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Principles of creativity > Jumping

The habitual rut | Digging elsewhere | See also


Creativity is not about doing the same thing every time. When we shift elsewhere, we give the mind a jolt and make it start to think differently.

The habitual rut

Our minds are very good at learning, which is very largely a very useful ability to have. It saves us from having to reinvent the wheel every day and we feel comfortable in our habits. Repetition is generally programmed into us as being a good and safe thing to do and we generally seek to follow the tried, trusted and true.

Even when we are in a difficult situation, we will chose a painful but familiar route over something new that may (or may not) contain significant risks. 'Better the Devil you know', is a common saying, which we quote as we jump back into the frying pan.

Creative ruts

We get stuck in the same trap when we are seeking to be creative. First, we may not be able to think about any creative ideas. Then we dry up after a short while. Then we get fascinated by one idea and cannot explore further.

If you do more of what you always did, you'll get more of what you always got. It is a common and accurate description.

It happens in groups

As well as individuals getting stuck in ruts, whole groups can get trapped by dominant paradigms of group culture or just fixated on a few ideas. Groups also suffer from inter-person influence and social concerns whereby individuals feel unable to be original.

Digging elsewhere

As a consequence of this habit of repeating ourselves and getting stuck in a rut or deep hole, there is a whole family of creative tools that work primarily by making us think differently, forcing out of our comfortable thinking patterns.

Legitimising new thinking

One of the purposes of creative methods is to give tacit permission to people to be different, and get outside their comfort zone without fear of criticism. Once one person takes this new baton, others will follow.

Like escaped prisoners, once people try out their new-found freedom they typically act with delight and liberation, offering a new wave of far more creative ideas.

Forcing new thinking

Creative methods that push you into others areas of thinking also have a coercive, although benign, element. Because your subconscious keeps you thinking in one area, these methods act to overcome this force and hence find new ideas.

One method is to ask you to think about something completely different and then use that to kick-start new thinking, as with forced association.

A method used in groups is to bring in a person who has no interest in the problem and knows little about the real problem. This 'plant', as they are sometimes called, throws in new ideas without concern for the real solution. They also are not concerned about social acceptance by the group. Although these people seldom come up with any real good final ideas, they do often stimulate the group into new and more original thinking.

See also

Forced association

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