Models of Creativity

Steve DeAngelis of the Enterprise Resilience Management Blog had a post on creative thinking on Monday that should resonate with anyone with an engineering or entrepreneurial background where practical “problem solving” was a driver for finding new ideas:

A New Approach to Innovation

“….A creative thinker, however, is limited if he or she has little or no expertise. Expertise is, in a word, knowledge — technical, procedural, and intellectual. When creative, knowledgeable thinkers are presented with challenges, innovation is generally the outcome. This is particularly true if the creative thinkers are motivated. Not all motivation is created equal. An inner passion to solve problems generally leads to the most creative solutions.

….To be truly innovative, an idea must be manifested then taken to market where it changes how things are done. The prize approach is one of those vaunted “win-win” situations.”

Read the whole post here.

Nothing wrong with the approach to creative thinking that Steve outlined in his post. It is possibly, given the deomographic research on thinking styles, “hands-on” tinkering may be the dominant form of creative thinking – “ tweaking” already existing ideas or items to discover new uses.

However I do not think it is the only, or even the most productive form of creative thinking available. “Tweaking/tinkering or stochastic innovation by collective incremental advances is a gradualist process best exemplified by say, Thomas Edison or George Washington Carver in the lab. There is also the route of Nikola Tesla, Leonardo DaVinci or Albert Einstein where breakthroughs arrive after a moment of insight sets a thinker working down an untrodden path.

Insight-based creativity, while more rarely taken to a successful, concrete and productive conclusion ( Steve was correct to highlight motivation or “task persistence” as an aspect of creativity. Productivity is quantifiable) can potentially shift fields by orders of magnitude or even result in revolutionary paradigm shifts. Insight, on a neuronal level is very likely a product of horizontal thinking triggering certain activity in the brain that is recognizable on MRI studies ( at least it seems to correlate).
Horizontal thinking is a skill which can be practiced and for which the environmental conditions can be deliberately organized
(Vertical thinking experts from different fields, novelty, diverse stimuli, conceptual depth, time for ” free play” thought exercises and exchange of ideas).

Neither method of creative thinking should be relied upon alone. Nor should creative thinkers abandon critical analysis any more than your right hand should abandon the left. We simply need to become comfortable using all of the cognitive tools in our arsenal.

(Cross posted at Zenpundit)

Hayek on Tradition

Just as instinct is older than custom and tradition, so then are the latter older than reason: custom and tradition stand between instinct and reason — logically, psychologically, temporally. They are due neither to what is sometimes called the unconscious, nor to intuition, nor to rational understanding. Though in a sense based on human experience in that they were shaped in the course of cultural evolution, they were not formed by drawing reasoned conclusions from certain facts or from an awareness that things behaved in a particular way. Though governed in our conduct by what we have learnt, we often do not know why we do what we do. Learnt moral rules, customs, progressively replaced innate responses, not because men recognized by reason that they were better but because they made possible the growth of an extended order exceeding anyone’s vision, in which more effective collaboration enabled its members, however blindly, to maintain more people and displace other groups.

F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of SocialismThe Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism

(I remembered this passage when reading Shannon’s prior post, entitled On Tradition.)

Long Live the King

King of Pop dethroned in bloodless coup. — Headline from The Onion

While laid up and channel surfing recently I flipped past a lot of celebrity-news shows. It seemed that every third time I did so the story was about some legal trouble caused by the celebrity’s extreme behavior. Watching all this weirdness it suddenly struck me that we could have it much worse than having to hear about the celebrity trial du jour. In a previous age, we would have had these nut-jobs ruling over us.

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