By Alan Graner
The following is excerpted from A Whack on the Side of the Head: How to unlock your mind for innovation by Roger von Oech ©1983.
What is creative thinking?
The key to creativity is what you do with your knowledge. By changing your perspective, you can make the ordinary extraordinary.
As Albert Szent-Györgyi stated: “Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”
Unfortunately there are barriers to creativity. Mental blocks if you will. Van Oech lists 10 of them. Here are two.
That’s Not My Area
Specialization is a fact of life. When looking for new ideas, however, staying within your area of expertise limits your field of view. It prevents you from looking outside for ideas. And when you begin to ignore outside ideas, you cut yourself off from great ideas that can be modified into new, unique solutions in your area.
A famous example is George de Mestral, a Swiss electrical engineer who noticed the burrs sticking to his clothes after a hunting trip. He examined the burrs under a microscope and discovered their hook and loop construction. This inspiration from nature let to the creation of Velcro©.
What’s the solution for “not in my area”?
Become a hunter! Look for ideas in different disciplines, different industries, different cultures, and figure out how you can use them in your own specialty.
Don’t let yourself get so busy you don’t have free time for idea hunting.
Develop different kinds of “hunting grounds.”
Conform or Appear Foolish
Conformity has its benefits. It promotes cooperation among members of a society. And it teaches us the right way to act in situations where we don’t know our way around.
The danger of conformity, of course, is that group members are more interested in retaining member approval than finding creative solutions that might appear foolish. After all, nobody wants to be mocked or laughed at.
Yet, foolish ideas can jolt the mind. They attack our assumptions, which can greatly expand our view to see things we might otherwise have missed.
It was assumed man would never fly. It was crazy. The Wright Brothers challenged that assumption and, in doing so, changed our lives.
Another barrier is having your ego tied into a particular idea or solution, which makes it all but impossible to be objective.
Stop censoring yourself. Occasionally turn off your “stupid meter” and see what crazy ideas you can come up with.
Recognize when you are falling into group think conformity by ridiculing “foolish” ideas.