Try thinking creatively for a change

Could you reproduce it without lifting your pen off the page. How did you go? I love this quiz as it gets you thinking creatively. In fact there is no one answer. There are a few ideas that people usually come up with, including:

  • Fold the page: Draw the dot in the middle, fold the paper so you can move the pen onto the back of the page and then move it to the outside to draw the circle.
  • Use a retractable pen: Draw the dot, retract the pen, move the pen to the outside and then draw the circle.
  • Lay the pen down: Draw the dot, lay the pen down on the page and then move it to the outside and lift the pen up and draw the circle.

There are actually over 30 ways of reproducing the figure without lifting your pen off the page. If you really want to challenge yourself and your friends or colleagues, get together with a group of people and spend 10 minutes coming up with as many ways as you can to ‘reproduce this without lifting your pen off the page’. See the bottom of this blog for a few more avenues to explore.

The principles of creative thinking

Using the above example, I want to show you how wee used the three principles of creative thinking; which are;

  • Re-set the standard
  • Two heads are better than one
  • Allocate time

Re-set the standard

Learning that there are in fact over 30 ways to ‘reproduce this without lifting your pen off the page’ dramatically re-sets the standard, and in so doing, forces you to re-examine the puzzle in a new light. If I had told you that there were only three ways, you would have had less reason to re-examine the puzzle. Going from zero or one solution to three solutions is not sufficiently significant to force a re-think. The standard needed to be significantly re-set to prompt you to have a second look from as many different angles as possible.

Two heads are better than one

If someone only has one way of looking at something, we often call it tunnel vision. When we can see two positions on a problem, this often leads to a dichotomy – one position wins at the other’s expense. We call a person wise when they are able to view the same issue or problem from many different perspectives. Getting together with others has the obvious benefit of increasing the perspectives on the problem. Creative thought is thinking that produces many different perspectives. Sometimes we need two heads to help us get started.

Allocate time to think

To come up with over 30 ways, you needed to allocate time to think about nothing else other than re-examining the puzzle. In our society, we tend to reward movement rather than thinking. People are considered productive when they are moving around the workplace with apparent purpose. People are considered unproductive if they are spotted sitting quietly, just thinking. And yet in some contexts, this could be exactly what is needed, rather than movement for movement’s sake.

How to think creatively

So, let’s assume that you have a puzzle, a problem, or an issue that requires some creative thinking. Let’s also assume that you’ve applied the three key principles of creativity outlined above and set aside time with other people to re-set the standard. We now need to look at some techniques that will help us to keep the creativity happening for everyone. The three techniques that we will look at are:

  • Accepting the offer
  • Linking anything to anything
  • The Disney Pattern

Accepting the offer

Creativity is more about accepting than judging. Judging ideas before they have the chance to breathe and grow is more easy than having an attitude of acceptance. When a person, or in some cases our own self-talk, comes up with an idea, our minds seem to have a natural tendency to look for faults in the thinking, flaws in the logic, to judge. We need to be able to keep our mind in check, and refrain from saying anything that could kill an idea until we have taken the time to think critically. Refrain from blocking words like “No”, “But …”, “We don’t usually do it that way you know”, “We tried that before …”, “Let’s be practical ” etc and instead embrace new ideas with accepting language and the mantra “there’s no such thing as a bad idea”.

Linking anything to anything

Once we’ve accepted the offer, we need to add something to it – to develop the idea before passing it on. A technique that works well here is to ‘link anything to anything’. Be completely open minded and playful exploring the idea and linking the concept to anything, different combinations to see what could work. This process is definitely used in the fine dining and fashion industries for example, where creative brainstorms have taken place to come up with unusual combinations that seem to work.

The disney pattern

It’s a well know fact that there were there distinct stages to Walt Disney’s creative process, used in coming up with his ideas. This has come to be known as ‘The Disney Pattern’, and is now used by people to create everything from music, literature and art through to problem-solving and decision-making in the business world. The three stages in The Disney Pattern are:

  1. Dreaming: Preferably done in a small group, this involves a freewheeling brainstorming session to come up with all possible ideas, no matter how impractical they might seem at first. It’s important to push the group past the first ‘dead spot’, as great ideas often tend to emerge just after that point. Avoid evaluation during this phase, and appoint one group member as a facilitator to keep the brainstorming going and to regularly review the current position to stimulate movement past any ‘dead spots’. This can be done by using the principles of creativity we identified earlier: 
    • Re-set the standard 
    • Two heads are better than one 
    • Allocate time 
  2. Grouping: This stage involves simply grouping similar ideas together, and inviting the team to contribute to structuring some of these ideas and thinking them through by asking them, ‘Realistically, what will we have to do to get this one off the ground?’ This will help to clarify, structure and ‘chunk’ the ideas. 
  3. Formatting: Now we can evaluate what will work and what won’t. The formatting phase allows reasoned debate about what might be feasible and what isn’t – it is NOT an opportunity to tear apart all the ideas. It is also the stage where the information is sequenced. Think of this stage as the objective evaluator, unattached to any one idea, and able to see flaws and gaps in the thinking.

Making ideas happen

Creative thinking is just the beginning. How to do we bring them to light? There are four primary components of exceptional performance;

  1. The “Want to”. The PASSION
    One of the requirements for achieving significant results is that you need to want to – with a passion. It’s not enough to want to be rich, you have to ‘want to’ enough to do whatever it takes to create that wealth. Many of us want to do or have or be all sorts of things, but not enough to actually take the action necessary. People’s passion, people’s ‘want to’, often runs out when the hard yards begin, when they have to back their own judgement, when they have to take risks.
  2. The “How to”. The PLAN
    Unfortunately, just having the passion isn’t enough in and of itself. In order to produce exceptional results, you will need sufficient knowledge, skill, and expertise. You may need to consider upskilling or retraining if you want to change your career or get a promotion, for example.
  3. The “Chance to”. The PERSISTENCE
    Once you have newly acquired skills, you need to invest your time in practicing them. If you do not allocate the necessary resources, time, people, etc, to the process of creativity, it will not happen.
  4. The “Clarity of purpose”. The DIRECTION
    Significant vision always precedes significant results. There are many examples of the application of this principle. The people who survive great stress and tragedy in their lives, the people who have left a mark on this earth, are not necessarily the strongest, the richest or even the fittest. They are those who have something significant that they are yet to achieve. They are not ready to die, they are not ready to give in, they have not completed their ‘mission here on earth’, their raison d’être. Purpose is powerful.

How can you apply creative thinking to your life right now?

With the dawning of a new year, you may have been reflective. What are the areas in your life you would like to change? Apply some creative principles: Who will you ask to assist you come up with some creative approaches to change the results you are generating in those areas? (Select someone who you are comfortable with and who has a playful and creative personality). Set aside some time to get together with this person. Re-set the standards by imagining there are over 30 ways to generate better results in those areas. Next use the ‘Disney Pattern’: Spend 1/3 of the time dreaming and accepting the offer, spend 1/3 of the time grouping the ideas, and spend 1/3 of the time formatting the ideas.

The next challenge is Making it happen: What is the direction you could set? Do you want to change things enough? Do you have the skills or at least know where to start? How would you know when you are giving up and when you are persisting?

If you would like more information about creative thinking or would like to organise your own creative thinking workshops; please get in touch.

30 ways to solve the quick quiz

  • Photocopy it – place your pen on the page and photocopy it
  • It is not a dot on the page – it is a dead fly
  • Use someone else’s pen and leave your pen lying on the page In the space below, list all the ways that you and your friends can come up with in the 10 minutes allocated. Do this before turning the page. Remember, that there are over 30 ways so you can’t afford to be fussy. How did you go this time? Did you come up with more ways than you did the first time you looked at it? Here are more than 30 ways to ‘reproduce this without lifting your pen off the page’.
  • Fold the page’s top left corner
  • Fold the page’s top right corner
  • Fold the page’s bottom left corner
  • Fold the page’s bottom right corner
  • Use a retractable pen
  • Use someone else’s pen
  • Use someone else’s paper
  • Use two people • Use two hands
  • Use your hand and a foot to hold a pen
  • Use your hand and your mouth to hold a pen
  • Use a pencil
  • Use a texta
  • Use a highlighter pen
  • Use lipstick
  • Use blood
  • Photocopy it
  • Take a photo
  • Take a digital photo
  • Scan it
  • E-Mail it
  • Copy it electronically
  • Reproduce it in a computer program
  • Hold a mirror up to it
  • Write the word ‘this’ in running writing
  • Write the words ‘this without lifting your pen off the page’
  • Drop the page rather than lifting the pen
  • Reproduce it in sand
  • Reproduce it in wood
  • Reproduce it in metal
  • Reproduce it in plastic
  • Buy paper with a dot already on it
  • Buy paper with a circle already on it
  • Reproduce it in your mind

As you can clearly see, there are quite possibly infinite ways to ‘reproduce this without lifting your pen off the page’. It’s all about creativity!!!

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