Notebook, 1993-

MODES - Creativity - Creativity and Cognition

Enhancing Creativity

[From Coon, Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application]
ENHANCING CREATIVITY: Thomas Edison once explained his creativity by saying, "Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Many studies of creativity show that "genius" owes as much to persistence and dedication as it does to inspiration (Hunt, 1982). Once it is recognized that creativity can be hard work, then something can be done to enhance it.

l. Define the problem broadly. Whenever possible, enlarge the definition of a problem. For instance, assume your problem is "Design a better doorway." This is likely to lead to ordinary solutions. Why not change the problem to: Design a better way to get through a wall? Now your solutions will be more original. Best of all might be to state the problem as: Find a better way to define separate areas for living and working. This could lead to truly creative solutions (Adams, 1980) (as long as you are solving the problem and not solving some other one). Asking a group to think about opening in general before introducing problem of designing a new can opener--group came up with the solution of a self-opening can, having considered that nature (pea pods seams) have their own openers.

2. Create the right atmosphere. People make more original, spontaneous, and imaginative responses wen exposed to others (models) doing the same. If you want to become more creative, spend more time around creative people. This is the premise underlying much education in at, theater, dance, and music.

3. Allow time for incubation. Trying to hurry or to force a problem's solution may simply encourage fixation on a dead end. Subjects were asked to list as many consequences as possible that would follow if people no longer needed to eat. Most subjects rapidly produced several ideas and then ran dry. After working for a time, some subjects were interrupted and required to do another task for 20 minutes. Then they turned to the original question. The interruption improved their scores, even tough they worked no longer tan the control group (Fulgosi & Guilford, 1968).

4. Seek varied input. Remember, creativity requires divergent thinking. Rather tan digging deeper with logic, you are attempting to shift your mental 'prospecting' to new areas. As an example of this strategy, Edward de Bono (1970) recommends that you randomly look up words in the dictionary and relate each to the problem. Often this activity will trigger a fresh perspective or open a new avenue.

5. Look for analogies. As the principle of selective comparison suggests, many "new" problems are really old problems in new clothing. Representing a problem in a variety of ways is often the key to solution. Most problems become easier to solve when they are effectively represented. 6. Delay evaluation. Various studies suggest that people are most likely to be creative when they are given the freedom to play with ideas and solutions without having to worry about whether they will be evaluated. In the first stages of creative thinking, it is important to avoid criticizing your efforts. Worrying about the correctness of solutions tends to inhibit creativity (Amabile, 1983).

BRAINSTORMING. An alternative approach to enhancing creativity. The essence of brainstorming is that production and criticism of ideas are kept separate. To encourage divergent thinking in group problem solving, participants are encouraged to produce as many ideas as possible without fear of criticism or evaluation. Only after a brainstorming session is complete are ideas reconsidered and evaluated. As ideas are freely generated, an interesting cross-stimulation effect takes place in which one participant's ideas trigger ideas from others. The four basic rules for successful brainstorming are:

l. Criticism of an idea is absolutely barred. All evaluation is to be deferred until after the session.

2. Modification or combination with other ideas is encouraged. Don't worry aut giving credit for ideas or keeping them neat. Mix them up!

3. Quantity of ideas is sought. In the early stages of brainstorming, quantity is more important than quality. Try to generate lots of ideas.

4. Unusual, remote, or wild ideas are sought. Let your imagination run amok!
The important point to remember is to suspend judgment. Ideas should first be produced without regard for logic, organization, accuracy, practicality, or any other evaluation. In writing an essay, for instance, you would begin by writing ideas in any order, the more the better, just as they occur to you. Later you would go back and reorganize, rewrite, and criticize your efforts.

CREATIVITY CHECKLIST (helpful for encouraging original thought--can be used to see if you have overlooked a possible solution. By making a habit of subjecting a problem to each of these procedures, you should be able to greatly reduce the chances that you will overlook a useful, original, or creative solution.):

1. Redefine. Consider other uses for all elements of the problem. (This is designed to alert you to fixations that may be blocking creativity.)

2. Adapt. How could other objects, ideas, procedures, or solutions be adapted to this particular problem?

3. Modify. Imagine changing anything and everything that could be changed.

4. Magnify. Exaggerate everything you can think of. Think on a grand scale.

5. Minify. What if everything were scaled down? What if all differences were reduced to zero? "Shrink" the problem down to size.

6. Substitute. How could one object, idea, or procedure be substituted for another?

7. Rearrange. Break the problem into pieces and shuffle them.

8. Reverse. Consider reverse orders, and opposites, and turn things inside out.

9. Combine. This one speaks for itself.

[Coon, Dennis [Dept. of Psychology, Santa Barbara City College, California]. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application, Fifth Edition. St. Paul, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco: West Publishing Company. 1989.]



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