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12.9. The Creative Cloud


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 12. The TAO Design Process > 12.6. The Logic Cloud > 12.9. The Creative Cloud

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The creative cloud is whole host of methods and yet a single way of being open and ready for ideas to arrive. Sometimes they come from work on the other tracks and clouds as desires are fed into the unconscious mind and re-surface at a later time with unexpected and very welcome ideas.

Fig. 12.2 The full TAO Design Process

In the creative cloud, although methods generally tend to get used from beginning to end, you can use any methods anywhere. People who tend towards the more psychological/creative end of the spectrum often work holistically, in parallel on many activities at once. Thus they might simultaneously be playing with potential solutions whilst also discovering different needs. Like an Elizabethan multi-voice choral motet, their thoughts wander all over the place, only coming together in a harmonious whole right at the end.

The cloud diagram of Fig. 12.9 shows just the tips of the iceberg of techniques you can use. The prompts below and the methods of Chapters 10 and 11 provide many more methods to expand your thinking and explore the problem and solution spaces.

Fig. 12.9 The Creative Cloud

Do things backwards

Start with a solution and see what Problems it might solve. Do this again and again. Keep asking what problems you have with these solutions and explore how these might be solved.

Wish for the world

Close your eyes and make a wish. Write it down, starting ‘I wish…’. Imagine fully and completely that it is totally true. Look at what you have wished for. Feel it: what is the texture and sense of shape? Does it have sounds, smells or taste? ?What is this like? How would the world change if your wish was true? How could you make some of those changes happen now?

Take a child-like perspective

Take away your knowledge–imagine you see it for the first time. Imagine taking it apart and exploring the bits. Imagine putting them in your mouth to see what they taste like and feel like!

Envision an ideal future

Create a vision of what you want, not what you think is possible. Write it down in a few, powerful words. Carry it with you. Show it to people. Let it tug at your heart and your head, pulling you forwards in the right direction.

Demolish psychological barriers

Take courage and look inside yourself to see what is really stopping you from creating. Is the internal critic chattering in your ear? Tell it to shut up! Are you concerned with what others might think? Ignore them or go elsewhere. What is the one question you could ask yourself that would cause you to be completely unblocked? Go over, around, under or through every barrier you can find until there is nothing that can stop you from succeeding.

Challenge assumptions

Look at the assumptions and presuppositions people (including yourself!) are making. Are you thinking things cannot be done? Or that they will not be needed? Look at what we are putting up with, just because we think that there is ‘no other way’ or just because ‘that’s the way it is’. Challenge them. Reverse them. Assume all things are possible!

Create tension

Let your wishes and vision build internal tension that breaks down psychological barriers. Make the tension inherent in assumptions visible. Stretch the rubber band until it twangs and snaps you into different thinking.

Use an analogy

Move your mind to another place. What problems exist that are essentially like this problem but very different. How would you create the solution for these analogous problems?

Somewhere the problem has already been solved

Nature is a rich resource of solutions. If you want to make a better door – what in nature is like a door? What is a door for a worm, or a bee, or a tree, or a virus? How are their doors made and how do they function?


Take things out. Combine things. Ask how things can be simplified to the point where all that is delivered is that which is wanted. Paint it all one colour. Make it all from one piece. Do it all at the same time. How can you create a really simple invention?

Draw pictures

Engage your visual senses. Draw pictures of the problems and solution. Draw the whole and individual parts. Draw generalisations and complete solutions. Doodle and see what your subconscious is trying to tell you.

Make things

Get out the scissors, card and glue, or may be some modelling clay. Make three-dimensional rough mock-ups of a part or the whole of your idea. Make metaphors or related items or just relax, making anything and let your subconscious be your helpful guide.

Ask a clown–or ask an expert

Your resources for evaluation also include other people. Do not think about others as just being there for expert opinions. There are times when you need to ask a clown and times when you need to ask an expert. The time to ask an expert is when you really know what you want.

If you ask an expert when your ideas are just forming you will be guided to all the known solutions that the expert feels comfortable with. That is, after all, why they are experts.

Always ask the clown first!

Ask a child

Find a child, the younger the better and ask them for ideas. They have even less inhibitions than the clown. Use their ideas to unblock you and stimulate further thinking.

Change your mind and try something absurd

Even when you are really sure you know what you want and how you will put it together it can still be useful to challenge your ideas by changing your mind.

This will really test your commitment to your ideas. If they do not stand up to the change your mind test then maybe they should be dropped. If you have challenged them and they still come up with roses then you are highly likely to see your idea through to the end, no mater what obstacles are put in your way.

Slay a sacred cow, break some rules, break the mould

And the final test is how different would things be if you took away the rules that are governing your thinking or that of others. If a little bit of rule-breaking really changed what you would do then maybe you start again when you have changed the rules.

Are your rules really that sacred? Many ancient and modern battles have been lost when someone broke the rules. Army generals plan their campaigns on beliefs about what their opponents will do–the opponents know this so they change the rules–and win!

Maybe your business idea is like that? Which side are you on?

Enjoy yourself

Being an inventor will feel risky, it will take up your energy and can leave it dead on the floor. Make sure you have some fun while doing all this thinking stuff! It isn’t about only having fun–some hard work is needed but this is why the fun is also essential. And take time to relax!

Just do something

Whatever goes on, you need to keep doing something! You started with some energy to do something so however difficult it seems and however lost you feel, keep up the momentum.

And finally…

Being creative means wandering around in your thinking, dancing lightly from place to place to see what your brain comes up with. Sometimes zoom in and sometimes zoom out. And always be playful with a serious purpose!

Use the various guides in this book to analyse, think, wish and wonder, over and over, looking for how you might put several different ideas together. Because it is often the combination of ideas that yields the great ‘aha’, we cannot and should not try to give you a magic sequence that will guarantee ‘results every time’. You will probably need to get lost before you find your way, which is a perfectly normal part of the inventive business, which is why it needs persistence and a bit of courage.

So don’t forget to give yourself a reward every now and then for your efforts.

But above all - Be happy!

Well, this is what you are here for.

(This is the only bit of religion in the book)

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