The dominant factor in the way our minds work is the buildup of patterns that enable us to simplify and cope with a complex world. These patterns are based on our past experiences. We look at 6 x 6, and 36 appears automatically without conscious thought. We examine a new product for our company and know it's a good design at an appropriate price. We look at a business plan and know that the financial projections make sense. These things we do routinely because of our thinking patterns which are based on our past experiences. These thinking patterns enable us to perform routine tasks, such as driving an automobile, rapidly and accurately. But this same patterning makes it hard for us to come up with creative solutions to problems, especially when confronted with unusual data. If you always think what you've always thought, you'll always get what you've always got.
Creativity implies a deviance from past experiences and procedures. This can easily be done by using creative thinking techniques to provoke new and different thinking patterns. These new patterns force the information to make new connections in your brain which give you new ways to focus on the information and new ways to interpret what you're focusing on. Following are two techniques that have been used historically by creative geniuses to get original and novel ideas.
Don't Think About It
One interesting way to get ideas is, paradoxically, not to think about your subject. When people use their imagination to develop new ideas, those ideas are heavily structured in predictable ways by the properties of those existing categories and concepts. Expertise in an area can hinder creativity by making us fixated along a certain line of thought. If you want to produce something creative, say a new automobile design, don't think of automobiles--at least not at first. Instead, create several abstract compositions of bodies in motion and then use the compositions as stimuli for a new design.
Suppose your problem is how to protect rural designer mailboxes from theft and vandalism. You would first describe an abstract definition of your problem.
1.What is the principle of the problem? What is its essence?
Example: The principle of our problem is protection.
2. Next, think of ways to protect things.
Place in a bank.3. After you've generated a number of different ideas, restate the problem so that it is slightly less abstract. Again, generate as many solutions as you can.
Provide good maintenance.
Get an insurance policy.
Example: Think of ways to protect things that are outside and vulnerable.
Hire a guard.4. Finally, consider the real problem. Review the ideas and solutions to the two previous abstractions and use these as stimuli to generate solutions.
Watch it constantly.
Drape it with camouflage.
Put a fence around it.
Keep it well lighted.
Example: The real problem is how to protect rural mailboxes from theft and vandalism. The idea triggered from "get an insurance policy" is for the mailbox company to offer an insurance policy to owners of rural mailboxes: $5 a year or $10 for three years to cover the mailbox from theft or destruction.
Are Your Ideas Crazy Enough?
Another way to break up your rigidity of thinking is to deliberately explore the absurd and unusual. This gives you the freedom from design or commitment and allows you to juxtapose things which would not otherwise have been arranged in this way and to construct a sequence of events which would not otherwise have been constructed. Suppose, for example, you work for a greeting card company that wants new products and markets.
1. You would first list several odd, unusual or absurd ideas about the problem.
Send greeting cards to dead people.
Send heavy stones as greeting cards.
Send cards COD.
Send the person money with the message to "go out and buy your own greeting card."
Send a spider
2. Select one of the absurd ideas.
Absurd Idea: Send greeting cards to dead people.
3. Extract the principle. What is the principle of the absurd idea?
Principle: Communicating with the departed.
4. List the features and aspects of the absurd idea.
People communicate with the dead through seances.5. Extract the principle, or one of the features and aspects, and build it into a practical idea.
People leave flowers at cemeteries.
People leave poems, letters and other artifacts.
People publish personal poems, messages, etc., in newspapers to the departed.
People pray for the departed.
Séance's, Ouija boards, etc.
Example: We decide to work with "Leaving items at the cemetery." This inspires the idea of publishing memoriam cards on sticks so they can be inserted in the ground at the gravesite. Sell the "cards-on-sticks" in florist shops that are located near cemeteries.
Creative-thinking techniques break up your conventional thinking patterns which stimulate new thinking patterns that lead to new ideas and concepts that you cannot get using your usual way of thinking.
by Michael Michalko