Posts Tagged ‘michalko’

The Lessons I Learned from Nikola Tesla and my Grandfather that Influenced my Life

 

tesla

Consider what Nikola Tesla accomplished with his mind’s eye. He is the man who invented the modern world. He was a physicist first, and electrical engineer and mechanical engineer later. Tesla invented the AC electricity, electric car, radio, the bladeless turbine, wireless communication, fluorescent lighting, the induction motor, a telephone repeater, the rotating magnetic field principle, the poly-phase alternating current system, alternating current power transmission, Tesla Coil transformer, and more than 700 other patents.

At an early age Tesla created an imaginary world where he pretended to reside. In his autobiography “My Inventions,” Tesla described: Every night and sometimes during the day, when alone, I would start out on my journeys, see new places, cities and countries, live there, meet with people, make friendships and acquaintances and, however unbelievably it is a fact that they were just as dear to me as those in actual life and not a bit less intense in their manifestations. He used to practice this kind of mind-journey constantly until he was about seventeen, at which age he began creating inventions for the modern world.

When he became an adult, he would imagine himself in the future and observe what devices and machines they had. Tesla imagined himself to be a time traveler. He would note how they created energy, how they communicated, and lived.  He could picture them all as if they were real in his imaginary mind. He would conduct imaginary experiments and collect data. He described that he needed no models, drawings or experiments in a physical place.

When he attained an idea for a new machine, he would create the machine in his imagination. Instead of building a model or prototype, he would conceive a detailed mental model. Then he would leave it running in his imagination. His mental capacity was so high that after a period of time he would calculate the wear and tear of the different parts of his imaginary machine. Always his results would prove to be incredibly accurate.

Tesla believed he was the greatest genius on earth and acted the part every day. He refused to share the Noble prize with Thomas Edison in 1915 because he considered Edison unworthy of sharing a stage with him. He also vowed he would never accept the prize if they awarded it to Edison before him. Consequently, neither received the prize.

Nicola Tesla taught me the value of being self-confident. A self-confident attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, then failure, then successes, then what other people think or say or do.

Many years ago I met my grandfather Dido by chance as he was walking home from work. He had a rough day. His car conked out and he was not able to repair it. The auto shop picked it up and he was told it was going to be an expensive repair. Earlier in the day his best friend had a massive heart attack and was in serious condition in the hospital. Additionally, he was told his work hours were being cut back because of the lack of orders. He told me all this and then he walked in stony silence the rest of the way.

On arriving, he invited me in. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, closed his eyes and touched the tips of the branches with both hands. After opening the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was wreathed in smiles and he hugged my grandmother and gave her a big kiss. Afterward, I asked him why he had stopped at the tree and touched the branches. “Oh,” he laughed, “that’s my trouble tree,” he replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles, but one thing for sure, troubles don’t belong in my house with my wife and family. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning, I pick them up again.” “Funny thing is,” he smiled, “when I come out in the morning to pick them up, there aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”

My grandfather taught me that we cannot change the inevitable, but the remarkable thing is that if we have the right attitude we have a choice how we handle it.

 

(Michael Michalko is the highly-acclaimed author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Thinking Strategies of Creative Geniuses;  Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck, and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work. http://www.creativethinking.net)

 

 

 

Einstein’s Fantasies

YOUNG EINSTEIN

Think of how Albert Einstein changed our understanding of time and space by fantasizing about people going to the center of time in order to freeze their lovers or their children in century-long embraces. This space he imagined is clearly reminiscent of a black hole, where, theoretically, gravity would stop time. Einstein also fantasized about a woman’s heart leaping and falling in love two weeks before she has met the man she loves, which lead him to the understanding of acausality, a feature of quantum mechanics. A caricature of special relativity (the relativistic idea that people in motion appear to age more slowly) is based on his fantasy of a world in which all the houses and offices are on wheels, constantly zooming around the streets (with advance collision-avoidance systems).

Even the “Many worlds” interpretation which is espoused by some physicists, including Stephen Hawkins is based on Einstein’s fantasy of a world where time has three dimensions, instead of one, where every moment branches into three futures. Einstein summarized value of using your imagination to fantasize best when he said “The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: Try to solve the following thought experiment before you read the paragraph that follows it. The thought experiment is attributed to the German Gestalt psychologist Karl Dunker.

One morning, exactly at sunrise, a Buddhist monk began to climb a tall mountain. The narrow path, no more than a foot or two wide, spiraled around the mountain to a glittering temple at the summit. The monk ascended the path at a varying rate of speed, stopping many times along the way to rest and to eat the dried fruit he carried with him. He reached the temple shortly before sunset. After several days of fasting and meditation, he began his journey back along the same path, starting at sunrise and again walking at a varying speed with many stops along the way. His average speed descending was, of course, greater than his average climbing speed. Is there a spot along the path that the monk will occupy on both trips at precisely the same time of day?

If you try to logically reason this out or use a mathematical approach, you will conclude that it is unlikely for the monk to find himself on the same spot at the same time of day on two different occasions. Instead, visualize the monk walking up the hill, and at the same time imagine the same monk walking down the hill. The two figures must meet at some point in time regardless of their walking speed  or how often they stop. Whether the monk descends in two days or three days makes no difference; it all comes out to the same thing.

Now it is, of course, impossible for the monk to duplicate himself and walk up the mountain and down the mountain at the same time. But in the visual image he does; and it is precisely this indifference to logic, this superimposition of one image over the other, that leads to the solution. The imaginative conception of the monk meeting himself blends the journeys up and down the mountain and superimposes one monk on the other at the meeting place.

Your brain is a dynamic system that evolves its patterns of activity rather than computes them like a computer. It thrives on the creative energy of feedback from experiences real or fictional. You can synthesize experience; literally create it in your own imagination. The human brain cannot tell the difference between an “actual” experience and a fantasy imagined vividly and in detail. This discovery is what enabled Albert Einstein to create his thought experiments with imaginary scenarios that led to his revolutionary ideas about space and time.

Imagination gives us the impertinence to imagine making the impossible possible. Einstein, for example, was able to imagine alternatives to the sacred Newtonian notion of absolute time, and discovered that time is relative to your state of motion. Think of the thousands of scientists who must have come close to Einstein’s insight but lacked the imagination to see it because of the accepted dogma that time is absolute, and who must have considered it impossible to contemplate any theory. 

Think of an impossibility, then try to come up with ideas that take you as close as possible to that impossibility. For example, imagine an automobile that is a live, breathing creature, List attributes of living creatures. They are, for example, breathing, growing older, reproducing, feeling emotions, and so on. Then use as many of those attributes as you can while designing your automobile. For instance, can you work emotions into something that a car displays?

Japanese engineers for Toyota are working on a car that they say can express moods ranging from angry to happy to sad. The car can raise or lower its body height and ‘‘wag’’ its antenna, and it comes equipped with illuminated hood designs, capable of changing colors, that are meant to look like eyebrows, eyes, and even tears. The car will try to approximate the feelings of its driver by drawing on data stored in an onboard computer. So, for example, if another car swerves into an expressive car’s lane, the right combination of deceleration, brake pressure, and defensive steering, when matched with previous input from the driver, will trigger an ‘‘angry’’ look.

The angry look is created as the front end lights up with glowering red U-shaped lights, the headlights become hooded at a forty-five-degree angle, and downward-sloping “eyebrow” lights glow crimson. A good-feeling look is lighting up orange, and one headlight winks at the courteous driver and wags its antennae. A sad-feeling look is blue with “tears” dripping from the headlights.

Stretching your imagination by trying to make impossible things possible with concrete thoughts and actions is a mirror reversal of dreaming. Whereas a dream represents abstract ideas as concrete actions and images, this creative process works in the opposite direction, using concrete ideas (a car that is alive) to gain insight on a conscious level to reveal disguised thoughts (about cars showing emotion) as creative imagery.

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Michael Michalko is a renowned creativity expert whose books include 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. www.creativethinking.net

Dancing in the Rain

Below is a drawing.  What does it look like to you?Horse.Frog

If you said frog, you were right.  However, if you said horse, you were also right.  Can you see the horse?  (Hint: Tilt your head to the right.)

We see different things in the lines and shapes of the drawing depending on how we look at the drawing.  In a way, it is the same in the real world where we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.  If you are a happy person, the world is a joyful place.  If you are a sad person, the world is a place of despair.

A few years back, two men, a paralytic and a man with a terrible lung disease, were confined to a hospital room.  Each day, the medical staff would help the man with the lung disease sit up for an hour and, during that time, he would gaze out the window and describe what he saw to his paralyzed roommate whose bed was on the side of the room away from the window.

He’d describe children running and playing, a father walking with his child, a bluebird in a tree across the way, how the wind moved the clouds, how the rain washed the sidewalks and roads clean, and two little boys playing catch.  His descriptions gave the paralyzed man a sense of hope, a will to live.

One day, the man with the lung disease died.  The paralyzed man asked to be moved close to the window and, when the nurses obliged, asked them to help him sit up so he could see out.  Again the nurses obliged, but all that could be seen from the window was a wall.

Shocked, the paralyzed man told the nurses about the wonderful things his former roommate had described and about how those descriptions had given him hope.  The nurses were a little shook up by this and told the paralyzed man something he didn’t know about his roommate.

“He was blind,” they said.

The point is, the world is largely in your mind.  It’s how you think, how you dream, that determines how you see and perceive things.  Life is not about waiting for storms to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.

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Michael Michalko http://creativethinking.net/about/#sthash.CGesK9v4.dpbs

 

What Have You Learned About the Meaning of Life?

LIFE

After a seminar about creative thinking I gave, I found that someone had slipped a sheet of paper into my pile of notes. I was never able to identify the author or find out why he or she slipped it to me. The sheet was titled “What I have learned about life” and listed several thoughts, some of which I found fascinating. Following is the list:

  • This is it!
  • There are no hidden meanings.
  • You can’t get there from here, and besides, there is nowhere else to go.
  • We are all already dying, and we will be dead for a very long time.
  • Nothing lasts.
  • There is no way of getting all you want.
  • You can’t have anything unless you let go of it.
  • You only get to keep what you give away.
  • There is no particular reason why you lost out on some things.
  • The world is not necessarily just. Being good does not pay off and there is no compensation for misfortune.
  • You have a responsibility to do your best none-the-less.
  • It is a random universe to which we bring order.
  • You don’t really control anything.
  • You can’t make anyone love you.
  • No one is any stronger or any weaker than anyone else.
  • Everyone is, in their own way, vulnerable.
  • There are no great men.
  • If you have a hero, look again, you’ve diminished yourself in some way.
  • Everyone lies, cheats, and pretends. –
  • All evil is potential vitality in need of transformation
  • All of you is worth something if only you will own it.
  • Progress is an illusion.
  • Evil can be displaced, but never eradicated, and all solutions breed new problems.
  • Yet, it is necessary to keep on struggling towards solutions.
  • Childhood is a nightmare.
  • Each of us is, ultimately, alone.
  • The most important things, each man must do for himself.
  • Love is not enough, but it sure helps things.
  • We have only ourselves and one another. That may not be much’ but that is all there is.
  • How strange, that every so often, it all seems worth it.
  • We must live with the ambiguity of partial freedom, partial powers, and partial knowledge.
  • All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data.
  • Yet we are responsible for everything we do.
  • No excuses will be accepted.
  • You can run, but you cannot hide.
  • It is most important to run out of scapegoats.
  • We must learn the power of living with our helplessness.
  • The only victory lies in surrender to oneself.
  • All of the significant battles are waged within the self.
  • You are free to do whatever you like, you need only face the consequences.
  • What do you know, for sure, anyway?
  • Learn to forgive yourself, again, and again and again, and again and again and again and again and again.

What is your list of things you have learned about life during your lifetime?

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(Michael Michalko is the author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques; Cracking Creativity: The Thinking Strategies of Creative Geniuses;   Thinkpak: A Brainstorming Card Deck, and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work. http://www.creativethinking.net)

A SURREAL IDEA

surreal

André Breton was a French writer and poet. He is known best as the founder of surrealism. The surrealists sought to overthrow the oppressive rules of society by demolishing its backbone of rational thought. To do so, they attempted to tap into the “superior reality” of the subconscious mind. “Completely against the tide,” said Breton, “in a violent reaction against the impoverishment and sterility of thought processes that resulted from centuries of rationalism, we turned toward the marvelous and advocated it unconditionally.” 

Many of the tenets of surrealism included an emphasis on the actual functioning of thought…in the absence of any control exercised by reason. They created many exercises designed to probe the subconscious by getting the minds to be as passive and receptive as possible. 

One day I had a long discussion with a friend about the Japanese whaling industry and their illegal poaching practices. After the discussion, I decided to experiment with one of Andre Breton’s surrealist exercises. The exercise has 3 small, grid like areas and one large grid on a sheet of paper.  

DOT_0001

The first rule of the exercise was to always forget your genius, talents, as well as the genius and talents of others. Try not to think about what you are doing—just let your automatic functions take over, letting them proceed as they wish. Your final solution will not come from your normal way of solving problems, but from a deeper, more intuitive impulse. So whatever happens, let it happen. The guidelines are:

  • Think of a problem. Don’t dwell on it and dismiss it from your thoughts. Look at the design below with the grids.
  • Use the 3 small grids at the top to create an image in the spirit of your unconscious. Try not to think of what you’re doing…just let your automatic functions take over, letting them proceed as they wish.
  • Then with the large grid on the bottom revert to your usual way of thinking and impose your will to create whatever imagery, abstract or literal you wish.

My problem was how to control the illegal whale harvesting by the Japanese whalers. In the small grids I drew one squiggle that looked like a human skull, one that looked like quotation markets and one that looked like a rose. In the large grid I drew a stick figure of a man with two profiles: one looking left and one looking right.

I pondered over my drawings for a long time. The skull reminded me of a pirate’s black flag; the quotation marks reminded me of a quote “The opposite of a profound truth is another truth; and the rose reminded me of the roses I give my wife to celebrate our union as husband and wife. The stick figure in the large grid reminded me of the ambiguity in all aspects of life e.g., no one is all good or all evil.

These images combined and recombined in my imagination and inspired the thought of one way of fighting an illegal activity is to use an illegal enforcement activity. The pirate’s flag reminded me of the Somalian pirate ships off the coast of Africa. The rose got me thinking of combining two illegal activities. The stick figure made me think of looking the other way when something illegal is accomplishing something good.

My final idea all this inspired is to make it legal for the Somali pirates to hijack illegal Japanese Whalers and hold them for ransom.

Now it’s your turn to give it a try.
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Michael Michalko www.creativethinking.net

What the CIA Discovered about Smiling

Mona LisaOur attitudes influence our behavior. But it’s also true that our behavior can influence our attitudes. The Greek philosopher Diogenes was once noticed begging a statue. His friends were puzzled and alarmed at this behavior. Asked the reason for this pointless behavior, Diogenes replied, “I am practicing the art of being rejected.” By pretending to be rejected continually by the statue, Diogenes was learning to understand the mind of a beggar. Every time we pretend to have an attitude and go through the motions, we trigger the emotions we pretend to have and strengthen the attitude we wish to cultivate. 

You become what you pretend to be. The surrealist artist Salvador Dalí was pathologically shy as a child. He hid in closets and avoided all human contact, until his uncle counseled him on how to overcome this shyness. He advised Dalí to be an actor and to pretend he played the part of an extrovert. At first Dalí was full of doubts. But when he adopted the pose of an extrovert, his brain soon adapted itself to the role he was playing. Dalí’s pretense changed his psychology. 

Think for a moment about social occasions — visits, dates, dinners out with friends, birthday parties, weddings, and other gatherings. Even when we’re unhappy or depressed, these occasions force us to act as if we are happy. Observing others’ faces, postures, and voices, we unconsciously mimic their reactions. We synchronize our movements, postures, and tones of voice with theirs. Then, by mimicking happy people, we become happy. 

CIA researchers have long been interested in developing techniques to help them study the facial expressions of suspects. Two such researchers began simulating facial expressions of anger and distress all day, each day for weeks. One of them admitted feeling terrible after a session of making those faces. Then the other realized that he too felt poorly, so they began to keep track. They began monitoring their bodies while simulating facial expressions. Their findings were remarkable. They discovered that a facial expression alone is sufficient to create marked changes in the nervous system. 

In one exercise they raised their inner eyebrows, raised their cheeks, and lowered the corner of their lips and held this facial expression for a few minutes. They were stunned to discover that this simple facial expression generated feelings of sadness and anguish within them. The researchers then decided to monitor the heart rates and body temperatures of two groups of people. One group was asked to remember and relive their most sorrowful experiences. The other group in another room was simply asked to produce a series of facial expressions expressing sadness. Remarkably, the second group, the people who were pretending, showed the same physiological responses as the first. Try the following thought experiment. 

THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

  • Lower your eyebrows.
  • Raise your upper eyelids.
  • Narrow your eyelids.
  • Press your lips together. 

Hold this expression and you will generate anger. Your heartbeat will go up ten or twelve beats per minute. Your hands will get hot, and you feel very unpleasant. 

The next time you’re feeling depressed and want to feel happy and positive, try this: put a pen between your teeth, in far enough so that it stretches the edges of your mouth out to the left and right without feeling uncomfortable. Hold it there for five minutes or so. You’ll find yourself inexplicably in a happy mood. You will amaze yourself at fast your facial expressions can change your emotions. 

In a further experiment, the CIA researchers had one group of subjects listen to recordings of top comedians and look at a series of cartoons. At the same time, each person held a pen pressed between his or her lips — an action that makes it impossible to smile. Individ­uals in another group each held a pen between his or her teeth, which had the opposite effect and made them smile. 

The people with the pens between their teeth rated the comedians and cartoons as much funnier than the other group did. What’s more, the people in neither group knew they were making expressions of emotion. Amazingly, an expression you do not even know you have can create an emotion that you did not deliberately choose to feel. Emotion doesn’t just go from the inside out. It goes from the outside in. 

HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN MOOD 

Psychologist Theodore Velten created a mood induction procedure in 1969 that psychologists have used for over forty years to induce a posi­tive mind-set, especially in psychology experiments. It’s a simple approach that involves reading, reflecting on, and trying to feel the effects of some fifty-eight positive affirmations as they wash over you. The statements start out being fairly neutral and then become progressively more positive. They are specifically designed to produce a euphoric state of mind. 

Velten’s Instructions: Read each of the following statements to yourself. As you look at each one, focus your observation only on that one. You should not spend too much time on any one statement. To experience the mood suggested in the statement, you must be willing to accept and respond to the idea. Allow the emotion in the statement to act upon you. Then try to produce the feeling suggested by each statement. Visualize a scene in which you experienced such a feeling. Imagine reliving the scene. The entire exercise should take about ten minutes. 

VELTEN MOOD INDUCTION STATEMENTS 

  1. Today is neither better nor worse than any other day.
  2. I do feel pretty good today, though.
  3. I feel lighthearted.
  4. This might turn out to have been one of my good days.
  5. If your attitude is good, then things are good, and my attitude is good.
  6. I feel cheerful and lively.
  7. I’ve certainly got energy and self-confidence to share.
  8. On the whole, I have very little difficulty in thinking clearly.
  9. My friends and family are pretty proud of me most of the time.
  10. I’m in a good position to make a success of things.
  11. For the rest of the day, I bet things will go really well.
  12. I’m pleased that most people are so friendly to me.
  13. My judgments about most things are sound.
  14. The more I get into things, the easier they become for me.
  15. I’m full of energy and ambition — I feel like I could go a long time without sleep.
  16. This is one of those days when I can get things done with practically no effort at all.
  17. My judgment is keen and precise today. Just let someone try to put something over on me.
  18. When I want to, I can make friends extremely easily.
  19. If I set my mind to it, I can make things turn out fine.
  20. I feel enthusiastic and confident now.
  21. There should be opportunity for a lot of good times coming along.
  22. My favorite songs keep going through my mind.
  23. Some of my friends are so lively and optimistic.
  24. I feel talkative — I feel like talking to almost anybody.
  25. I’m full of energy, and am really getting to like the things I’m doing.
  26. I feel like bursting with laughter — I wish somebody would tell a joke and give me an excuse.
  27. I feel an exhilarating animation in all I do.
  28. My memory is in rare form today.
  29. I’m able to do things accurately and efficiently.
  30. I know good and well that I can achieve the goals I set.
  31. Now that it occurs to me, most of the things that have depressed me wouldn’t have if I’d just had the right attitude.
  32. I have a sense of power and vigor.
  33. I feel so vivacious and efficient today — sitting on top of the world.
  34. It would really take something to stop me now.
  35. In the long run, it’s obvious that things have gotten better and better during my life.
  36. I know in the future I won’t overemphasize so-called “problems.”
  37. I’m optimistic that I can get along very well with most of the people I meet.
  38. I’m too absorbed in things to have time for worry.
  39. I’m feeling amazingly good today.
  40. I am particularly inventive and resourceful in this mood.
  41. I feel superb! I think I can work to the best of my ability.
  42. Things look good. Things look great!
  43. I feel that many of my friendships will stick with me in the future.
  44. I feel highly perceptive and refreshed.
  45. I can find the good in almost everything.
  46. In a buoyant mood like this one, I can work fast and do it right the first time.
  47. I can concentrate hard on anything I do.
  48. My thinking is clear and rapid.
  49. Life is so much fun; it seems to offer so many sources of fulfillment.
  50. Things will be better and better today.
  51. I can make decisions rapidly and correctly, and I can defend them against criticisms easily.
  52. I feel industrious as heck — I want something to do!
  53. Life is firmly in my control.
  54. I wish somebody would play some good, loud music!
  55. This is great — I really do feel good. I am elated about things!
  56. I’m really feeling sharp now.
  57. This is just one of those days when I’m ready to go!
  58. Wow, I feel great! 

You’ll find yourself feeling good about yourself and thinking harmonious thoughts. When you are in a good mood, you find your body exhibiting it in your behavior. You’ll smile, and you’ll walk briskly. 

MONA LISA’S SMILE 

Leonardo da Vinci once observed that it’s no mystery why it is fun to be around happy people and depressing to be around depressed people. He also observed a melancholy atmosphere in many portraits. He attributed that to the solitariness of artists and their environment. According to Giorgio Vasari, Leonardo, while painting the Mona Lisa, employed singers, musicians, and jesters to chase away his melancholy as he painted. As a result, he painted a smile so pleasing that it seems divine and as alive as the original. 

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To discover the creative thinking techniques creative geniuses have used throughout history in the arts, sciences and business read CRACKING CREATIVITY by Michael Michalko. http://www.amazon.com/Cracking-Creativity-Secrets-Creative-Genius/dp/1580083110/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=16NCRBEMHRCEQ1RAZG5VCRACKING CREATIVITY.2

 

 

 

 

Test Your Flexible Thinking Skills

Associating seemingly disparate elements in new ways by finding a novel connection between them is the backbone of creativity. It is also the backbone of this book. To associate elements in new ways, you must think flexibly. Flexibility of thought is the ability to produce a large number of original ideas.

For a quick test of your mental flexibility, try the Remote Associates Test developed by Martha Mednick. For each set of three words, the goal is to find an associated word that all three have in common. For example, the words “wheel,” “electric,” and “high” can all be paired with “chair.”

  1. piggy               green               lash               __________
  2. surprise           line                   birthday       __________
  3. mark                shelf                 telephone    __________
  4. stick                 maker              tennis           __________
  5. blue                  cottage             cloth             __________
  6. motion            poke                 down            __________
  7. gem                  wall                  stepping       __________
  8. chorus             bee                   side               __________
  9. lunch               car                    gift                __________
  10. foul                  ground            pen                __________

How did you do? If you are like most people, you probably did not make all the associations.

In addition to thinking flexibly, one needs to use a variety of creative thinking techniques to keep your creative fire stoked, you need variety. Variety is the essence of all sensation; our senses are designed to respond to change and contrast. When a stimulus is unchanging or repetitious, sensation disappears.

Hold your hand over one eye and stare at the dot in the middle of the circle. After a few moments, the circle will fade and disappear. It will only reappear if you blink or shift your gaze to the X.

Disappearing dot

 X

 

What happens is that the receptors in your eye get “tired” and stop responding, and nerve cells higher up in your sensory system switch off. This process is called sensory adaptation. You become blind to what is right before your eyes. The same phenomenon explains what is going on when you can no longer smell a gas leak that you noticed when you first entered the kitchen.

When your method for getting ideas is routine and unchanging, your imagination gets bored and switches off. One might term it “imagination adaptation.” You become blind to the opportunities right before your eyes, but do not realize it until someone else points out your blindness. Then, and only then, can you see what you had been looking at all along. If you can no longer recall your last original idea, you are suffering from this condition.

(The answers to the remote associates are: back, party, book, match, cheese, slow, stone, line, box, and play.)

 

For a variety of creative thinking techniques read Michael Michalko’s Thinkertoys. COVER.Thinkertoys

In What Ways Might We Formulate a Problem Statement?

questionmark.The initial statement of a problem often reflects a preconceived solution. Once we have settled on a perspective, we close off but one line of thought. Certain kinds of ideas occur to us, but only those kinds and no others. What if the crippled man who invented the motorized cart had defined his problem as: “How to occupy my time while lying in bed?” rather than “How to get out of bed and move around the house?”

Have you ever looked closely at the wheels on a railroad train? They are flanged. That is, they have a lip on the inside to prevent them from sliding off the track. Originally train wheels were not flanged–instead, the railroad tracks were. Because the problem of railroad safety had been expressed as: “How can the tracks be made safer for trains to ride on?” hundreds of thousands of miles of track were manufactured with an unnecessary steel lip. Only when the problem was redefined as: “In what ways might we make railroad traffic safer? was the flanged wheel invented.

INVITATIONAL STEM: The formulation of a problem determines the range of choices: the questions you ask determine the answers you receive. To start with, it’s helpful to coin problems in a particular way. Write the problems you want to solve as a definite question. Use the phrase “In what ways might I…?” to start a problem statement. This is sometimes known as the invitational stem and helps keep you from settling on a problem statement that may reflect only one perception of the problem.

For example, in the series of letters below, cross out six letters to make a common word.

C S R I E X L E A T T T E R E S

If you state the problem as: “How to cross out six letters to form a common word?” you’ll find it difficult to solve. If, instead, you framed it: “In what ways might I cross out six letters to form a common word?” you will likely find yourself inspired to think of many alternative possible solutions, including the solution which is to literally cross out the letters “S,” “I,” “X,” “L,” “E,” “T,” “T,” “ and so on, leaving the word CREATE.

Before you brainstorm any problem, restate the problem at least five to ten times to generate multiple perspectives. The emphasis is not so much on the right problem definition but on alternative problem definitions. Sooner or later, you’ll find one that you are comfortable with. Following are some different ways to look at your problem.

GLOBAL AND SPECIFIC: One can always look at a system from different levels of abstraction. A very fine-grained description of a beach would include every position of every grain of sand. Viewed from a higher vantage point, the details become smeared together, the grains become a smooth expanse of brown. At this level of description, different qualities emerge: the shape of the coastline, the height of the dunes, and so on.

The idea is to look for the appropriate level of abstraction, the best viewpoint from which to gather ideas. In the 1950s, experts believed that the ocean-going freighter was dying. Costs were rising, and it took longer and longer to get merchandise delivered.

The shipping industry experts built faster ships that required less fuel and downsized the crew. Costs still kept going up, but the industry kept focusing its efforts on reducing specific costs related to ships while at sea and doing work.

A ship is capital equipment and the biggest cost for the capital equipment is the cost of not working, because interest has to be paid without income being generated to pay for it. Finally, an outside consultant globalized the challenge to: “In what ways might the shipping industry reduce costs?”

This allowed them to consider all aspects of shipping, including loading and stowing. The innovation that saved the industry was to separate loading from stowing, by doing the loading on land, before the ship is in port. It is much quicker to put on and take off preloaded freight. The answer was the roll-on, roll-off ship and the container ship. Port time has been reduced by three quarters, and with it, congestion and theft. Freighter traffic has increased fivefold in the last thirty years, and costs are down by 60%.

One of the keys to Freud’s genius was his ability to find the appropriate level of abstraction of his problem so that he could operate beyond the usual assumptions and interpretations. To find the appropriate level of abstraction, ask “Why?” four or five times, until you find the level where you’re comfortable.

Suppose your challenge is: “In what ways might I sell more Chevrolet Luminas?”
Step One: Why do you want to sell more Luminas? “Because my car sales are down”
Step Two: Why do you want to sell more cars? “To improve my overall sales.”
Step Three: Why do you want to improve overall sales? “To improve my business.
Step Four: Why do you want to improve your business? “To increase my personal wealth.”
Step Five: Why do you want to improve your personal wealth? “To lead the good life.”

Now you shape your challenge in a variety of ways including:
In what ways might I sell more Luminas?
In what ways might I sell more cars?
In what ways might I improve overall sales?
In what ways might I improve my business?
In what ways might I improve my personal wealth?
In what ways might I lead the good life?

You may choose to stick with the original challenge of selling more Luminas or you may choose a more global challenge of improving your personal wealth. Improving your personal wealth allows your thinking to embrace more opportunities. You could negotiate a higher commission return for each vehicle sold, go into another business, make investments, sell other products and so on.

SEPARATE THE PARTS FROM THE WHOLE. Seeing is one of the most comprehensive operations possible: your vison embraces an infinity of forms and objects, yet it fixes on but one object at a time. Similarly, when Leonardo Da Vinci embraced a subject, he would see the whole but would move from one detail to another seeking the origin or cause of each detail. He believed you gained knowledge by separating the parts from the whole and examining all the relationships and key factors that may influence a given situation.

Professor Kaoru Ishikawa of the University of Tokyo incorporated this strategy in his Ishikawa diagram, which is commonly known as the “fishbone” diagram because of its unique shape. The “fishbone” diagaram is a way to visually organize and examine all the factors that may influence a given situation by identifying all the possible causes that produce an effect. An effect is a desirable or undesirable result produced by a series of causes. In teaching this tool, the Japanese often use as an effect a “perfect plate of rice.” In a typical diagram, minor causes are clustered around four major cause categories. For example, common major cause categories in the manufacturing process might be materials, people, methods, and machinery, and major cause categories in public education might be teachers, methods, environment, students, and policies.

Suppose we want to improve creativity in our organization. Following are guidelines for fishboning the situation:

1. Our effect would be “perfect organizational creativity.”We would write this in the box on the right (the fish’s head). A straight line is drawn to the left to resemble the backbone of the fish.
2. The next step is to brainstorm the major cause categories. What are the major causes that would produce perfect organizational creativity? You can have as many major causes as are warranted. There are typically three to six. We decide that the four major categories for organizational creativity are: people, environment, materials and policies. The major cause categories become the ribs of the fish.
3. Minor causes are then grouped around the major causes as fish bones. E.g., “train to be creative” would be a bone attached to the “People” rib, and “stimulating” would be a bone attached to the “Environment” rib.
4. For each minor cause, ask “How can we make this happen?” and post the response as branches off the bones. E.g., “hire an outside expert to conduct the training” would be a branch off the “train” bone.

FISHBONE
[NOTE: Click on diagram]

Fishboning allows you to see the relationships between causes and effects, allows you to consider all the different parts of a situation, and allows you to identify those areas where you need more data or information. It also triggers your subconscious. Ishikawa described the process as one in which you fishbone your problem and let it cook overnight. When you come back to it, you’ll be amazed at the new thoughts and ideas that your subconscious has cooked up.

REPHRASE THE PROBLEM IN YOUR OWN WORDS. Richard Feynman once reviewed his children’s school books. One book began with pictures of a mechanical wind-up dog, a real dog, and a motorcycle, and for each the same question: “What makes it move?” The proposed answer–”Energy makes it move”– enraged him.

That was tautology, he argued–empty definition. Feynman, having made a career of understanding the deep abstractions of energy, said it would be better to begin a science course by taking apart a toy dog, revealing the cleverness of the gears and ratchets. To tell a first-grader that “energy makes it move” would be no more helpful, he said, than saying “God makes it move” or “moveability” makes it move. He proposed teaching students how to rephrase what they learn in their own language without using definitions. For instance, without using the word energy, tell me what you know now about the dog’s motion.

Other standard explanations were just as hollow to Feynman. When someone told him that friction makes shoe leather wear out, his response was “Shoe leather wears out because it rubs against the sidewalk and the little notches and bumps on the sidewalk grab pieces and pull them off.” That is knowledge. To simply say, “It is because of friction,” is sad, because it is empty definition.

Always try to rephrase the problem in your words without using definitions. In another famous Feynman example, he was working with NASA engineers on a serious problem and they kept defining the problem as a “pressure-induced vorticity oscillatory wa-wa or something.” After considerable time and discussion had passed, a confused Feynman finally asked them if they were trying to describe a whistle? To his amazement they were. The problem they were trying to communicate to him exhibited the characteristics of a simple whistle. Once he understood what they were trying to do, he solved it instantly.

CHANGE THE WORDS. For every word a person uses, psychologists say there is a mediating response which provides the meaning of that concept for that individual. Just what the mediating responses are for all words is not known. Many times they may not be responses in the usual sense but all provide meaning of that concept for that individual. When you change the words in your problem statement, you initiate an unobservable process in your mind that may lead to a new thought or idea.

A few years back, Toyota asked employees for ideas on how they could become more productive. They received few suggestions. They reworded the question to: “How can you make your job easier?” They were inundated with ideas.

A simple change of words or the order of words in a problem statement will stimulate your
imagination by adding new dimensions of meaning. Consider the statement “Two hundred were killed out of six hundred,” as compared to “Four hundred were spared out of six hundred.”

Examine your problem statement, identify the key words, and change them five to ten times to see what results. One of the easiest words to change is the verb. Suppose you want to increase sales. Look at the changing perspectives as the verb is changed in the following:
In what ways might I increase sales?
In what ways might I attract sales?
In what ways might I develop sales?
In what ways might I extend sales?
In what ways might I repeat sales?
In what ways might I keep sales? Magnify sales? Restore sales? Target sales? Inspire sales? Cycle sales? Encourage sales? Grow sales? Copy sales? Complement sales? Acquire sales? Vary sales? Spotlight sales? Motivate sales? Prepare sales? Renew sales? Force sales? Organize sales? And so on.

PLAYING WITH VERBS AND NOUNS. Playing with verbs and nouns encourages you to think of perspectives that you would probably not think of spontaneously. Try changing the nouns into verbs and verbs into nouns in your problem statement. For example, a problem might be “How to sell more bottles ?” Changing the verbs into nouns and nouns into verbs makes this into “How to bottle more sales?” Bottling sales now suggests looking for ways to close sales, instead of ways to sell more bottles.

The problem “How to improve customer relations?” becomes “How to customize related improvements?” This new perspective leads one to consider customizing products and services for customers, customizing all relevant aspects of the customer relations department, and so on.

The problem “How to motivate employees?” becomes “How to employ motivated people?”

TRANSPOSE THE WORDS. One of Aristotle’s favorite ways to test a premise was what he called “convertibility.” He felt that if a premise were true than the negative premise should be convertible. For example, if every pleasure is good, some good must be pleasure. Sometimes changing the order of words in a problem statement will create a verbal-conceptual chain that may trigger a different perspective.

In the following illustration, words were arranged in two different series, “A” and “B,” and subjects were asked to solve certain situations. When “skyscraper” was listed first, subjects
tended to come up architectural concepts, and when “prayer” was transposed with “skyscraper” and listed first, it increased the likelihood of a religious direction.

SERIES A SERIES B
SKYSCRAPER PRAYER
PRAYER SKYSCRAPER
TEMPLE TEMPLE
CATHEDRAL CATHEDRAL

To change the order, transpose the words in your problem. Following are some examples:
In what ways might I get a promotion?
To: In what ways might I promote myself?
In what ways might I advertise my T-shirts?
In what ways might I use my T-shirts to advertise?
In what ways might I learn how to use the Internet?
In what ways might I use the Internet to learn more?

A very simple change in the way something is looked at can have a profound effect. One of the most effective medical discoveries of all time came about when Edward Jenner transposed his problem from why people got small pox to why dairymaids apparently did not. From the discovery that harmless cowpox gave protection against deadly smallpox came vaccination and the end of smallpox as a scourge in the western world.

POSITIVE ACTION STATEMENTS. In the Universe Within, Morton Hunt details experiments conducted by Herbert Clark at Stanford University that demonstrate how thinking positively facilitates and speeds up thinking. In the Figure below, are the statements true or false?


The square is above the plus =
+

+
The square is above the plus =

Notice how much longer it takes to reply to the false statement than to the true one. We instinctively assume statements are true. If they are, we do no further thinking and move on. If they are not true, we have to step back and revise our assumption, thus answering more slowly. It takes approximately a half-second or longer to verify denials than affirmations. We are programmed to think more easily about what is than what is not.

Read the following sentences, pausing briefly between them.
Should we allow gays to serve in the military?
Should we not allow gays to serve in the military?

Did you feel your mind slowing down to interpret the second statement? Negatives give us pause and slow down our thinking process. Suppose you misplaced your watch somewhere in your house. If you search for it and keep searching, you will eventually find it. This is a different perspective from “Did I misplace my watch in the house or did I misplace it somewhere else?” The belief that the watch is in the house speeds up your thinking and keeps you focused on your goal. Positive, active statements speed up our thinking and keep us focused on our goal. Try framing your problem statement as a positive action statement. A positive action statement has four parts:

1. THE ACTION. The thing you want to do.
2. THE OBJECT. A thing or person you want to change.
3. THE QUALIFIER. The kind of action change you want.
4. THE END RESULT. The result you expect to follow.

EXAMPLE: In what ways might I package (ACTION) my book (OBJECT) more appealingly (QUALIFIER) so that people will buy more (END RESULT).

This is a convenient way to transform your thoughts into words that will shape the kinds of action you need to take to solve the problem.

Michael Michalko
Email: mmichal1@rochester.rr.com
Website: http://www.creativethinking.net

If You Always Think the Way You Always Think, You’ll Always Get What You’ve Always Got

thinking the same

Here is an easy exercise that must be done in your head only. Do not use paper and pencil or a calculator. Try to add up the following numbers as quickly as you can. Take 1000 and add 40 to it. Now add another 1000. Now add 30. Add another 1000. Now add 20. Now add another 1000. Now add 10. What is the total?

Our confidence in our ability to add according to the way we were taught in base ten encourages us to process the information this way and jump to a conclusion. If your total is 5,000, then you are wrong. 96% of people who add these simple numbers get the wrong answer. The numbers are arranged in such a way to set people up to get the wrong answer when adding using base ten. The correct answer is 4,100.

Human nature is such that when we assume we know how to do something, we perform the act without much thought about the assumptions we make. History is replete with thousands of examples of what happens when people become cognitively lazy and don’t challenge assumptions.

In 1968, the Swiss dominated the watch industry. Enterprising Swiss inventors invented the electronic watch movement at their research institute in Neuchatel, Switzerland. It was rejected by every Swiss watch manufacturer. Based on their past experiences in the industry, they assumed this couldn’t possibly be a watch, because it had no gears or springs. Seiko took one look at this invention and took over the world watch market.

When Univac invented the computer, they refused to talk to business people who inquired about it, because the computer was invented for scientists they assumed it had no business applications. Then along came IBM and dominated the market. IBM, itself, once said that according to their past experiences in the computer market, they assumed that there was virtually no market for the personal computer. In fact, they said they were absolutely certain there were no more than five or six people in the entire world who had need for a personal computer. And along came Apple.

When Fred Smith started Federal Express, virtually every delivery expert in the U.S., doomed his enterprise to failure. Based on their experiences in the industry, no one, they assumed, would pay a fancy price for speed and reliability.

Chester Carlson invented xerography in 1938. Virtually every major corporation, including IBM and Kodak, scoffed at his idea and turned him down. They assumed that since carbon paper was cheap and plentiful, who in their right mind would buy an expensive copier. A group of people created a small company funded by open-minded investors that eventually became Xerox. The investors all became multi-millionaires. When was the last time you saw carbon paper?
Once we think we know how something should be done, we keep doing it, then we teach others to do it the same way, and they in turn teach others until eventually you reach a point where no one remembers why something is done a certain way but we keep doing it anyway.

This human behavior of not challenging assumptions reminds me of an experiment with monkeys that I heard about some years back. Purportedly, it was from a book “Progress in Primatology” by D. Starek, R. Schneider, and H. Kuhn which is about research on the cultural acquisition of specific learned responses among rhesus monkeys.

A Tale of Five Monkeys

They started with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, they hung a banana on a string with a set of stairs placed under it. Before long, a monkey went to the stairs and started to climb towards the banana. As soon as he started up the stairs, the psychologists sprayed all of the other monkeys with ice cold water. After a while, another monkey made an attempt to obtain the banana. As soon as his foot touched the stairs, all of the other monkeys were sprayed with ice cold water. It’s wasn’t long before all of the other monkeys would physically prevent any monkey from climbing the stairs.

Now, the psychologists shut off the cold water, removed one monkey from the cage and replaced it with a new one. The new monkey saw the banana and started to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attacked him. After another attempt and attack, he discovered that if he tried to climb the stairs, he would be assaulted.

Next they removed another of the original five monkeys and replaced it with a new one. The newcomer went to the stairs and was attacked. The previous newcomer took part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, they replaced a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey tried to climb the stairs, he was attacked.

The monkeys had no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they were beating any monkey that tried. After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys had ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approached the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been around here.

red eggWe automatically accept what we are taught and exclude all other lines of thought. The same thing happens when we see something odd or unusual in our experiences. We tend to accept whatever explanation someone with experience tells us. This kind of thinking reminds me of herring gulls. Herring gulls have a drive to remove all red objects from their nest. They also have a drive to retrieve any egg that rolls away from the nest. If you place a red egg in the nest, when the gull returns she will push it out, then roll it back in, then push it out again, only to retrieve it once more.
……………………..

Discover how to change your thinking patterns and provoke creative ways of focusing on the information in different ways and different ways of interpreting what you’re focusing on by reading Michael’s new book Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work. http://www.creativethinking.net

What I Have Learned about Creative Thinking from Henri Matisse

matisse

The French artist Henri Matisse argued, in writing about painting portraits, that the character of a human face is seen in the whole and not in the particular and, in fact, may not be captured by particular features at all. The whole captures the essence of a face. To make his point, he drew four self-portraits of Matisse.

These drawings are remarkable. The features are different in each drawing. In one he has a weak chin, in another a very strong chin. In one he has a huge Roman nose, in another a small pudgy nose. In one the eyes are far apart, in another they are close together. And yet in each of the four faces, when we look at the whole we see the unmistakable face and character of Henri Matisse.

If we studied the drawings logically, we would separate out the different features (the chins, noses, eyes, glasses, etc.) and compare them for similarities and differences. We would eventually become expert in separating and defining the differences between the various noses, chins, eyes, and other features. Our understanding of what the drawings represent would be based on the particulars of the four different sketches, and we could not realize that all four are of the same man.

Robert Dilts, an expert in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), wrote about another enlightening experiment which was done by gestalt psychologists with a group of dogs in Anchor Point magazine. The dogs were trained to approach something when shown a “white” square and avoid it when shown a “gray” square. When the dogs learned this, the experimenters switched to using a gray square and a black square. The dogs immediately shifted to approaching the object in response to the gray square (which had previously triggered avoidance), and avoiding the object when shown the black square (which had not been conditioned to anything). Presumably, rather than perceive the gray as an absolute stimulus, the dogs were responding to the deeper essence of “lighter versus darker” as opposed to gray, white or black as being properties.

You can train a human to approach something when shown a white square and avoid it when shown a gray square. When the squares are switched to gray and black, the human will still avoid the gray square. Once gray has been defined in our minds, we see the gray as independent and entirely self-contained. This means nothing can interact with it or exert an influence on it. It, in fact, becomes an absolute.

We have lost the sensitivity to deeper relationships, functions, and patterns because we are educated to focus on the particulars of experience as opposed to the universals. We see them as independent parts of an objective reality. For example, if the average person were asked to build automobiles, that person would undoubtedly study how cars are made and then reproduce the same system without looking for alternatives. Opposed to this kind of thinking is the risk-taking thinking of creative thinkers whish is richer and curiously sounder than elaborate reasoning. Many more dimensions, beneath and beyond words, vague, volatile complexities impossible to catch by hard work of linear thought, fall in place as if at once.

What Did Henry Ford Learn from Slaughtering Pigs that Made Him a Multi-Millionaire?

When Henry Ford decided to build automobiles, he didn’t think of how cars are manufactured. He thought of essences, functions, and patterns which freed his imagination from the constraints of words, labels, and categories. He looked at “how things are made” and “how things are taken apart.” Among his many experiences was his visit to a slaughterhouse, where he watched how workers slaughtered pigs on a moving assembly line. Conceptually blending the patterns of the slaughterhouse method of disassembling pigs with assembling cars, he created the concept of the assembly line that made the Model T possible.

Why Did the U.S. Postal Service Have to Wait for Federal Express to Show Them How to Make Overnight Deliveries Possible?

The U.S. Postal Service and UPS both worked on the challenge of making overnight deliveries using established systems and theories. They thought logically in terms of packages and points. If, for instance, you want to connect one hundred markets with one another, and if you do it all with direct point-to-point deliveries, it will take one hundred times ninety-nine – or ninety-nine hundred – direct deliveries. They concluded that there was no way they could make it economically feasible.

Fred Smith did not think in terms of delivering packages within established systems. Instead he perceived the essence of all delivery systems to be “movement.” So, Smith wondered about the concept of movement, and thought about how things are moved from one place to another. He thought about how information is moved, and how banks move money around the world. Both information systems and banks, he discovered, put all points in a network and connect them through a central hub . He decided to create a delivery system – Federal Express, now known as FedEx – that operates essentially the way information and bank clearinghouses do.

If you take any individual transaction, this kind of system seems absurd – it means making at least one extra stop. But if you look at the network as a whole, it’s an efficient way to create an enormous number of connections. But if you go through a single clearinghouse system, it will take at most one hundred deliveries. So you’re looking at a system that is about one hundred times as efficient. His delivery system is so efficient that the same idea was subsequently employed in, of course, all air cargo delivery systems in industry.

It is important to realize that the patterns of moving money, information, and goods do not describe an actual idea or fact – they describe the potential for an idea or fact of nature. Banks and delivery systems, for example, are not in themselves phenomena and did not become phenomena until they were observed and conceptually blended into one phenomenon in the mind of Fred Smith.

Take a few moments and wonder about how many things you know that would suddenly take on new meanings if only you could perceive the connections between their essences and patterns with dissimilar things such as slaughtering pigs with manufacturing cars or bank clearinghouses with overnight delivery.

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.

Web site: http://www.creativethinking.net
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