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Inner Mind Creativity (Part 4)


How Not To Think Creatively

Most people mistakenly believe that being creative is about generating lots of ideas. So, when faced with a transcendental situation, the typical person immediately looks for ideas. In effect, her creative spider starts spinning its web, connecting various notions and bringing those combined notions – or ideas – to the attention of the mind and the mental bureaucrat who decides whether or not the ideas are appropriate.

Because our typical person, let us call her 'Norma' does not spend time meditating over her transcendental situation, the spider only weaves a web connecting notions obviously related to the situation. This limits the spider's ability to bring diverse notions to the attention of the mind, making it difficult to build truly creative ideas. Instead, Norma will most likely come up with rather conventional ideas.

As each of those ideas is formed in Norma's mind, it will be scrutinised by her mental bureaucrat. Those ideas that seem stupid will be rejected immediately, very likely before Norma has had a chance to formulate the idea in any depth. This after all is what the mental bureaucrat is assigned to do – save you, or in this case Nora, from social embarrassment.

The result, inevitably, is one or more moderately creative ideas, but few if any really creative ideas. Moreover, if Norma has brainstormed a long list of ideas, she will need to choose one or more ideas to work with. Being an average person, Norma is most likely chose a moderately creative idea over a more creative idea.

Why does this happen?

Let us put Norma in charge of her company's new mobile telephone unit and assign her the task of defining the specifications of the new smartphone product to be launched next year. Norma, being an average thinker promptly tries to come up with smartphone ideas. In her mind, Norma's creative spider starts weaving its web. But the web only connects to notions related to smartphones, mobile telephones and that kind of thing.

Because the creative web does not connect to diverse, non-smartphone like notions, it is unlikely that Norma will come up with a big, creative idea. Worse, if she does experience diverse thoughts while trying to come up with smartphone ideas – perhaps she suddenly thinks about the cute new guy in marketing, her cat or her upcoming trip to India – and the notions behind those diverse thoughts get caught in the creative spider's web, resulting in a wacky, unusual idea, her bureaucrat will promptly kill the idea as well as the thinking behind it. If, for example, the notions of her cat and smartphones combine in Norma's mind, creating the vision of a cat-like phone, the mental bureaucrat will reject the idea. Cat-like telephones are completely irrelevant to the businesslike task of defining the features of a realistic telephone. Indeed, if Norma thinks about the cat-like phone for any length of time, her inner provocateur is likely to tell Norma that sharing such silly ideas will only result in ridicule from her colleagues and reduced respect from her superiors.

So, even when Norma has an unusual idea, she rejects it rather than dwell upon it. In most cases, this rejection happens so quickly, she does not even notice it. Her mental bureaucrat is efficient.

Instead, Norma focuses on ideas constructed from smartphone-like notions.

Not surprisingly, Norma's ideas centre on telephones, touch-screens, cameras, apps and other mobile-telephoneish ideas. She envisions sharper screen images, a higher resolution camera, colourful cases and so on. These are all perfectly fine ideas. They will surely result in a perfectly fine telephone. But it will not be a particularly innovative telephone. It certainly will not keep top management at Apple and Samsung awake at night, trembling with fear!

Norma's problem with creativity is typical. She focuses on ideas rather than focusing on deeply understanding the transcendental situation. As a result, she limits the ability of her spider to spin a wide web that could bring more varied notions together in order to build a truly creative action. Moreover, she did not bribe her bureaucrat to reject conventional, boring ideas in favour of unconventional, original ideas. So, the bureaucrat did what it usually does. It reject potentially embarrassing crazy ideas and approved conventional ideas.

As a result, Norma ended up with conventional ideas.

If Norma wants to be more creative in her thinking, she needs to learn to use cosmic creativity.

How to Think Creatively

Let us create a new character, Stella. She is also tasked with specifying the features of her company's new smartphone. Unlike Norma, however, Stella understands cosmic creativity and the importance of deeply understanding her transcendental situation, setting the characters of her brain to work in favour of creativity and building a creative action (rather than simply generate a list of ideas).

Stella starts by meditating on the situation of defining a new telephone. She explores telephones and telephoning from many perspectives. As she does this, notions of communication, contact between individuals, data collection, sharing, pockets, handbags and personal-organisation – which are all relevant to the use of smartphones – come to her attention and become incorporated with her deep vision of her situation.

If during her meditation she is distracted by thoughts of the cute new guy in marketing, she does not push the thoughts away. Rather, she thinks about learning more about him, reaching out to him and beginning a conversation with him; all actions that could be done with a smartphone.

If thoughts of cats come to mind as she is meditating on the situation, she might briefly visualise a furry, cat like telephone that purrs when SMS messages come in and meows when someone telephones. Amused by this idea, she writes it down and continues to meditate. She knows it is to early to focus on building ideas. But she also knows it is essential to write down stray ideas that occur to her during meditation. Possibly this idea could be used in her creative action. Possibly not.

If her meditation is interrupted by thoughts about her trip to India, Stella thinks about keeping in touch with family while travelling as well as sharing her experiences. She might also remember the shocking roaming fees she paid after her trip to Thailand last year and will consider this while meditating. She makes another note.

She leaves the situation in the back of her head for a while as she goes about her life. She talks to people, goes for walks, visits art galleries. From time to time, something inspires her and she writes it down.

Eventually some thoughts about actions, in this case smartphone concepts, begin to take shape in her mind. It is time to let the spider roam widely in her mind, spinning vast webs the connect to all kinds of diverse notions; notions that have been brought together through Stella's meditation on the situation.

By now, Stella has much more than a list of ideas. She has a vision; a vision of the creative action she can take in this situation. To capture that vision, she makes some sketches. Knowing that she is expected to come up with creative ideas for this project, she reminds herself to focus on the unique crazy thoughts and to push the boring ideas to the side. Her mental bureaucrat takes note and acts accordingly.

Stella encourages her provocateur to challenge her thinking by constantly asking herself if she can push her ideas further. She wants to impress management with her creativity. She does not want to bore them with conventional thinking.

As she sketches her ideas, she sees some ideas are not so good. Some are boring. She rejects those ideas and tries new ideas. The furry cat-like phone keeps coming to mind and inspires the thought of 'personality phones' that reflect the personality of the user. She builds upon this idea, making it more sophisticated and more creative. Soon, she has a comprehensive vision to share with her colleagues.

Cosmic Creativity

At the end of the day, Norma using conventional thinking and brainstorming comes up with a list of ideas for features for a new smartphone. The features are moderately creative, but not mind blowing. The result of her thinking is likely to lead to a conventional telephone with minor improvements over similar telephones on the market. There is nothing wrong with this. But it will not lead to substantial innovation.

Stella, on the other hand, comes up with a dramatic new vision for a range of smartphones. Her comprehensive vision makes it easy for her colleagues to build the vision further. Moreover, a vision is easier to sell to others than is a list of ideas.

This is the power of cosmic creativity when face a transcendental situation where you truly want to be creative.


Your Feedback

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Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium