By Carla A. Woolf
Creative development is probably the best medium and representative for every type of emotion we can conjure and experience, particularly for a species that thrives and survives on constantly acquiring and applying knowledge, which is contingent upon an emotionally developed brain that has evolved with a “neuroplastic” propensity for creativity. We are destined, to be engaged with the entwined elements of emotions, creative critical thinking, relationships and decision-making on a daily basis – these are the things we each ought to audaciously strive for, regardless of our stations in life.
In my personal creative experiences, being creative meant surviving and vice versa. It meant going beyond the confines of creative ideas that have already been juggled or developed, and it initially meant cautiously considering unspoken stipulations to choose between feeling that permission and approval must be sought before deciding how to create something, or just having the audacity to do what’s needed. Creativity may be described as having its hands in fun pursuits, or feeling fulfilled, or standing on the pinnacle of a highly advanced and accomplished idea, but for a great deal of my own life’s time, creativity was plainly about having to be resourceful.
Practicing and applying the old adage “necessity is the mother of invention” became a rather regular occurrence. Later on in life however, it caused me to speculate whether unlimited creativity was really playing an active role in my determination to create ways into and out of my many limited circumstances. Creativity is, and had been a resourceful tool for getting out of tight spots, and it undoubtedly had a place in the lives of artists looking to produce their next masterpiece, but my senses told me that there had to be so much more to it than just that.
I knew that nailing it down concisely was never going to be part of my intent, especially because I’ve stood by the belief that creativity is the very essence of infinite knowledge. But I was to learn early on in life that audacity was to become the perfect partner in creativity, even more so than Bonnie and Clyde are perfect partners in crime. For example, when I was 12 years old I qualified to join a varsity basketball team. Initially, I was never put on the court because the money to purchase the standard uniform shorts was out of my reach and beyond my control. So, I tore apart pieces of some of the few clothes I’d possessed and sewed together a patch-up job that decently replicated the team bloomers. It helped that team members proudly applauded my “creation” and my little audacious endeavor put me on the court for every game thereafter. From a seamstress’s point of view, I had zero business whatsoever handling a needle and thread, but I did it anyway. What’s more, I boldly tackled a clothes-altering job at a local dry-cleaners for the next four years to pay tuition for the high school I chose to attend.
I continually discovered that in a world of assets, credentials, amenities, social status and all kinds of other associations, there is a sort of unwritten convention that unless you have permission as well as the correct tools or proper approval, then participating in certain circles and activities, or trying to share creative ideas with others that you are knowledgeably unworthy of sharing will be met with signals and snares of disapproval.
But all that had little effect on me. By the age of 13, I’d been smitten with audacious creativity. In the background it was a Cinderella life for me – I dared to imagine while I
sewed because foster home life offered abuse and a joyless atmosphere. School was my refuge and creativity was my companion. Every other task during that time in life was controlled by a head lady with an iron fist, it was only the audacity to be creative that helped me through that time, and even now, helps me to look upon the past with laughter, instead of tears of regret or misfortune.
Creativity does however require some basis of knowledge. Knowledge has a transferable flow with polarizing effects – it can be compared to an electrical current.
Electricity has a negative charge and a positive charge – or an anode and a cathode. Both are equally necessary and have equal values in the production of electricity. In knowledge processing, it is also, both the negative and positive, that must be included to create optimal knowledge possibilities. Applying only one of these values, or believing that one is entirely good and the other entirely bad, defeats the purpose and flow of both knowledge and electricity.
Conversations with others have overwhelmingly led to misunderstandings about this binary relationship between positive and negative. In nearly every verbal exchange, others assumed that I’d proposed that the ‘negative be turned into a positive’, or that I naïvely presumed that optimism meant only positive goodness, even at the risk of projecting false contentment. I’ve explained that such notions would be as silly as expecting to produce electricity with two positive charges. The last time I checked with an electrician I was positively informed that such a recipe for electricity was a completely negative possibility. Within these conversations, I may take the opportunity to elaborate that two negatives might make a positive in the English language, or that almost any culture endorses the idea that two negative behavior responses fail to produce a positive outcome. However, I always reaffirm that in cognitive processing, the negative is just as good as the positive and that the negative aspect of knowledge contains equally valuable optimal charges of applicable information that ought to never be dismissed, omitted or eliminated.
As an adult, the impulse to be creative and recreate knowledge compelled me to redefine everything, with audacity as the driving force – because if I had to seek permission or approval from the proper channels, there would be little to define myself by. Creativity has been a staple mainstay. For instance, I have zero standing or credibility in the fields of Cosmology or Physics, but when I suggested the idea in the comments section of an online publication that “dark matter” would be better defined as “constant matter” – based on what little information Physicists do know about this mysterious form of energy – it had zero traction in the halls of science.
However, I did receive many favorable replies from the lay sector of science aficionados who agreed with my suggested title. It was an audacious suggestion, of course, but I was hardly apt to just sack and denounce my own creative critical thinking skills. What might it be worth to others to debunk the unwritten notion that approval must be granted from the correct channels or fields of knowledge? It seemed more than reasonable to assume conclusions that are based on tenets provided by the very fields that are appointed to handle such knowledge. Creativity requires audacity even at the risk of challenging the kingdom halls of scholarly establishments. It means confronting what we’ve been prone to just accept without question. It’s the field of science, in particular, that dares us to question everything but then questions our veracity and attempts to pose critical questions.
In another audaciously, even arrogant move, there was a paper I presented at an “open general public session” to some of the world’s leading neuro-technicians who’ve been appointed to create elaborate equipment for scanning and monitoring 100% of the neuronal activity of a “normal adult human brain”. I detailed an explanation suggesting that they simultaneously come up with a way to actually develop 100% of the human brain’s potential, otherwise all that’s really going to take place is a recording of 100% of the limited human brain potential we’ve tapped into thus far in the evolutionary process of progressing human cognition. I’d specifically pointed out that unless these two efforts were converged into a confluent goal, it would only be yielding a sort of false positive. I was met with stunned looks and zero scientific rebuffs.
Making it a practice to create unlimited knowledge possibilities is a necessary element in the process of making choices and decisions. It’s a skill we need on a daily basis as critical thinking adults. It means that uninhibited knowledge accessibility must be a natural born right for everyone, that is, if everyone is to become capable of making fully informed decisions. Anyone can attest to being non-creative, but we can never escape the human condition of having to make decisions, and complex decisions often require creative critical thinking. We must each believe that we can give ourselves permission to engage and push through the barriers of our already explored scales of creativity, which is the same as dismissing the belief that only certain people are endowed with the capacity to create new knowledge theories.
Human creativity and our ability to seek knowledge are elements that are as tied together as time and space. Surely Einstein knew this, and he had to have been audaciously creative in his own right – after all, he was just a patent clerk. He had to have known that creative thinking was daring to think as nobody had done before – with or without qualification. We all have this creative potential within us. Undoubtedly, it must be encoded in our cognitive abilities, which is why I audaciously dared to recreate the definition of “cognition”.
Indeed, it would seem overdue. The conventional definition has remained unchanged
for over 90 years. With all the cognitive discoveries that Neuroscience has been able to uncover in the last few years, as well as having debunked many old world concepts about some of the most basic traits of human potential – such as that sports are all brawn and zero brains, but that it is in fact both – it seems like a ripened time to alter the antiquated definition of cognition. And so, without permission or renown, and borrowing a few strands of information from Neuroscience about the human brain’s fundamental essentials for development, I boldly dismiss the old definition of “cognition”, which is, the ability to acquire knowledge via our senses. In its place, I’ve dared to recreate and considerate it as, the emotional ability to acquire and apply knowledge via our multi- dimensional senses, in conjunction with, the ability to use our sensory tools to create and intuit additional forms of knowledge from the fundamental forms of natural knowledge.
Creative development is probably the best medium and representative for every type
of emotion we can conjure and experience, particularly for a species that thrives and
survives on constantly acquiring and applying knowledge, which is contingent upon an emotionally developed brain that has evolved with a “neuroplastic” propensity for
creativity. We are destined, to be engaged with the entwined elements of emotions,
creative critical thinking, relationships and decision-making on a daily basis – these are the things we each ought to audaciously strive for, regardless of our stations in life.
About Carla A. Woolf
Carla A. Woolf is a former CDA certified Preschool teacher turned independent researcher and is the author of two books (“Connecting the Dots – The Cognitively Correct Way to Speak with Preschoolers” and “The Dots Connected – What Does Childhood Really Have to do with Adulthood, plus Intuition’s Role in Fulfilling Total Brain Development and the Unlimited Potential of the Human Mind”) So far, she and co-author of “The Dots Connected” are the sole pioneers of a new field designed to offer specific insight into how the basic core elements of early cognitive development are an intuitive process that is equal to, and inseparable from intuitive language development, which establishes the precursory components for the brain’s ultimate ability to exercise higher precognitive thinking. She leads workshops to help early educators and parents understand how language can be encoded to activate the human brain’s full potential.
Rethinking the creative process.
Albert Camus once said that “true art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.” Henry Ward Beecher similarly wrote that “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”
You don’t have to look far to find quotes like these, because art is something we consider intensely human. Art and the artist are so thoroughly intertwined that we can’t bear to think of one without the other.
For better or worse, we’re going to have to rethink this comfortable little notion. Machine intelligence is advancing to the point where algorithms have begun to invade the world of culture and the aesthetic. From recommendations to evaluation to the production of art itself, computers are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the creative realm.
The Search for Creative Assets
When you make a TV ad in Ukraine (as I have), you generally do it on a tight budget. You certainly don’t have the money to buy the rights to the latest hit by a big pop star or a vintage Beatles classic. There are some local musicians who can create something for you, but thats a pretty involved effort and, to be frank, the quality isn’t worth it.
I found a good solution with DeWolfe Music, which is an online database that gives you access to thousands of songs from unknown composers and performers. You can search by music genre, keyword (e.g. an artist that you’re trying to emulate) and tempo, quickly find what you need and license the music for a small fee.
Newer services, such as Pandora and Spotify, deploy a similar idea in order to build custom radio stations. Rather than a human programming director choosing your music, you can just give the software some clues about what you might want to listen to and it designs a selection from a nearly infinite database to cater to your mood and preference.
This is all done through the use of complex mathematical techniques, such as Bayesian classifiers and Gaussian copulas, that recognize similarities between data sets. So just like a sommelier might ask you what wine you typically like and offer you something similar,recommendation algorithms can do the same with music, films and even art.
Being able to search and find elements of art and culture is one thing, but can computers appreciate quality?
Mike McCready has shown that they can. His company, Music X-Ray, offers a service where composers can upload their music to evaluate its hit potential and it has been shown, in many cases, to outperform professional music executives (reportedly predicting the success of Norah Jones when many industry experts were skeptical).
As crazy as the idea sounds, you’ve probably recently listened to many songs identified by the service. Every major label now uses some version of it and they’re not alone. Movie studios employ a similar service, called Epagogix to tell them which scripts are likely to become box office hits.
And it doesn’t stop there. Music scholar and composer David Cope has built algorithms which create music that has drawn critical acclaim. In fact, even music experts can’t tell the difference. When Cope’s computer generated music was played along with a Bach piece and another original composition, they couldn’t correctly identify which was which.
What is Creativity?
As impressive as all of this is, it creates a particularly thorny, visceral problem: If creativity can be reduced to an algorithm, doesn’t it lose its soul?
While I admit, I find something troubling in all of this as well, after thinking it through I have come to believe that artificial intelligence actually has the potential to help us appreciate creativity even more, in much the same way as Richard Feynman explains how understanding the inner workings of a flower help him acknowledge its beauty.
Our brains, in many ways, are inferior to computers. They transmit information at the relatively feeble rate of 200 mph, vs the speed of light for computer chips. They get tired, need nourishment, age, forget things and don’t interface with other databases of information effectively. Objectively speaking, they are slow, inefficient and prone to error.
Their saving grace is that they are a massively parallel complex network. They are made up of 100 billion neurons and each one can connect to any other. These interfaces, calledsynapses, optimize themselves as they strengthen and decay with use and link to the outside world through our five senses of sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell.
While computers have relatively few active pathways at work at any given time, we have millions, giving rise to infinite permutations of thoughts, feelings, bodily functions and sensory inputs. Perhaps not surprisingly, these hierarchies get tangled, resulting instrange loops that manifest themselves in what we have come to know as original creativity.
As Douglas Hofstadter said, “In the end, we self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages are little miracles of self-reference.”
Rethinking the Creative Process
The creative process has always been cloaked in mystery and artistic types tend to be resistant to formality. Nevertheless, professional individuals and organizations strive to develop an effective framework to enhance the productivity and quality of their work and creativity researchers have been able to identify some basic principles of creativity.
However, in light of the breakthroughs in machine creativity, I think that we need to revisit past thinking about creativity and identify three major processes:
Forming Intent: Every creative endeavor has its purpose. Designers work on a brief that someone else creates while true artists form their own purpose, but in either case, the final result is, in essence, a solution to a particular problem.
For example, my purpose in creating ads was to sell a product, while Picasso’s purpose in creating cubism was to establish a fundamentally different way at looking at the world. In the final analysis, both are judged by the significance and the degree to which the original intent was fulfilled.
Searching the Domain: As Howard Gardner explained in his highly regarded study,Creating Minds, great creativity requires a thorough knowledge of the domain. Picasso’s cubism, for example, was inspired by his encounter with obscure African art. The larger your database of experience, the greater your ability to create.
Computers obviously far outperform humans in this regard. They have practically limitless memory and their vast computational power enables them to search incredibly quickly and accurately.
Tangling Hierarchies: As I’ve written before, great breakthroughs come fromsynthesizing across domains, whether that be Picasso’s blending of European and African art or Rock and Roll’s unique fusion of various american music styles. It is when two or more ideas collide in a meaningful way that people find inspiration and creative flow.
It is this last trick, that of emulating the strange loops in our mind, which computers have recently learned how to do, that has given rise to machine creativity. David Cope, for example, found that his computer generated music was dull and lifeless until he injected an element of randomness into his algorithms.
Flying By Wire
Pilots don’t really fly planes anymore as much as they direct them. These days, their controls and instruments don’t actually connect to the plane’s mechanism, but to computers which translate their intent into meaningful action. In doing so, they make flying far safer and more efficient.
This is known as flying by wire and we don’t see anything threatening or strange about it. While at first it may seem to be a bit more disconcerting when computers start navigating the realm of abstract thought rather than the mechanics of aviation, it shouldn’t be, any more than driving a car should affect our feelings about walking.
So what makes us creative? Our ability to form our own intent. It is only through creating a purpose that is uniquely our own that we can fully embody the human spirit.
This post originally appeared at DigitalTonto
Reposted by The Creativity Post
About Greg Satell:
Greg Satell is an internationally recognized authority on Digital Strategy and Innovation who has served in senior Strategy and Innovation roles for the Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s premier marketing services companies. In 2012, Innovation Excellence ranked Greg #6 on their annual list of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers. Previously, he was Co-CEO of KP Media and spent 15 years in Eastern Europe managing a variety of media businesses ranging from market leading web sites to history making news organizations to women’s and lifestyle focused media.
Find out more at http://www.digitaltonto.com/
Compiling a list of the worst bands is pretty much a no-win scenario. People are going to laugh, cry and threaten to kill you when you pick their favorite band. But in the modern era, we rely on these bands to distinguish who’s worth illegally downloading. In our opinion, these are 10 of the worst modern bands.
1. One Direction
People only like them because they are a bunch of pretty boys even though their music sucks. Nobody cares about the Joe bros anymore, even if they do suck. At least 1D doesn’t have a Disney series, but still a band who are only popular because of their annoying teenage fan base who seem to think being good-looking makes you good at singing.
2. La Oreja de Van Gogh
If you recorded every time your drama-queen sister cried when rejected by a stud, or had a tantrum after a love-fight or a break-up, and set it to melodramatic movie music, you would have La Oreja de Van Gogh’s almost entire song list. They also wrote “Adelante” the international anthem of Spain’s Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, BBVA, nice uh? Now what if that drama-queen sister of yours was lead singer in a band? Well, this is how the melodramatic lyrics written by La Oreja’s lead singers and mates would sound like.
Back in the ’80s, most of pop in Spanish bands that grew out of their local markets came from Spain. But those days the playing field were flatter than Earth was for 15th-century conquistadors, and La Oreja attempted to take over radio waves in the New World.
Their records, which to virgin ears or someone with a severed ear will sound refreshing and innovative back in the then current reggaeton-overdosed state of Hispanic boring pop music, were pretty much similar to the previous release (i.e. ‘Guapa’ and ‘Lo Que Te Conté Mientras Te Hacías la Dormida’), and the band’s music did not ventured beyond the melodic-guitar pop rock infused with a synthesizer found on most of, if not all of its albums, and seeing as how it tends to err, discover new markets with each release (U.S. peeps in this case), La Oreja played safer than Chris Columbus landing on a Bahamian beach. The band have seen its share of fame and fortune, no doubt, through the possession of the ring of power. The single ‘La niña que llora en tus fiestas’ released in 2011 is a promise that the band is keeping the crying that has made La Oreja a successful, if not a talented band, in Spain and Latin America selling over 8 million records.
3. Limp Bizkit
Limp Bizkit shot to fame behind guitarist Wes Borlands outlandish performance appearance, and lead singer/rapper Fred Durst somehow fooling audiences into believing that he possessed any level of awesomeness. He possessed none whatsoever. The band altogether, did possess an astronomically high level of bat-shit insanity. Question, how can 5 perfectly sane men agree to name their creation “Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water”? The answer is they can’t. All 5 were as crazy as any notion that they produced any good material.
Thank goodness they broke up because Borland would have murdered Durst in an insane rage, catapulting his douche baggery to the level of influencing lead singers to this day. Imagine a world with every band, sporting an immature tool who thinks he’s a rapper commanding all the attention. They eventually reunited and continue to annoy audiences worldwide
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Nickelback successfully completed the soundtrack to the clone invasion soon to come, by taking every rock and roll cliche and using it in the most cliche way possible. Lead singer Chad Kroeger, his two brothers and some dude stole their bands name from some barista chick at Starbucks, and then went on to be named Billboards Adult Pop Artist of the Decade in ’09. Nickelback also boasts the distinguishing honor of being the greatest Canadian contribution to American pop culture next to Degrassi Junior High.
If your mind gets blown by the band who’s playing the band, disguised as another band, then Nickelback is the band for you. The only thing worse than their music is the fact that they still make it. After opening for the 2010 Olympics the band announced plans to release their seventh album in late 2011. OMG!
Now before you insult me in comments to express how important you feel Coldplay is, take a second to contemplate the size of the chunks they blow, while their song that you are playing makes you contemplate suicide. The band are very pretty but very boring. Their songs are half-written and they play them at half-speed so you don’t notice how little there is to their stuff. Arguably the most talented band on this list, which only makes things worse, Coldplay is a bad mixed cake made of Radiohead and Oasis batter, that tastes and sounds like s*it. It’s amazing how followers can eat it and remain alive to tell tales of the abysmal darkness, buried deep within their albums. But there’s hope: Chris Martin recently played a beautiful song with REM’s frontman who sang the song. And Chris was pretty humble introducing his guest artist.
6) Good Charlotte
Any band that credits the legendary Social Distortion as a strong musical influence would be expected to make good songs, and Good Charlotte does. That is, if you’re into sappy, slap-happy, MTV friendly ballads written for teenagers, grounded in assumptions of the worlds inability to understand them. Those teenagers are absolutely correct by the way. No one will ever understand how they can tolerate this worse, even less talented version of Blink 182. It is certifiably impossible to discern which of the Madden brothers sucks the most, or which one dated the bigger slag.
Good Charlotte makes two fighting Hyenas sound like a 150 piece classical orchestra, and in their music, anything old is new. The band completed a studio album in early 2010, but quickly scrapped it entirely, utterly confident in their ability to create anything worse. On September 1, 2011, Good Charlotte announced a hiatus via interview with Rolling Stone. In an interview with The Gunz Show, bassist Paul Thomas revealed that Good Charlotte may not begin recording a new album until 2013.
7) Jonas Brothers
Known for their Brady Bunch-like wholesome image, the Jonas Brothers lifted swooning to new pedestals in the mid 2000’s. Their innocent teenage girl hormone exciting, gender bending, expedited adolescent sound can be summed up in one word, Disney. Well documented are the purity rings and the evangelical tone, but even hardcore fans are surprised to learn that the band hails from the recently infinitely glamorized, Jersey Shore. Sorrentino, Polizzi, JONAS?!
Well versed in the classic, the trio are workaholics, and have amassed in six years, a catalogue more extensive than most bands from the 1960’s and 70’s. While a third of the world would like to see them involved in a fatal car accident, one hopes witnessing their direction (or misdirection) freed from the walls of the house that Walt Disney built. We shall see.
8) Goo Goo Dolls
One listen to any Goo Goo Dolls record instantly reverts any middle-aged woman onto a dramatic, obsessed pubescent girl. Whenever I hear them and their trademark sound, optimally composed to grocery shop or ride elevators to, I get infuriated due to the fact that the band was days away from breaking up before writing “Iris”, the song that instantly catapulted them to worldwide superstar status. Oh, and lead singer Johnny Rzeznik will totally bone your wife, weather she wants it or not.
Analyzing the Goo Goo Dolls material is right on par with watching a newly painted wall dry, then repeatedly bashing your head into it. The band released their latest album in summer 2010 and have recorded a live mini concert performed at the Apple Store in Manhattan, NY in December, which they released in 2011.
Why is Oasis among the worst? Because Liam Gallagher only plays tambourine and possesses the single most nasal voice in pop, and was obnoxious enough to make fun of INXS at an award ceremony when INXS’s front man and singer Michael Hutchenson handed him an award. Because “Wonderwall” is pure nonsense. Because they combine simple composition with over-the-top production and pretentious length. “Champagne Supernova,” anyone? Because they’ve been caught ripping off other artists’ songs, including Stevie Wonder, The New Seekers, and Neil Innes. Because their backstage altercations always boiled down to sibling rivalry. What’s next, hair-pulling and time-outs? But mainly because courting comparisons to the Beatles is always lame, no exceptions. See also: Liam Gallagher On His Brother Noel: “I’d Rather Eat My Own Shit Than Be In A Band With Him Again”
It’s often said that people either love Rush or hate them, but a more accurate statement is that most people hate Rush, while a scattered few really love them. Rush is perhaps the only ’80s band, along with U2, that can sell out 20,000-seat venues on tour. So “a scattered few really love them” isn’t just a bad argument; it’s a falsehood.
Today, I figured I’d poke a little fun at some of the most insanely zealous rock fans out there. Man, do Rush fans love their Toronto Trio. NEIL PERT RULES!!!!! The thing is, the rest of the world who isn’t a die hard Rush fan, is unable to tolerate them for much more than a few seconds. There is very little middle ground with these guys.Actually, the title of this post is misleading. I could only come up with 1,742 why our mulletted Canadian friends are crap. But really, there is only one that matters. Two words: Tom Sawyer. That synth / techno / disco opening shakes my bones like a dentist drill. Not a fan.
Musicians Know That Ears Have Eyes
Music and art go hand in hand. And the best way to get a potential buyer’s attention is with an eye catching album cover. We all know you can’t just judge a book by it’s cover but it doesn’t hurt to give CD and LP covers a spin based off a beautiful piece of art.
Below we present several excellent examples of beautiful, creative and impressive album covers that will certainly inspire you to head down to the local record shop and start browsing through records and labels. We have tried to address various cover designs and present both CD covers and LP covers, however some excellent album covers are definitely missing. Please let us know about them in the comments to the post!
Here we are showing a few…
Thought walking gives you different ways to focus on your problem and different ways to interpret what you’re focusing on.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the famous French philosopher, did his best thinking on trips he made alone and on foot, which he called thought walks. Similarly, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the brilliant German author, took a walk whenever he wanted to think and come up with new ideas. It was during his long hikes in the mountains of Berchtesgaden that Sigmund Freud worked out his imposing structure of the unconscious, preconscious and conscious that has been bound the twentieth-century psyche ever since. In fact he told his good friend Wilhelm Fliess, a Berlin doctor, that his book The Interpretation of Dreams was designed to have the effect of one of his hikes through a concealed pass in a dark forest until it opens out on a view of the plain. Taking a walk stimulated and refreshed their thinking.
Whenever you’re deeply involved with a problem, take a thought walk. You will find walking around your neighborhood, a shopping mall, a park, the woods, industrial complex and so on to be highly stimulating. Look for interesting objects, situations, or events that are interesting or that can be metaphorically compared with whatever project you happen to be working on. For example, suppose your problem is how to improve communications in your company. You take a walk and notice potholes in the road. How are “potholes” like your corporate communication problem? For one thing, if potholes are not repaired, they get bigger and more dangerous. Usually road crews are assigned to repair the potholes. Similarly, unless something is done to improve corporate communications, it’s likely to deteriorate even further. An idea with a similar relation to “road crews” is to assign someone in the organization to fill the role of “communications coach.” The role would entail educating, encouraging, and supporting communication skills in all employees. And just as road crews are rotated, you can rotate the assignment every six months.
A thought walk is one of my favorite techniques to stimulate creativity. A while back while aimlessly walking around my neighborhood a noticed a U.S. Postal truck delivering mail. The road was in poor shape and had many large potholes that the truck had to avoid. The postal truck and poor condition of the road inspired an idea.
The postal service has thousands of trucks that travel on fixed routes and transport mail to every nook and corner of the country. Fitting the trucks with smart sensors the trucks can collect important data on weather, communications, infrastructure and several other systems that determine the development and safety of the country.
The data gathered by these truck-mounted sensors would establish a baseline map of ordinary conditions, making it significantly easier to spot a problem or anomaly. Such a system could aid in homeland security by rapidly detecting chemical agents, radiological materials and, eventually, biological attacks; it could also assess road quality, catalog potholes and provide early warning of unsafe road conditions like black ice.
A system like this could also detect gaps in cell-tower coverage, weak radio and television signals and sources of radio frequency interference. This data could help provide uninterrupted communication services and promote more efficient use of broadcasting. I have a colleague working with the post office now to develop and implement this idea. This is a valuable resource that can make the postal service profitable.
Sometimes while walking I will simply list objects or experiences that I find interesting. When I return, I draw a picture of the object or experience and list all of its characteristics. Then I list all the associations I can think of between each characteristic and a problem. I ask questions such as:
How is this like my problem?
What if my problem were a…?
What are the similarities?
This….is like the solution to my problem because…?
How is …like an idea that might solve my problem?
What metaphors can I make between….and my problem?
Thought walking where you force connections between your problem and interesting observations is incredibly productive. A designer friend of mine and another designer were thought walking together in New York City. They were discussing new product ideas when they stopped by the site for Daniel Libeskind’s Freedom Tower in New York City. The spire of the building is planned to be 1,776 feet high – 1776 was the year when the United States Declaration of Independence was drafted. They were intrigued by the idea of using invisible information to generate visible forms that have meaning.
When they returned to their office, they mulled over possible ideas of using invisible information to create visible forms. Leafing through catalogs they came across ads for sweaters with computer generated space invader designs. Combining the sweater with the freedom tower inspired their idea. They came up with they call voice knitting where an audio input (a song or a voice) is computer translated into a simple visual form to give a sweater or other piece of clothing its own unique style and vocal fingerprint of the owner.
Thought walks give you different aspects to focus on and different ways to interpret what you are focusing on. An engineer was contracted to find ways to safely and efficiently remove ice from power lines during ice storms. He was blocked. He took a break and went for a walk. He visited a store that had several different varieties of honey for sale in a variety of different containers. The store advertised the honey with a cutout of a large bear holding a jar of honey. He bought a jar and returned to his office.
While simultaneously thinking about honey, bears and his power line problem he came up with a humorous absurd solution to his problem. The solution was to put a honey pot on top of each power pole. This would attract bears and the bears would climb the poles to get the honey. Their climbing would cause the poles to sway and the ice would Avibrate@ off the wires. This silly idea got him to thinking about the principle of “vibration,” which inspired the solution. The solution the power company implemented was to bring in helicopters to hover over the iced power lines. Their hovering vibrated the ice off the power lines.
Michael Michalko is the author of the highly acclaimed Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius; ThinkPak: A Brainstorming Card Deck and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.
Al Jazeera’s Artscape gives expression to the creative forces behind many of the world’s headline stories. Across the globe people are using their voices, their imaginations and their visions to break down powerful barriers in their communities. From a small backroom theatre challenging a despotic regime, to the courage of individuals finding a voice; from the ancient traditions of the written word, to the power of photography; from the joy of expressing identity through dance and song, to those easing the pain of migration through music – Artscape brings us the rich colours and clear cadences of popular expression.
Filmmaker: Ioan Grillo and John Dickie
For years, a group of 25,000 Afro-Colombian refugees and migrants have built a town on stilts over the sea at the edge of Buenaventura on Colombia’s Pacific coast.
Today, the Colombian government is attempting to relocate the entire community to an inland barrio so that it can develop a commercial port and tourist beaches.
Community leaders are trying to resist the eviction or at least fight for decent compensation as the move would not only rob residents of their homes but of their main livelihood – fishing.
To rally for the cause, activist Benildo Estupinan has organised local musicians and singers to compose songs that raise consciousness.
From that call, a collective of 30 singers and musicians was formed and given the name “Marcando Territorio” or Defending Territory. They are organising concerts, rallies and recording songs in defence of their homes and lives.
Witness : Artscape – Bajamar Ballad
The Creativity Post
Good ideas and work arise from one’s ability to recognize good, mediocre or bad things. Some recent research gives us a strategy to accomplish this.
For Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone” began as a long piece of vomit, at least that’s what he told two reporters back in 1965. As the story goes, Dylan, who was at the tail end of a grueling tour that took his pre-electric act across the United States and into Europe, decided to quit music and move to a small cabin in upstate New York to rethink his creative direction. He was sick of answering the same questions over and over again. He was sick of singing the same song over and over again. He wanted to liberate his mind.
This is why “Like a Rolling Stone” began as a twenty-page ramble. It was, as Dylan described it, a regurgitation of dissatisfactions and curiosities. What came next was Dylan’s true talent. Like a wood sculpture, he whittled at his rough draft. He cherry picked the good parts and threw away the bad parts. He began to dissect his words to try and understand what his message was. Eventually, Dylan headed to the studio with a clearer vision, and today, “Like a Rolling Stone” stands as one of the very best.
What’s interesting is how Dylan approached the writing process. The song started as a splattering of ideas. Dylan wasn’t even trying to write a song; initially, he didn’t care about verses or choruses. He compared the writing process to vomiting because he was trying to bring an idea that infected his thinking from the inside to the outside of his body.
His strategy isn’t unique. In fact, it resembles the approach of many other artists throughout history. For example, in the Fall 1975 issue of The Paris Review, the Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel laureate John Steinbeck gave this piece of advice about writing: “Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.” As the saying goes, perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
This principle doesn’t just show itself in art. Economies, too, succeed and fail by continuous innovation and wealth followed by unvaried ideas and bankruptcies. The Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter popularized the term creative destruction to describe the simultaneous accumulation and annihilation of wealth under capitalism. As Schumpeter saw it, for every successful entrepreneur dozens of failures followed. But this was a good thing; capitalism was to be understood as an evolutionary process where good ideas prevailed over bad ones.
With these thoughts in mind, consider a study released this month conducted by Simone Ritter of the Radboud University in the Netherlands with help from Rick B. van Baaren and Ap Dijksterhuis. For the first experiment, the scientists recruited 112 university students and gave them two minutes to come up with creative ideas to solve relatively harmless problems (e.g., improving the experience of waiting in line at a supermarket). Next, the subjects were divided into two groups: the first went straight to work, while the second performed an unrelated task for two minutes to distract their conscious mind.
The first thing the psychologists found wasn’t too eye opening. Both groups – conscious and distracted – created the same amount of ideas. But the second finding was slightly more intriguing. Here’s Jonah Lehrer describing the results:
After writing down as many ideas as they could think of, both groups were asked to choose which of their ideas were the most creative. Although there was no difference in idea generation, giving the unconscious a few minutes now proved to be a big advantage, as those who had been distracted were much better at identifying their best ideas. (An independent panel of experts scored all of the ideas.) While those in the conscious condition only picked their most innovative concepts about 20 percent of the time — they confused their genius with their mediocrity — those who had been distracted located their best ideas about 55 percent of the time. In other words, they were twice as good at figuring out which concepts deserved more attention.
When it comes to writing an essay for college, pitching a business plan or creating a work of art we are hard wired to believe that our output is above average. As a result, we are blind to what needs improvement. It’s not just that we can’t see any holes and errors; we don’t think they exist. What’s interesting about Ritter’s findings is that they give us a strategy to overcome our overconfidence. The lesson from her research is that in order to recognize our imperfections we must step back and be dilettantes. In other words, get distracted and don’t marry the first draft.
And this brings me back to Dylan’s vomit and Steinbeck’s advice. The reason we should “never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down” is because we initially don’t know which of our ideas are worthwhile. It’s only after we get everything down that we are able to recognize what works from what doesn’t. This is the lesson from Ritter’s research: we need to give the unconscious mind time to mull it over so it can convince the conscious mind to make adjustments. Or, as Nietzsche said in All Too Human: “the imagination of the good artist or thinker produces continuously good, mediocre or bad things, but his judgment, trained and sharpened to a fine point, rejects, selects, connects…. All great artists and thinkers are great workers, indefatigable not only in inventing, but also in rejecting, sifting, transforming, ordering.”
By Sam McNerney
About Sam McNerney
I was born in Evanston, Illinois, but grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I went to school at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, graduating with a degree in philosophy. After studying too much Descartes and Nietzsche I realized that my passion is reading and writing about cognitive psychology. Now I spend my time exploring the world of brain science by interviewing professors and researchers and writing about popular ideas in psychology, neuroscience and philosophy to the general audience.
Find out more at http://sammcnerney.com/