Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cracking Creativity

I would like to start off by admitting that I was inspired to read this book by a blog of David Olynyk's. I work in an ad agency, but have nothing directly to do with creating ads or ad campaigns. Ideas have to come from somewhere so I thought this would lead to a better understanding. You might say that the sources of ideas are all around you, just look.

My notion of creativity starts with the fact that there is nothing new. After reading Michael Michalko's book (on Kobo) I think he would agree. All the great genius's are better than the rest of us at re arranging old things and/or discovering things that were waiting to be discovered. Improving our creativity involves re arranging what we already know and discovering relevant things we aren't aware of.

There are a lot of good points in the book, but I would start with the ending. The author studied Charles Darwin in great detail. One event that caught his interest was that after Darwin's famous voyage he presented an expert with a lot of details of finches he had discovered and recorded in the Galapagos Islands. The expert recognized them as finches, but was flabbergasted that there were such obvious differences that he dismissed the information as useless. Darwin didn't identify them as finches, but was able to take this vast amount of information to help him formulate the theory of evolution.

The author's conclusion was that most of us try to fit new information into our framework of information and only when we are proven wrong do we look for alternatives. Creative geniuses always look for alternatives. It seems to me the author's purpose in writing this book is give us some methods used by creative people to develop new ideas.   Do not confuse intelligence with creativity as they are two different mind sets.

Creative geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci had specific ways of looking at things to look for alternatives to conventional thinking. The author adapted some of these ideas for procedures that could be enacted individually. He was also a strong advocate for the idea that groups could do ever better and adapted these procedures for groups.

There is a smorgasbord of ideas. Most of them revolve around the idea that we have a natural tendency to think in the same manner as we have always thought. To find a creative solution to a problem we need to break the mould.

We need to train ourselves to recognize a solution amongst things we were not expecting. An example is Alexander Fleming who doing another experiment noticed that unfortunately some mould had developed on another experiment. Before throwing it out he further noticed that near the mould was something unexpected. This eventually led to the discovery of penicillin.

Often a solution starts with re-stating the problem. Try to get at the basic problem. (eg are we in the car business or the transportation business?).  Ask questions. Some creative geniuses like to translate the problem to a diagram recognizing that words are not always adequate.

Getting back to the basic idea of re arranging what you already know one formula that is useful is labeled SCAMPER. S is for substitute, C is for combining, A is for adapt, M is for magnify, E is for eliminate and R is for re-arrange or for reverse. Many procedures revolve around the idea of identifying different elements, playing around with the concepts, changing them in different ways and then re-combining in different ways. Throw in random seemingly unrelated concepts. There are endless variations on procedures, but it does seem to boil down to breaking down the problem, the challenge to elements and mixing with other elements.

We are always fighting our natural tendency to fit things into what we already know. That is where the many different procedures can be helpful. If one seems too far fetched look for another. As you get involved with other challenges you can try another approach. You can improvise your own procedure.  Groups can add a dynamism, although you have to be concerned with group pressures to conform. They work best when the individuals play off one another instead of always going in the same direction.

Creativity helps solves problems and also helps give a personal unique stamp. I read this book on Kobo which is a fairly new experience for me, however I think it might have been too static to really appreciate the thoughts which are flowing in all kinds of directions. Michael has lots more to say on creativity and you can keep up to date at: http://creativethinking.net/WP01_Home.htm

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