Teaching Talia

How We Think and Create

Posted on: March 15, 2010

Lecture two by Associate Professor Emma Robertson

HOW WE THINK -THE TOP TEN INHIBITORS IN MENTAL MINDSETS:
How to Enhance Your Ability to Think Creatively

How can I be more creative? Turn the question around to… “What stops you from being more creative?”

the balance between what we do to enhance creative thinking, and what we do (often subconsciously) to inhibit it, needs to be more fully explored.

1. Looking for the Right Answer…

Bruce Mau, in his article An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, suggested that we should learn to ‘capture accidents’ – the wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question.

2. Admiring Logical Approaches

Reverse thinking, and the use of metaphors, are excellent tools to encourage ‘soft’ non logical thinking.

One favourite metaphor is my concept that multi-tasking in our society is like junk food for the brain.

Make opportunities to just be and think, fully and clearly

Do you have any mental clutter from which you could free yourself, to allow more time to apply creative thinking to new or different questions? Creative and innovative thinking are not device-dependent.

3. Follow the Rules

Being systematic is important, but not at the expense of following rules to the letter and never straying… Rules put us into patterns, habits and and systems and these things can inhbit our creativity.

Think of the number of things you do each day out of habit, without conscious observation or thought.

Edison used to ‘test’ the suitability and ‘habits’ of potential employees by offering them a bowl of soup: If they salted the soup before tasting it, they were eliminated from consideration, because Edison didn’t have time for people who assumed they knew about something before testing it first. He needed people who paid attention to their surroundings, and people who asked questions with an open frame of mind. Creative thinkers focus more on how to think, than what to think, and they are not ruled by processes, they only use them as a guide.

4. Be Practical

Cultural transformation can occur when practical reasoning is set to one side, and the question ‘What if…?’ is used instead to cultivate and encourage people to use their imaginations. Combine the answer to that question with the answer to another question, ‘Why do we do it this way?’, and the resulting effect can be even stronger.

5. Avoid Ambiguity

The fifth inhibitor is our need to AVOID AMBIGUITY and to often clarify things too quickly

Try to look at something in a deliberately ambiguous way, and think what else it might be – set out to challenge your assumptions with opposite views.

‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’. Einstein

6. Don’t Make Mistakes

Creative thinkers often describe failure as one of the best ways they know to generate new ideas- if you’re paying attention!

There are two benefits relating to failure – you learn what doesn’t work, and it gives you the opportunity to try a new approach, strengthening your ‘risk muscles’ in the process.

7. Play is Frivolous

If you give a child a cardboard box to play with, their imagination takes flight – it becomes a home, a boat, a spaceship, or a turtle shell. Show an adult the same thing, and ask them what it is, and they will look at you strangely and tell you it is a cardboard box, because grown-ups see what is obvious, not imagined

Fun is one of the most powerful motivators to the brain in seeing new opportunities and connections

8. That is Not My Area

We allow ourselves to be labelled and pigeonholed into areas of expertise.

The wider and more diverse your knowledge base, the more places from which you will be able to draw inspiration.

9. Don’t Be Silly

Sometimes we resist making original suggestions in case we end up looking silly

Three commonly described blockages to our ability to change our behaviours are – distractions, excuses and fear – and we can develop stronger creative approaches if we don’t fear appearing foolish

I say to myself loosen up, no-one is perfect, and tomorrow (the future) is another day.

10. Luck

A lot of what is required in creative and innovative thinking is good old-fashioned hard work.

Creativity fuels innovation, and it can do more than make the world seem like a more brightly lit place.

My son was recently in hospital overnight, and while he was sleeping, a nurse came in to his room to check on the monitors. She took an object out of her pocket, and cracked and shook it. I asked her what it was. As the semi-darkness was suddenly lit by a diffused glow, she whispered, “It’s a glow stick. It’s supposed to be a toy, but we use it here at the hospital because the light is strong enough to read the instruments by, it doesn’t need batteries, and it lasts for eight hours”. This is a great example of a creative (new) idea being used in an innovative (unforeseen) way.

Sometimes when we create or apply something new, it can take us to places, and protect us in ways we never imagined.

Radiant Thinking and the Brain

Mind maps were developed by a man called Tony Buzan, following research he did into radiant thinking, and how the brain stores and recalls information. During his research he found that the brain works better when using its physical and intellectual skills in combination. The first consequence for his own learning style was to simply use colours in his notes, which he found increased the memorizing effect. To this he then added a radiant structure, based on the principles of the brain’s thinking abilities, and research into left and right brain thinking:

– Receiving: anything taken in by any of your senses.
– Holding: your memory, including retention (the ability to store information) and recall (the ability to access that stored information).
– Analysing: pattern recognition and information processing.
– Outputting: any form of communication or creative act, including thinking.
– Controlling: referring to all mental and physical functions.

Mind Maps and Idea Heirachies
So it is sometimes easier to remember something we have seen, over something we have read.

The human brain has several intellectual skills which are distributed over and across the cerebral cortex.

Despite this fact, some researchers believe that some skills tend to dominate on either the left or the right half of the brain. The right half dominates for the creative skills like the use of the elements and principles of design, dimensional thinking and imagination. The left half dominates for logical skills like numbers, words, lists and sequences.

In learning processes that facilitate memory the brain can mainly remember things relating to the following:

Primacy Effect: things learned at the start of the learning process.

Regency Effect: things learned at the end of the learning process.

Associations: things that can be associated with patterns or already known things. It also helps if these things can be associated to other data that has to be learned.

Markups: things that are uniquely marked or stressed things that stand out in their environment. We notice stretch limousines as we drive, because they stand out in the way they look – and we don’t see them as often as utes (frequency and rarity).

Five Senses: things that directly address one of the five senses. I personally think this needs to be clarifies… if I listen to a lecture with my eyes closed it’s only addressing one sense- hearing. I’m still not going to remember the one thing. Perhaps it means a mark-up relating to a particular sense? If there was shouting in a particular part of the lecture I might remember that part…

Personal Interest: things that have a relationship with something you are already interested in, or passionate about (this is sometimes called a “hook”). Say you like Mini Classic cars – you will tend to notice them more than any other car.

Storyboards

Storyboards relate to the brain’s love of sequencing and pattern forming.

Walt Disney and his staff first developed a storyboard system in 1928

Researchers also believe that Leonardo da Vinci put ideas up on a wall and examined the layout and inter-relationships between things. He was a master at combining a love of processes of analysis, with content.

The brain stores information on treelike dendrites. It stores information by pattern and association.

Talking Point

Please choose one of the Top Ten Inhibiters to Creative Thinking above, and share an example of how it relates to you – your personal traits or environment or predisposition to use certain processes.

Play is Frivolous

One day when I was in high school I had this realisation- I don’t play anymore. I don’t really just let myself imagine and go to far off places. That was 5+ years ago now, and here I am, thinking about it again.

My inability to let myself play seeps into the other 9 things- fear, not being silly, not wanting to make mistakes, being too practical/logical etc. I personally think play is a beautiful thing, but I guess I sometimes struggle to see how it is applicable to adults, apart from the obvious- using the imagination more.

One of the points I liked in this topic was about how “Fun is one of the most powerful motivators to the brain in seeing new opportunities and connections”. I’m a bit of brain geek- I love knowing how it all works, but I didn’t know this! How exciting that we have such a (duh) fun way to get creative! And so easy (and so free) too! I think I might write a blog post detailing a list of things to do to have fun, because, if you’re anything like me, you’ve been serious and dull for a while now and it’s  HABIT that you’ve gotten yourself into… Darn these habits! That bad ones are so easy to make, and the ones you want are so difficult!!

I do believe in ‘exercising’ your creativity, and perhaps it will take time, and exercise to be comfortable enough to let loose and ‘play’- whatever form that ends up taking…

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Talia

Just finished my Graduate Certificate in Cross Disciplinary Art and Design with UNSW.

Love.

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