“We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode. Not that the closed mode cannot be helpful. If you are leaping a ravine, the moment of takeoff is a bad time for considering alternative strategies. When you charge the enemy machine-gun post, don’t waste energy trying to see the funny side of it. Do it in the “closed” mode. But the moment the action is over, try to return to the “open” mode—to open your mind again to all the feedback from our action that enables us to tell whether the action has been successful, or whether further action is need to improve on what we have done. In other words, we must return to the open mode, because in that mode we are the most aware, most receptive, most creative, and therefore at our most intelligent.”
I discovered the Osborn-Parnes model for Creative Problem Solving (CPS) almost a decade ago. It felt like a small “eureka!” moment. I immediately sent pictures of it (similar to the one below) to my closest consulting colleagues.
I am not alone in this admiration. Here for instance is a Spanish graphical version of their famous CPS “process”:
Seeing into another language allows one to appreciate it even more. The few seconds of delay that result in recognising the meaning of most of the words allows its significance to sink in even more (instead of flashing over it and saying to yourself “But it’s so obvious!”).
For me there were two “Aha’s!”. The first is that for creativity to have a chance it means having to take a few steps back in the beginning…first dwell on thoroughly “exploring the problem”. DO NOT RUSH TO PREMATURE CLOSURE!
For an impatient, (over-anxious?) achiever like myself that is a really tough admonition!
But I had first had a “premonition” of this needed patience-in-the-creative-process even earlier (in the late 80’s while I was busy as a post-grad at Wits University). It was succinctly captured in a 1985 Journal of Chemical Education editorial by Joe Lagowski.
In a few paragraphs he suggested creative acts required Preparation (perhaps years of “indoctrination” as a reluctant student), Incubation (putting something vexing into your mental “crockpot” to stew over), Illumination (that mysterious – glorious – serendipitous moment) and finally Verification (pressure-testing your new beloved insight to see if it can withstand tough scrutiny).
In this 28 year old editorial, Lagowski muses about what happens in the mysterious “crock-pot” of the preconscious. Here a few lines from the sublime editorial (here I must confess that I loved reading the JChemEd and the Joe Lagowski editorials in particular!):
Imagine a part of your mind that is “not limited by pedestrian and literal restrictions”! An ongoing passion of mine is to understand the realm of the “allegoric and figurative” better (but that’s for future posts) where one can “superimpose dissimilar items into new perceptual and conceptual patterns.”
Edward de Bono tells us for instance that for humour to work it requires this last “leap” to occur…[how’s that for a conceptual jump!].