Tip number one: Four year olds check boundaries in order to define them. Creative adults check the boundaries in order to break them. We have a lot to learn from one another.
Tip number two is: Practice being silly. New ideas appear silly to others. Yours will too.
Tip number three is: Be more observant! Notice things everywhere you go! There are treasures everywhere, but you have to discover them. Remember that “interesting innovations start with really good observations!”
Tip number four: Be curious. Don’t worry about killing the cat. Curious adults are the ones who always want to learn more. Be one of them.
Tip number five: The creator of the riddle is more innovative than the person who skillfully solves it. Be someone who asks questions, not just answers them.
Tip number six is to think between the boxes. Connect the unconnectable. It’s not really that difficult. In fact, it’s child’ play.
Tip number seven, in one word is “Daydream”.
Tip number eight: Aim to succeed, but be prepared to fail.
Tip number nine is “Luck comes to those who not only know it when they see it, not only know what to do with it, but to those who are ready to travel oceans, stand in the rain, those who check out every possible opportunity that they can think of, or possibly afford.”
Tip number ten is that you’ve done enough tip reading. Time to start using them!! Good luck!!
1. The secret of creativity that no one talks about
If you were to ascribe the 10 attributes of a very creative person, what would they be?
Would you consider the following to be appropriate descriptions of a creative person?
Doesn’t mind appearing silly
Doesn’t mind making mistakes
Notices things. Even tiny details.
Is curious about everything.
Has flexible boundaries.
Inquisitive. Asks a lot of questions.
Intrepid. Doesn’t mind falling and getting back up.
Who have we just described?
Any precocious four year old child, trying to figure out how the world works.
In some creativity tasks (for example the marshmallow challenge), kids outperform adults.
So, in order to be creative, we have to learn to re-adopt some of the wondrous ways we looked at the world and behaved in it when we were four years old.
That may sound easy, but isn’t. We do spend a lot of time and effort eschewing childish behavior and growing up into serious, responsible adults.
So, tip number one: Four year olds check boundaries in order to define them. Creative adults check the boundaries in order to break them. We have a lot to learn from one another.
2. Four year olds are silly. We should be too.
Four year-olds love being silly and ridiculous. Sometimes they mean to be silly. Sometimes they say ridiculous things.
Until you start to think about it a bit.
Young children appear to be silly because they mix up categories, nomenclatures and classifications. A very young child, for example, might look at a bottle cap and call it “a door”. It’s silly until you start thinking about how right the child is.
Young children also make a lot of mistakes when learning to speak a language. A young child once told me, “My uncle is from Thailand; he speaks Thailish”. It’s funny, but logical nonetheless.
No four year old would ever choose to spell ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ the way we do. And that’s for shoor.
Oh yes, and one more thing. Most inventions appear to be silly when they are first invented. The best embodiment of this is the Gershwin tune “They All Laughed”.
“They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round,
They all laughed when Edison recorded sound,
They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother, when they said that man could fly,
They told Marconi, wireless was a phony, it’s the same old lie….”
Or, to paraphrase Albert Einstein himself, if an idea isn’t ridiculous, it doesn’t have a chance to begin with.
Dr. Yossi Vardi (the guy who sold ICQ for 407,000,000 dollars) told me that the biggest barrier to success as an inventor or entrepreneur is the fear of appearing silly.
In our lectures, we practice being silly by barking. If you are prepared to bark in front of a crowd, you are on the right path to success.
If you have difficulty barking, here is my TEDx talk on the subject.
Once a year, we have a conference dedicated to giving seriously silly talks. We call it the BIRDBRAIN. Here is one of the talks on how the internet was born during the Roman era. Well worth watching (over the current internet, that is).
It’s called “Emperor, You’ve Got Mail”. Enjoy.
So tip number two is: Practice being silly. New ideas appear silly to others. Yours will too.
3. There are treasures everywhere. Why don’t we see them?
Once you’ve mastered the art of embracing silliness, you are now re-entering the world of the four year-old (but with all your education and adult skills in tow).
The next thing to learn from youngsters is their ability to observe. Young kids make lots of observations about the world (in order to make sense of the mess). Once we think we have a grip on the world, we take everything for granted. Young children notice everything. Adults don’t.
Can you notice five new things or processes in your home this week? Your school? Your office? According to our experience, everything in our physical world can be tweaked and sometimes even improved upon.
Sir Alexander Fleming discovered pennicilin because he observed his contaminated agar plates before throwing them in the garbage.
So tip number three is: Be more observant! Notice things everywhere you go! There are treasures everywhere, but you have to discover them. Remember that “interesting innovations start with really good observations!”
4. Another gift that isn’t always passed on from childhood to adulthood.
Young kids are curious about anything and everything. They want to know how everything works.
Then we go to school and the teachers tell us how everything works. We get a diploma. We stop being curious.
Einstein was always curious. He never took anything for granted. He wondered whether things really worked the way his teachers told him they did.
We can’t be Einstein, but we can be curious. About everything.
There is an expression “Curiosity killed the cat”. Everyone knows the expression, but I wonder how many of you are curious enough to go to Wikipedia to try to find the origin of the expression?
Today I was curious about why the sea is blue. You can be curious too. By the way, did you know what the Marshamallow Challenge is (I mentioned it a few pages back)? Were you curious enough to look it up on Wikipedia?
So tip number four: Be curious. Don’t worry about killing the cat. Curious adults are the ones who always want to learn more. Be one of them.
5. The $64,000,000 question
Young kids ask tons of questions. But at some stage we send them away to school, where asking questions is frowned upon (unless you’re the teacher).
The $64,000,000 question: What is the most important thing that you learn in school (hint: there is only one correct answer to this question).
The answer is on the next page, in case you haven’t figured it out.
Question: What is the most important thing that you learn in school?
School: There is only one correct answer to every question.
In school we spend many years learning to get the right answer. When we get the ‘right’ answer, we get good grades and are rewarded.
We forget about asking questions. Sometimes we even get punished for asking the ‘wrong’ ones. We forget to cast doubt. We don’t question. We learn off-by-heart.
So here is a question. In our creative thinking classes, we ask our students whether 2+2 always equals 4.
Some of the other possibilities are much more interesting.
For example, 2+2 can equal 1, 10, or even 11.
So tip number five: The creator of the riddle is more innovative than the person who skillfully solves it. Be someone who asks questions, not just answers them.
6. Thinking Outside the Box? Poppycock!!
You might be surprised to learn that most inventions do not come from thinking outside the box (when you do that you only create another box). They come from thinking BETWEEN boxes.
Young children connect things that don’t appear to be connectable. They make weird and unanticipated associations. They think between boxes.
That’s because they are trying to learn what should go in which box.
Young children mix objects and metaphors. Young children can turn a banana into a gun, a hat, a nose, a projectile. Just ask them.
Inventors work in an analogous ways. They take things from two different boxes and connect them.
Here is one exercise that we do in class. In Hebrew we call it “everything is honey” (a common expression in that language). We ask the students to find something that is NOT connected with honey. Try it, you will find that practically everything is, in one way or another. If you don’t believe me, Google for honey + anything.
There is an equivalent expression in English: “Everything is coming up roses”. Go ahead, just try and find something that cannot somehow be associated with roses. It’s almost impossible.
You can also make up your own game. Think of twenty things, write each one on a card and put them in two piles of ten. Take one card from each pile and find associations between them. The wackier and sillier, the better. These unexpected connections may lead you somewhere.
So tip number six is to think between the boxes. Connect the unconnectable. It’s not really that difficult. In fact, it’s child’ play.
7. Magic Moments
When I was a young child, Perry Como had a hit song by that name.
For a creative person, the ‘magic moment’ is that very instant when the idea hits you smack in the face. The moment that Archimedes screamed “Eureka” and ran naked down the street. Newton’s apple moment. The moment Edison and co.’s light bulb went on. My friend Jeff Pulver calls it the “Shower Moment”. He gets his best ideas in the shower.
The precise moment when you come up with an innovative idea can indeed be magical. So magical that the ancient Greeks believed that supernatural ‘muses’ were responsible, rather than the human brain itself.
But inventors and creative people have magic moments while they daydream. They let their mind wander “off the path”. Young children need no special reason to daydream. I daydreamed my way through elementary school. But at some stage, we are taught that daydreaming is childish and a waste of time. But I guess I wasn’t listening.
As an adult, the best way to daydream is to perform a mundane chore. It could be swimming laps in the pool, washing the dishes, taking a shower, or any similar simple activity that lets our brain ‘wander about’ or ‘go for a walk’. No need to concentrate on daydreaming. Quite the contrary. Don’t concentrate on anything in particular. That’s when the muses come visit.
No wonder Archimedes got his greatest idea from taking a bath.
So tip number seven, in one word is “Daydream”.
8. Be prepared to fail.
Young kids fail all the time. They make mistakes on the way to finding out how not to make mistakes. They lose balance, fall, get back on their legs and try again. And again. They don’t give up until they get it right. Whether it’s skipping rope, hitting a baseball, riding a bicycle or getting up on water skis.
Older children, however become so petrified by failure and ridicule that they eventually stop trying new things.
Creativity, though, is all about trying new things. And new things often fail. Entrepreneurs and inventors know this. They know that people will laugh at them. They almost expect it.
They recognize that inventions fail 99% of the time. They keep trying. They know that there is still that 1% chance of success. They want to be that 1%.
Entrepreneurs know that chances are they will fail on any given project. They increase the chance of success. How? By learning from all their previous mistakes and failures.
So, tip number eight: Aim to succeed, but be prepared to fail.
9. What does Luck have to do with it?
A lot, actually. Most successful people will admit that luck played a major role in their careers. I think that luck plays an even greater role when you’re an inventor or entrepreneur. That’s because the odds are stacked so heavily against you.
I used to teach my students that “Luck favors the prepared mind”. That is what Pasteur was supposed to have said (Pasteur is one of my all-time scientific heroes).
But here’s the thing. Pasteur never said that. He couldn’t have. He didn’t speak English.
What Pasteur really said (in French) is that chance doesn’t smile at anyone EXCEPT those whose minds are well-prepared.
Back to Sir Alexander Fleming. When Fleming saw that agar plate, he knew what he was looking at. He was well-prepared. So was it pure luck that he discovered pennicillin?
After all, he took the trouble of looking at an AGAR PLATE WITH A CONTAMINATION OF FUNGI THAT HE WAS ABOUT TO THROW IN THE GARBAGE.
He observed. He noticed the anomaly (that the fungal contamination had inhibited the bacterial growth). He was curious about it. He had studied related phenomena. His mind was prepared for such a weird observation.
I have a friend named Henry Couto who lives in Brasil. Henry doesn’t wait for opportunity to come around. He chases after it. He once flew from Sao Paulo to Tel Aviv to try to change my mind about something. Henry is a guy who will shake a whole tree to make one coconut fall out. And he taught me an important lesson about luck and fortune.
It isn’t enough to wait for luck to visit. It isn’t enough to be well-prepared for it. To increase your chances, you have to chase after it. Pursue it relentlessly.
If life is a hall with a thousand doors, hard core entrepreneurs will try to open every one.
So tip number nine is “Luck comes to those who not only know it when they see it, not only know what to do with it, but to those who are ready to travel oceans, stand in the rain, those who check out every possible opportunity that they can think of, or possibly afford.”
Tip Number Ten
Creativity should be fun. Dr. Alon Amit and I have developed a method which enables everyone to come up with wild, wacky, wonderful ideas. It’s called 48create. Let us know if it helps you come up with a great idea!!
And you can always write me at [email protected]
So, enough reading our tips. Time to start implementing them!! Good luck!!
Published: Sep 23, 2014
Latest Revision: Aug 2, 2017
Ourboox Unique Identifier: OB-17896
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1 thought on “Mel’s Ten Tips on Creative Thinking (with Dr. Alon Amit and Hagai Cohen)”
Love it – add oil!