Phil Wilson, has a superb post on his blog about a lecture he recently attended in Brighton. It was a lecture about creativity and was delivered by Margaret Boden, Research Professor of Cognitive Science at Sussex University (in fact her whole department sounds both fascinating and exciting!). I highly recommend reading his whole post, but let me just highlight two of the main ideas he describes – first is Boden’s classification of creativity – combinatorial creativity (the making of associations between concepts or things to create something new); exploratory creativity (which comes from practice in an area and develops new methods, concepts etc from doing – skills increase this way, and then from a highly skilled perspective, new methods arise); and, transformational creativity (which emerges out of exploratory creativity but which changes the whole way of seeing something). Each of us has a greater or lesser tendency to use one or more of these not mutually exclusive methods. I think, for me, the combinatorial method, is key. I’ve always loved diversity and seeing the links between things and ideas. I like “synthetic” thinking which brings together different observations and thoughts to create new ideas. I like taking discoveries in one area of human endeavour and seeing what they can teach us about another area.
How about you? Do any of these three kinds of creativity strike a chord for you?
The second idea he highlights is that thing that happens when we get stuck with something and the solution only emerges after we go and do something else. He postulated that the something else was a kind of latent phase, but Boden says she thinks its about rest. That got me thinking about that old saying “a change is as good as a rest for the brain” (does anyone know where that saying comes from?).
Actually, taking a complex adaptive systems perspective, think of it this way – one of the characteristics of a CAS is of “attractors” – these are like points which suck everything in their environment towards them. Basically, they become like the stuck points of the system. Thought can be like that. A thought, or a chain of thoughts can get stuck in a place or a loop and it can then be hard to make any progress. One way to break free of these “attractors” is to change the environment in which they exist. How we do that is change our environment for a short while – take a walk, (yes, Phil, stand under water in the shower!), take a holiday, engage in something else. There are many ways to change the environment of the day, or part of the day. I think what that does is releases the stuckness, frees you from that “attractor” then something new emerges……a new thought, idea, solution – (creativity is the emergence of a new state in CAS terms)
What do you do to release yourself from these “attractors”? How do you let go of things to help the solutions and creative ideas emerge?