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Strategies for Creative Thinking



Write when you're angry.

Cook up ideas in a room with blue walls. 

These and other strategies from Imagine: How Creativity Works are simple and usable. 

And did you know that just before your new idea or connection becomes conscious, the crackle of recognition can actually be observed in the brain by a technique using fMRI and EEG?  Cool!

This new book from Jonah Lehrer, also author of How We Decide and Proust Was A Neuroscientist, offers usable tips for more productive imagining and problem-solving.  And the science behind these ideas is fascinating.

One of his most controversial findings is that brainstorming, which by definition rules out any negative feedback, doesn't work as well as other methods for creativity and innovation.  Brainstorming is a group tossing around ideas, egging each other on, building on one another's ideas, with never a critical word.  Lehrer cites research showing that people working alone and then pooling their ideas is more effective.  And that negative feedback and differences of opinion also produce better results.

"We naturally assume…that negative feedback stifles the sensitive imagination.  But it turns out that we're tougher than we thought.  The imagination is not meek–it doesn't wilt in the face of conflict.  Instead, it is drawn out, pulled from its usual hiding place."

And it turns out there's a reason that a lot of people with mild to moderate tendency to ups and downs produce imaginative work.  The highs are good for spewing out ideas.  The lower state (within limits) is better for attention to detail and persistence.   We sorta knew that, didn't we?

An idea I like:  put your mind back in child mode and see things with fresher eyes.  To the degree that we manage to do it, that's bound to yield surprises.  Makes me think of going to the zoo with one of my nephews when he was small.  He was fascinated not by the distant elephants, but by the swinging lids on the trashcans, which I didn't even see.

I was also pleased to see proven that travel really is broadening, that it widens the reach of the imagination and recreates the sense of newness.

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Categories: enhancing creativity

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  • October 23, 2012 at 6:35 pm Reply

    Love this.  Let's go sailing!!  You rock.

    • October 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm Reply

      Thanks, Beth. I’ve found going to sea very conducive to getting new ideas. Have you?

  • November 6, 2012 at 10:57 am Reply

    I always love reading about creativity, and I swear I think it makes us more creative – just thinking about how to be creative – you know? And it almost always involves lifting our noses from the grindstone… Thank you Peggy! I want to read this book! x Frances

    • November 7, 2012 at 9:43 am Reply

      I find this same thing, Frances. I stopped reading and wrote a fanciful little essay that I’m now starting to send out.

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