity.

"When you're in graduate school, there are so many constraints on you. It's detrimental to creative expression," says Epstein, author of "The Big Book of Creativity Games."

Novotney continues, "Yet it's almost impossible to conquer any graduate school activity without at least some innovative thinking.

"Collaborating with other researchers, finding a subfield that excites you, maneuvering your way through an unexpected set of findings, and balancing the demands of your work and home life all require creative problem-solving."

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Creative Thinking

Do We Have a Science of Creativity?

In a recent article on The Creativity Post site, Milena Z. Fisher gives some thoughtful and stimulating responses to the acclaimed Jonah Lehrer book "Imagine," and comments about the state of creativity research.

[Fisher is a philosopher (Nietzsche scholar), entrepreneur, and co-founder of The Creativity Post.]

She notes there is no absolute definition, that nobody knows exactly what “creativity” really is, and that while Lehrer "elegantly and effortlessly skims through different aspects of creativity" and though his book is "charming and engaging," it is also "disappointing that along with this beautiful literature some of his claims aren’t very well supported.

"Lehrer worked in a neuroscience lab, so he should know better that we are far, far away from the real 'science of creativity' and even more importantly we are probably not on the right track yet."

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Sudden Genius – The Acquired Savant Experience

Darold Treffert, M.D., one of the foremost experts on savantism, cites examples of “acquired savants” – defined as “previously non-disabled persons who after some injury or disease begin to demonstrate some, until then, dormant savant characteristics and capacities.”

A new Atlantic magazine article gives examples such as British photographer Eadweard Muybridge who created images like this one, "The Human Figure in Motion."

A famous 1880s series of his photographs of a horse in midstride proved there was a point when all four feet were off the ground.

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Creative Thinking

Killing or Enhancing Creativity and Innovation in Business

Business environments and cultures can encourage or stifle creative thinking - just like our own creative minds.

Tom Kelley, general manager of award-winning industrial design firm, IDEO, writes about a common form of response to creative ideas in a "pivotal meeting where you push forward a new idea or proposal you’re passionate about.

"A fast-paced discussion leads to an upwelling of support that seems about to reach critical mass. And then, in one disastrous moment, your hopes are dashed when someone weighs in with those fateful words: 'Let me just play Devil’s Advocate for a minute . . .'

Kelley notes the speaker "now feels entirely free to take potshots at your idea, and does so with complete impunity. Because they’re not really your harshest critic.

"They are essentially saying, 'The Devil made me do it.' They’re removing themselves from the equation and side­stepping individual responsibility for the verbal attack. But before they’re done, they’ve torched your fledgling concept."

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Too Noisy To Hear Myself Think

Do you use music for creative work? Do you get distracted by noise?

In one of my interviews with psychologist and author Susan Perry, PhD, she commented that a writer she knew chose a fresh CD for each novel she wrote.

"A few people told me things like that," Perry remarked.

"They'll choose particular music for a particular project, and by putting that music on, they put themselves into -- it's not hypnotic exactly, but into where their brain gets used to moving from hearing that music, to working on that particular project.

"That's the purpose of many of the rituals that creative people use. They're not just superstitious fetishes: 'I have to this particular pen.' They serve a very real purpose in both loosening and focusing."

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Creative Thinking

Doubting and Creating

“I really have that worry that I’ll wake up in the morning and think, ‘Oh God. I’m such a fraud, and they’ll find me out.’ I doubt myself a lot."

Those are comments by one of my favorite actors, Emily Blunt, who interestingly continued, "And maybe that’s a good thing, because I think it would be limiting to have discovered my whole bag of tricks by now. Hopefully I will always be afraid of being a fraud, because then you never stop trying.”

That is from a magazine interview about her movie "The Devil Wears Prada," which also quotes one of her co-stars Stanley Tucci: “Yeah, if you consider yourself a fraud, then no one else will. I believe that. It’s people who don’t consider themselves frauds who are the biggest frauds… I’m actually looking at a book on my dresser, and the title is ‘Doubt.’

"I think doubt is an incredibly healthy thing. You just have to know its limitations and not let it stop you from doing something fully or executing something with authority.”

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“Think Outside the Box” and Other Metaphors of Creativity

An article in Fast Company magazine notes the advice by consultants to "think outside the box" is "about as cliched as it gets," according to Jesse Sheidlower, editor-at-large of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The origin of the ubiquitous phrase, the article says, "is generally attributed to consultants in the 1970s and 1980s who tried to make clients feel inadequate by drawing nine dots on a piece of paper and asking them to connect the dots without lifting their pen, using only four lines.

"(Hint: You have to think outside the -- oh, you know.)"

From "Outside the Box": The Inside Story, by Martin Kihn | June 1, 2005, Fast Company.

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Creative Thinking

Helping A New Generation Nurture Creative Thinking and Innovation

"Only one set of skills can ensure this generation's economic future - the capacity for innovation."

That quote comes from the website of the new book "Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People That Will Change The World" by Tony Wagner, which declares that nurturing creative thinking is crucial and that "only one set of skills can ensure this generation's economic future: the capacity for innovation."

The book asks, "What do the best schools and colleges do to teach the skills of innovation? What are some of the most forward-looking employers doing to create a culture of innovation?"

In his review article, Jonathan Wai, Ph.D. notes he shares author Wagner's interest "in what constitutes a meaningful science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education."

Wai writes that the book profiles five STEM innovators and three social innovators, and that "These stories are worth learning from and developing hypotheses from," but warns "it is important to remember that the plural of anecdote is not data."

He continues, "In addition, the STEM innovators he profiles are very much entrepreneurs.

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