Thinking in the Western tradition draws upon the Greek heritage of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (500BC+). This has given us argument (truth vs. untruth) and order (categories)
Such thinking is limiting as it sees things as right or wrong – black or white.
Composers and inventors say that creating is tuning in to solutions that already exist in the environment.
Being in tune with the environment almost always partners with creative thinking.
In science the relationship between elements already exists. The scientist demonstrates potentialities that have not yet been seen.
Creativity depends on being able to see new patterns, lateral connections in an otherwise chaotic situation. Western paradigms see the world in terms of reductionism, static hierarchical and sequential dynamics. Balance is the norm and is seen as a tendency to equilibrium.
Chaos theory sees the world as intrinsically interrelated, dynamic and holistic. Consequently the norm is non-equilibrium and open process structures. In this context balance is seen as change and development or creativity and improvement.
“Creativity may involve an underlying chaotic process that selectively amplifies small fluctuations (hunches) and develops them into large scale mental states (ideas) that can be experienced as awareness and thoughts (proposals). (David, 1987: 190) (Parentheses added)
In order to be able to develop structures and behaviours that support creative thinking, it is useful to understand the creative process.
Karl Getzel talks about creativity being a natural cycle beginning with awareness or insight.
“creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know …Hence, to think creatively we must be able to look afresh at what are normally taken for granted.” (George Keller. The Art and Science of Creativity, 1965)
During the stage in the process of insight, the individual recognises an opportunity, problem or challenge -–a strong felt-need to create, solve or surmount.
Insight requires daily practice. People need to be encouraged to perceive and sense rather than to judge.
“What if…? What about…? What else…? And again, what else…?” (A.F. Osborn)
Saturation is the equivalent of multi – sensory research and note taking. Whilst children naturally use all their senses to take in information, adults usually limit themselves. We all need to respond to smells, tastes and feelings just as instinctively as we do do to text or photographs.
“In what region of the mind does that sorting take place? Surely not in consciousness.”
Jacques Hadamard stated that:
“Invention is choice – that is, choosing from available information.” (Hadamard. The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field, 1945)
Incubation describes the stage of deep thought. Reflection or deep thought often occurs during a repetitive activity.
“We often talk about the three Bs, the Bus, the Bath and the Bed. That is where the great discoveries are made in our science.” (Julian Jaynes – The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, 1976)
Instinctively we know that we need time and space to think and our best ideas sometimes surprise us in the middle of the night or while standing in the shower.
Daydreaming has been used to describe aimless time wasting. Perhaps we need to place a greater value on this time of deep thought.
As has already been stated, great ideas and intentions are sudden and often unexpected. These ideas may or may not occur during the time set aside for innovation. It is conceivable and in fact likely that each individual will be at different stages of this process if and when they are called upon for their ideas and inventions.
The implication is that whilst some will have ideas, others will be either still gathering information, thinking or on to their next good idea.
This stage is most often associated with a product. It is the opportunity for the individual to demonstrate the result of creative thinking. In reality, it is simply a point in time.
It is not always evidence of a sound and well-supported creative process. It is anti – creative to put too much emphasis on the product. Often evidence of a soundly followed creative process will be further concerted efforts of the individual. That is, they have been inspired to further explore an idea or theme.
So, a product of creativity is merely the time that a decision has been made to stop for the moment. To some of us this moment may not result in what we would consider to be a complete product – able to be developed and implemented.
The creative process is a natural and recurring one. It is individual, and when supported or at least understood, it is successful.
“No skill is more important than the corporate capacity to change per se. The company’s most urgent task, then, is to welcome – beg for, demand – innovation from everyone.”
Tom Peters (1989: 275)
We need to “break free from the primitive logic of Western thinking”
As De Bono argued (1990), this logic which proved so useful in technical matters has proven feeble in human affairs.
The Australian, Horne (1988) challenged us to “Think – or perish”
Dr Noah Gordon, from UCLA has visited NZ on several occasions where he has held workshops on creative thinking and learning. He has also consulted to our Government. He describes the following as “creativity killers.”
That list describes four cornerstones of modern management theory and practice.
So, what should organisations do to support creativity? They can:
Each of those steps requires leaders and managers to adopt different behaviour. Managing the generation of ideas properly, while a natural tendency, does not automatically happen in the unnatural world of organisational life.
A gardener, who wishes to nurture a crop, builds an environment conducive to the plants’ wellbeing and performance. Likewise, managers and leaders need to apply the same philosophy. Workers are thinkers. Managers are managing ideas generation. As managers, they can be leaders who can lead in the ideas generation thinking by tuning into their less dominant senses, in particular, their “gut feel” or intuition.
Managers can use intuition to:
We, as managers and leaders, need practical ways to nurture ideas and to think creatively yet practically. We need ways to do our own ideas management. To take an idea and:
This represents a head in the clouds yet feet on the ground approach.
Action learning is a critical part of the creative process. Along with action learning, creative thinking must:
One approach includes the following four steps:
Grundy and Krimmis (1981) state “there are two essential aims of action research activity; to improve and involve”.
(See also Zuber-Skerritt 1990)
In order to help direct energy and create common understandings about creativity, it is useful to collectively agree some principles. The following are offered as examples.
Once guiding principles are devised and agreed, more practical operating principles may be useful to help direct people’s energies and ideas management processes.
Creative thinking structures and behaviour exist within the following parameters. These are useful when designing an ideas management framework.
Creativity and learning is more likely to be enhanced when the organisation adopts some core behaviours or norms.
Inspiring, and then supporting creative thinking and ideas in our structured organisations seems somewhat paradoxical. However, it is achievable given some environmental concessions and above all an understanding of and commitment to ideas generation and innovation.