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9.1.1. Sensing: Uneven Senses


How To Invent (Almost) Anything > 9. Managing in a Complex World > 9.1. Sensing > 9.1.1. Sensing: Uneven Senses

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We can get input into our brain via any or all of our five senses (taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing) although these are not all equal and are not equally balanced in all people. It is known, for example, that people with impaired vision often compensate with increased sensitivity of their other senses. What is not widely known, however, is that those of us lucky enough to have all senses functioning perfectly are also not equally balanced.

Imagine being young again; being very young. To a small child, the sense of smell is very important (can you remember how your parents smelled?). As they grow and start exploring their world, touch and taste join in (notice how toddlers put everything in their mouths). Sound becomes increasingly important as they learn language. And as they make sense and name the riot of colours in front of them, the visual abilities also develop.

As all of these senses are developing, one sense may be found to more effective, perhaps at an emotionally critical moment. If this happens, it is natural that the child pays more attention to it, and thus the senses develop unevenly. By the time we are adults, many people have a preference for visual data; they think more in pictures and even tend to use more visually-oriented words and phrases, such as ‘that looks like a good idea’ (as they actually see the idea in their heads). Others develop more with the balance tipping towards sounds and words (‘that sounds good’), whilst others again are more tactile (‘that feels good’). Very few have a preference for sensing with smell or taste, even though our noses are so sensitive, we can detect a single molecule of some substances.

Many creative approaches are based around words: in brainstorming, for example, ideas are spoken and written down. With an understanding of sense preferences, creative sessions can be made more fruitful by using techniques that stimulate the different senses, giving opportunity for stimulation that is more effective whatever your sensual preference.

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