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On Creativity

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On Creativity

Manket's photo
·Sep 28, 2022·

5 min read

Introspection, and an examination of the history and of reports of those who have done great work, all seem to show typically the pattern of creativity is as follows. There is first the recognition of the problem in some dim sense. This is followed by a longer or shorter period of refinement of the problem. Do not be too hasty at this stage, as you are likely to put the problem in the conventional form and find only the conventional solution. This stage, moreover, requires your emotional involvement, and your commitment to finding a solution since without a deep emotional involvement you are not likely to find a really fundamental, novel solution. A long gestation period of intense thinking about the problem may result in a solution, or else the temporary abandonment of the problem. This temporary abandonment is a common feature of many great creative acts. The monomaniacal pursuit often does not work; the temporary dropping of the idea sometimes seems to be essential to let the subconscious find a new approach. Then comes the moment of “insight”, creativity, or whatever you want to call it—you see the solution. Of course, it often happens that you are wrong; a closer examination of the problem shows the solution is faulty but might be saved by some suitable revision. But maybe the problem needs to be altered to fit the solution! That has happened! More usually it is back to the drawing board, as they say, more mulling things Over. The false starts and false solutions often sharpen the next approach you try. You now know how not to do it! You have a smaller number of approaches left to explore. You have a better idea of what will not work and possibly why it will not work.

When stuck I often ask myself, “If I had a solution, what would it look like?” This tends to sharpen up the approach and may reveal new ways of looking at the problem you had subconsciously ignored but you now see should not be excluded. What must the solution involve? Are there conservation laws that must apply? Is there some symmetry? How does each assumption enter into the solution, and is each one really necessary? Have you recognized all the relevant factors?

Creativity is like sex; a young lady can read all the books you have on the topic, but without direct experience, he will have little chance of understanding what sex is—but even with the experience he may still not understand what is going on! So we must continue, even if we are not at all sure we know what we are talking about.

If the solution does come from the subconscious, what can we do to manage our subconscious? My method, and it is implied above, is to saturate the subconscious with the problem, try to not think seriously about anything else for hours, days, or even weeks, and thus the subconscious which, so far as we know, depends heavily upon life experiences to form its dreams, etc. is then left with only the problem to mull over. We simply deprive it of all else as best we can! Hence, one day, we have the solution, either as we awake, or it pops into our mind without any preparation on our part, or as we pick up the problem again there the solution is! In a way, I am repeating Pasteur, “Luck favors the prepared mind”. You prepare your mind for success “by thinking on it constantly” (Newton), and occasionally you are lucky.

We are, in a very real sense, the sum total of our habits, and nothing more; hence by changing our habits, once we understand which ones we should change and in what directions and understand our limitations in changing ourselves, then we are on the path along which we want to go.

Leaders think they don’t get good ideas, but ideas are about systems and not about magic. If you make the right systems you will get a lot of remarkable ideas.

The person who thinks about a problem constantly is more likely to solve a problem. Keeping your emotional time/ most of the time to that problem is the only way to get a solution to that problem. If u don't have emotional contact it won't happen.

Scheduling creative sessions of people often did not work. Talking ideas over your friends is helpful. Find friends who will question your ideas rather than saying yeah that's good and blah blah.

Probably the most important tool in creativity is the use of an analogy. Something seems like something else which we knew in the past. Wide acquaintance with various fields of knowledge is thus a help— provided you have the knowledge filed away so it is available when needed, rather than to be found only when led directly to it. This flexible access to pieces of knowledge seems to come from looking at knowledge while you are acquiring it from many different angles, turning over any new idea to see its many sides before filing it away. This implies effort on your part not to take the easy, immediately useful “memorizing the material” path but prepares your mind for the future. It is for this reason I have urged you in many of the chapters to get down to the fundamentals of a field since it implies you must examine things in many ways before you can decide what is fundamental and what is frills. In fact, for one person they may be in one order, and for another in the opposite order. What is fundamental partly depends on the individual and their mental makeup. It is obvious you need many “hooks” on the knowledge if you are to use it in new situations. ~ Richard Hamming

Of all biological adaptations, creativity is the only one that can produce scientific and technological, art and philosophy.

References - Art of doing science and engineering

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