becoming a better thinker
While reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” recently one passage struck me and I thought how could it be applied to creative thinking. That passage was:
“How good people’s decisions are under fast moving, high stress conditions of rapid cognition is a function of training, rules and rehearsal.”
I replaced “decisions” with “creative thinking” in the original statement and I get this:
“How good people’s creative thinking is under fast moving, challenging conditions is a function of training, rules and rehearsal.”
So could this revised statement be true? Can we be more creative and generate better ideas faster if have some rules, train our minds and practice (rehearse). Let’s take a look and see.
Rules: Your first thought might be that there should be no rules to creativity and idea generation. But, if the rules are kept simple and everyone knows and agrees with them they can really help. Here are some examples.
1. Anything goes. 2. Record all ideas. 3. Generate as many ideas as possible. 4. Evaluate later.
Understanding and applying these rules gives us permission to think freely. When everyone in a group complies with the rules the barriers come down and the ideas flow.
Training: Can we train ourselves to be better thinkers? Perhaps it’s actually training us to not be bad thinkers. To do that we need to learn to challenge assumptions. Learn to recognise associations that are limiting our thinking and step around them. We need to train ourselves that it’s ok to have grand visions and then design the way there.
We can use observation, discussion and critiques to understand how other people innovate and teach ourselves in the process.
Practice: If we understand the rules and can apply what we learn then we have a suite of creative thinking tools we can apply every day in our work, and in other personal and community projects.
If we accept that rules, training and practice can increase our ability to generate ideas, think creatively, and innovate at speed; is there anything that could slow our thinking down?
One of the points that Gladwell makes in Blink is that people often wait for more information, analysis, or the opinions of others to support their own decisions. With each additional piece of data comes assumptions and associations and thinking becomes more conscious and linear. He argues that when you move away from trusting your instinctive responses the quality of your decisions fall. His argument is that those with a trained mind focused on the right elements can make instant and accurate decisions.
Transferring that thought to creative thinking we could say that by applying the rules, our training and practice, the quality, quantity and spontaneity of our ideas will improve.
Tim Brown, CEO of the innovation and design firm IDEO, talks about some of these themes in this recently released TED video
“forgetting the adult behaviors that are getting in the way our ideas.”