Boost your lateral thinking for creative problem solving + exercise

edward-de-bono

The first definition of the term lateral thinking came in 1967 from Dr Edward de Bono.He has become the world’s leading authority on conceptual thinking and has contributed to development of new tools and approaches to the  organizational innovation, strategic leadership, individual creativity, and problem solving. Present in the innovation industry since 1970. his exclusive strategies and methods have brought remarkable results to organizations and to individuals from a wide range of cultures, educational backgrounds, occupations, and age groups.

So, what is actually lateral thinking? It is a way of thinking that solves problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be applicable by traditional step-by-step logic.

This kind of thinking requires of you to go beyond the obvious and even to take into account parameters that your traditional logic might easily dismiss.

One really attractive and interesting example is given in this article.

Pretend that you’re trapped in a magical room with only two exits. Through the first exit is a room made from a giant magnifying glass, and the blazing hot sun will fry you to death. Through the second door is a room with a fire-breathing dragon. Which do you go through?

There are many ways we can approach this problem in order to solve it. One way could be using poetry techniques, for example kennings.

Bed of fish, smooth path of ships, island-ring, realm of lobsters, slopes of the sea-king, whale-house, land of the ocean-noise, blood of the earth, frothing beer of the coastline…

These are some of the terms and phrases used by the Viking and AngloSaxon poets to name/describe the sea. The word ‘kenning’ comes from the Old Norse verb að kenna, which means ‘to describe’ or ‘to understand’. Poetry asks us to think and view the world from the different perspective. And kennings question our habitual way of thinking. If we apply this technique to the above problem, we could call sun “object that gives light to the earth, object that brings day… “.

So by using this technique, we could come up to a solution by deducting our thinking: sun, in a day time, in the above example is dangerous for us, but what happens when the day goes by? Darkness. And the answer presents itself: we should wait for the sunset, and the first door is a safe passage for us.

The answer to this puzzle is an example of what psychologists call “lateral thinking”:  instead of going ahead onto the problem, going sideways can present an elegant solution.

So next time you have a project, creative problem you are working on, try to name it, describe it differently, focusing on its  functions and elements and solution might unexpectedly reveal itself.

How often do you use your lateral thinking? 🙂


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Why people don’t like poetry?

shelley

This essay is inspired by some of the recent comments in this post. And it made me think: why  people really don’t like poetry? What is it that keeps them away from maybe not writing, but from reading some really exquisite pieces by poets from all around the world?

The usual answer is something like “Poetry is boring”, “I don’t understand it”, “It’s a waste of time”. So I wanted to explore this topic a bit further.

If we look more deeply around us, we can notice that people have very little time to appreciate art in general. This fast paced, consumer oriented society has trained us to want everything now and here. An instant satisfaction, an instant thrill, an instant experience: not allowing our biological system to perceive with all its senses; truly absorb our emotions and simply feel.

Life usually demands of us high level of practicality, logical and factual thinking in order for us to be functional and productive on a day to day basis. It’s very noticeable in how we are doing business and science. But where are the boundaries? Have we lost our human touch? In our lives when everything is so exact and explicit we have erased some of the basic human traits: ability to feel and empathize. We cannot treat our most intimate relationships, families and ourselves like we are on a business meeting and signing a business contract.

And there is this soft spot where poetry likes to ‘poke’ you. It demands something different from you. It demands your whole being to respond: if you try logically to analyze a poem, it will take you nowhere; if you search for shortcuts, you will be lost; if you need answers, probably you will be disappointed.

A poem is a journey that allows you to escape from typical factual thinking and forces you to question everything: instead of searching for answers on the outside, you need to look deep inside of you.

There lies the true value of poetry – especially for business leaders, as it can be seen as an antidote to typical business interpretations:

  • poem is associative rather than factual thinking;
  • poem enforces abstract thinking in comparison to deductive thinking.

Like Clare Morgan implies in “What poetry brings to business”:

reading poetry generates conceptual spaces that maybe different from the spaces usually approached in business and life in general.

As poetry is letting yourself to get familiar with the unknown – it shouldn’t instill fear of ambiguity and uncertainty, but rather to be seen as a vehicle, attractive mystical longing that can transcend us across those conceptual spaces and offer different modes of interpretation: a sure way to enrich our creativity in all aspects of our lives.

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Billy Collins


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In between rhyme (creativity exercise)

mridhaThe Greek philosopher Aristotle, was originator of  advanced human thinking in ancient Greek and in his book ‘On Interpretation’ he describes how words were powerful tools for his thinking – especially when words were connected to a thought he wanted to materialize, execute or one that conveys a meaning of creativity. He believed that in such way we are encouraging creativity and paving the road for possibilities to come.

In many already suggested exercises (see section ‘Write, create, innovate: exercises’) certain experiences, and the way how our senses react to environment have served as a given trigger for an emotional response that can be translated into a creative outlet.

Today, and in the exercises to come, let our focus be more on language, rhythm and melody of the words that can also train our creative thinking and especially be useful for other forms of writing.

I suggest we start with an internal rhyme like:

I try to write, remembering your kiss as you held me tight.

‘Type, type!’ I say to myself; ‘Don’t get fooled by a sentimental hype!’

So, you see the first and the last word in the stanza rhyme, giving the verses completely new feel and meaning to the written sentence.

For your exercise, you can call to mind an issue you have and pick one word of your own interest (it might be connected to a topic you are writing on, project you are working on or any other word that ‘bugs’ you somehow 🙂 Write in flow, without too much thinking – just try to follow this one simple rule; don’t pay attention to the logic or the meaning behind your verses; use simple facts about the situation, what you think, what others might think, what you could try or what you already did, what could be holding you back and other thoughts related to the issue..

This is more leisure and fun approach to brainstorming, which can be also beneficial: relaxed manner of thinking decreases tension and helps us become more open to the hidden treasures that language holds for us.

Have you already tried this exercise or something similar before? Please share in the comments below.

I’ve just stolen your best idea!

Elizabeth Gilbert

“How come?” You might ask. “Is it even possible, simultaneously, but independently come to a pretty much same idea?”

It’s a tough question. Yet through history there are many evidences of multiple discoveries, especially in science, where researchers independently came to same conclusions and results. For example, the case of electromagnetism: Joseph Henry, lesser known American scientist and engineer, discovered the electromagnetic phenomenon of self-inductance. He also discovered mutual inductance, independently of Michael Faraday, but Faraday was the first to publish his results. In later years, two scientists did meet and collaborated but in the scientific world Faraday reaped all credits and praise.

Oxygen, chemical element was discovered independently by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, in 1773 or earlier, and Joseph Priestley in Wiltshire – yet the Priestley took the credits since he managed to publish his work first. Antoine Lavoisier, a French chemist, also discovered oxygen in 1775, was the first to recognize it as an element, and coined its name “oxygen” – which comes from a Greek word – meaning “acid-former”.

But this kind of phenomena is not limited to scientific work only. In her newly published book, Elizabeth Gilbert shares her own experience – when two people come to pretty much same idea – even when it comes to writing a novel. She had an amazing story for a novel and she wanted to write it for years. During that time a lot of personal and family changes happened in her life and it simply kept her from completely devoting to writing. And all the time she struggled. One day she accidentally finds out that a friend of hers and a fellow writer, Ann Patchett, came to pretty much same idea about the novel (the plot and geographical location just resembled too much). Her friend manages to publish the story with noticeable success and at that particular moment she new that somehow it wasn’t ‘her novel’ and that idea simply found other and better conditions to flourish. She further notes:

The worst and most destructive conclusion I could’ve drawn was that Ann Patchett had stolen my idea. That would have been absurd, because Ann had never even heard of my idea…People convince themselves that they have been robbed, when they have not, in fact been robbed. Such thinking comes from scarcity  – from a belief that the world is a place of dearth and that there will never be enough of anything to go around.

And I completely agree with this point of view. We do live in the ocean of ideas. Especially in the Internet era we have almost limitless access to acquired knowledge and information resources. And every one of us is a fishermen. Each day, each minute we try to catch new ideas and make them work for us. But like with every fishing process:

  • are we patient enough to wait for the right catch?
  • is our ‘fishing rod’ strong enough to sustain even the biggest catch?
  • and do we have a developed plan what shall we do with our catch – if we are not fast enough it might just jump over the deck back to the sea!

In other words – even coming to a good idea is usually the easy part. But the conditions, our skills, our determination and devotion to a process will ultimately determine if our idea is going to fruition into something valuable or maybe somewhere, in the other part of the world, someone else has invested more energy, time and other resources to implement similar idea. Each idea has to be welcomed, nourished in such conditions that it has all that it needs to grow.

What I truly believe is that the idea cannot be stolen.  Actually that exact fear that we might not be the first is keeping us from our ‘best creative self’. What we can do is to try strategically to position ourselves and our idea and prepare in advance for the work ahead: along the way reexamine our objectives  – it will help us stay on the course with our creative project and make important decisions.

 

 

“Collage” your way to creativity: let the rebel out!

creativity

You know those days when you have, like a hundred ideas what you would like to do, to write, but somehow you are having hard time to convey and articulate your idea? It’s there, you almost have a breakthrough but your thoughts are fast racing and nothing is coming out. Maybe we should try another way of expressing it?

In the post Organize your own creativity workshop! I propose having an inspiration box, with collected items that we like, that are inspirational to us. We can go step further and by selecting different items that appeal to us, we can try to express our idea or come up with a new one, by rearranging items in a collage.

The idea here is that we challenge ourselves, as much as a situation, a question, a problem that we have.

In this essay I came across interesting fact.The author, Marjorie Perloff states:

In the spring of 1912, Picasso pasted a piece of oilcloth printed with a trompe l’oeil chair-caning pattern to the surface of a small, oval canvas representing a still life on a café table, and then “framed” the composition with a piece of coarse rope, he was challenging the fundamental principle of Western painting from the early Renaissance to the late nineteenth century–namely, that a picture is a window on reality, an imaginary transparency through which an illusion is discerned.   For collage typically juxtaposes “real” items–pages torn from newspapers, color illustrations taken from picture books, letters of the alphabet, numbers, nails–with painted or drawn images so as to create a curiously contradictory pictorial surface.  For each element in the collage has a kind of double function: it refers to an external reality even as its compositional thrust is to undercut the very referentiality it seems to assert.  And further: collage subverts all conventional figure-ground relationships, it generally being unclear whether item A is on top of item B or behind it or whether the two coexist in the shallow space which is the “picture.”

A collage as an art form was especially popular in dada movement. Many artists used this technique to provoke their unconscious  thinking and explore metaphysical origins of reality. For example Hans Arp was famous for making a series of collages based on chance; he would stand above a sheet of paper, let squares of contrasting colored paper fall on the larger sheet’s surface, and then he would glue the squares – in any position they took by falling. Arp was interested in I-Ching fortune telling (where coins fallen by chance we interpreted for future forecasting) and he was curios what kind of visceral reaction would his art produce.

1916-dada                        Arp-gold-squares-p

Raoul Hausmann                                                     Hans Arp

So how can you use technique of collaging to exercise your creativity?

The basic idea is for you to find small items, pictures, texts and letters from newspaper –anything that moves you and that you can rearrange into your own collage poem. By collaging your items, a new reality will start to form. Prune anything you find excess and look at new relations, surprises, metaphors, combinations. Your mind will try to justify any item by its origin, position, dimension. This is an excellent exercise for your creative rebel, to shout, to say, to sing, to whisper anything in particular you can’t. Let this collage poem be the messenger of your creativity. This exercise is a fun to do in groups also, as a team building game, an exercise in leadership skills, perhaps. Possibilities are endless – don’t restrain yourself – it’s good to rebel from time to time 🙂

After Experience Taught Me by Martin Buber

Take the first two fingers of this hand;
Fork them out—kind of a “V for Victory”—

Whether there might be something whose discovery
Would grant me supreme, unending happiness.

And jam them into the eyes of your enemy.
You have to do this hard. Very hard. Then press

No virtue can be thought to have priority
Over this endeavor to preserves one’s being.

 

Organize your own creativity workshop!

Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.

Creativity-2There are few simple, yet effective exercises that we can apply and practice in our daily routine which will help us to cultivate that creativity spark and productive flow.

But first do some preparations:

Make time

One of the first key things to do is to make time for creative practice/exercise. In my own experience, when ever I feel constrained by time or my tight schedule – it’s simply additional pressure that kills every motivation for creative work. Your mind drifts away thinking about the errands and home chores you need to do…so it’s not going to work. Making time, being able to do things at your own pace is of vital importance.

De-stress

Once you make enough time, it’s very important to set the right “mood” in our mind, simply to get relaxed enough before thinking or brainstorming about new idea.Deep rhythmical breathing for a few minutes, visualization, light yoga or any type of meditation can do a wonder!

These steps allow us to be more gentle with ourselves – meaning that we don’t push ourselves too much if work/idea development doesn’t go the way we want. It can bring additional emotional burden that doesn’t help and doesn’t serve us.

Now, the real fun comes in:

1. Make your own inspiration box or board

One of the things I like to do is to create an inspiration box or an inspiration board: just the process of crafting and creating something you believe will get you closer to your goal is already a step forward. When you collect pleasant items that inspire you (quotes, pictures, poems – anything symbolic to you), that represent who you are, who you want to be, things you enjoy and you find uplifting – whenever you return to your box or board it will refresh your mind and new ideas will start to pop up!

2. Jot things down

Whenever you have an idea – write it down. No matter how silly, impossible, distant from the solution you’ve been contemplating, write it down. This unconstrained writing, where you simply don’t censure your thoughts is a technique called free-writing” or “free association”. You can go even step further and write it in the form of a poem. Surrealist poets were using similar techniques which Andre Breton described in the Surrealist manifesto published in 1924 as a

Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express…the actual functioning of thought…in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.

This process can speed up our solution thinking abilities and help us focus on the task at hand.

3. Be curios about your immediate environment

When I was very little having dolls to play with was not simply enough. I was so curios that almost each toy I had to break into parts to see what’s inside and how it works. Of course I’m not suggesting you take first object in front of you and break it into pieces 🙂 but on the paper or in your mind you can think of its constituent parts and how the object in front of you is interdepended of its generic parts and where do they come from.

For example a window: It consists of frame (wooden, aluminum, ext.) and glass. It might have a blind as well. Glass is made from molten silica at very high temperatures.. and ext. It’s called the “generic-parts technique” and usually people with this habitual way of thinking are better at solving problems through creative insight.

I hope you find these exercises fun and that you might apply them next time you need some inspiration for your work.

And for the end:

An Excerpt form Choose life by Andre Breton

Choose life choose life venerable Childhood

The ribbon coming out of a fakir

Resembles the playground slide of the world

Though Sun is only a shipwreck

Insofar as a woman’s body resembles it

You dream contemplating the whole length of its trajectory

Or only while closing your eyes on the adorable storm named your hand

                                 Choose life