In our blog post Daily Thinking – Discovering Patterns we showed some alarming daily thinking habits, like assuming that there is a linear, unambiguously relation between a cause and an effect. For example, it is assumed that increasing e-commerce will reduce traffic. People will less … Continue reading
Here a sequel to How to Get a More Beautiful Question?
Defining the thinking task before beginning an idea generation session is one of the most neglected stages.
Most starting questions are far too broad defined. For instance. “In What Ways Might We (IWWMW) get more clients?”. It is more helpful to break it down in smaller topics, as in
- “IWWMW add more value to our product”
- “IWWMW get more clients with help of our existing clients”
- “IWWMW use other product to sell ours”
Design at least 15 IWWMW’s by redefine the initial one in order to escape from the obvious and get a really creative challenge.
Avoid formulating IWWMW’s becoming too small. In that case the IWWMW will just be a concrete solution and will not give you a direction for further searching new ideas.
Then make the challenge less boring and more sexy. That is: make them more imaginative, outreaching, challenging, interesting. For instance: sex up “IWWMW get more clients by using our existing clients” into “our clients collect so much organic waste that we have to export it”.
Follow up by adding a constraint: people, money, time, channels.
Finally, construct a propelling question that has a contradiction in it.
A propelling question is one that drives forward the effort for creative thinking by using a bold ambition and a significant restriction. For instance: “let’s get 50 more clients by firing all account managers”.
The technique of the creative focus is to force oneself outside common thinking, already before the creative thinking session actually get started.
In an earlier post about focus, we stressed the importance of paying attention to the focus of the thinking. Taking a problem or challenge unquestioned as it exposes itself may lead to brilliant solutions for the wrong problem. It is therefore required to pay substantial time and effort to (re)define the focus of the thinking.
The problem of attention is best illustrated by the figure-ground phenomenon: it is known as identifying a figure from the background. For example, you see words on a printed paper as the “figure” and the white sheet as the “background”. However, it is possible to define the white sheet as the “figure”and the “background” as the printed words. Some examples of figure–ground perception shift are:
Figure–ground perception can be expanded from visual perception to include abstract (i.e. non-visual) concepts such as melody/harmony, subject/background, and positive/negative space. The concept of figure and ground fully depends on the observer and not on the item itself.
In art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the “real” subject of an image. It is called Negative Space. The Japanese word “Ma” is sometimes used for this concept, for example, in garden design.
We will take the figure-ground reversal a little bit further. Normally, we strive for perfection– broadly, a state of completeness and flawlessness. We value strength, beauty, completeness, velocity, winning etc. Let’s shift focus to the negative face. What is the beauty of imperfection? Amazingly, there is no such page in Wikipedia neither in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Ripping or distressing of jeans, though also arising naturally as a result of wear and tear, is sometimes deliberately performed by suppliers – with distressed clothing sometimes selling for more than a non-distressed pair. For example, Pucci sold “embellished mid-rise boyfriend jeans” for $860 USD. In other times it would be a sign of poverty.
The Golden Raspberry Awards is an award ceremony in recognition of the worst in a film. Most winners do not attend the ceremony to collect their awards. Notable exceptions include Tom Green (Worst Actor/Worst Director), Halle Berry and Sandra Bullock (Worst Actress), Michael Ferris, Joe Eszterhas (Worst Screenplay), and Paul Verhoeven (Worst Director)
“The Bad Hemingway Contest” is an annual writing competition that has been held for nearly thirty years, the contest pays mock homage to Ernest Hemingway by encouraging authors to submit a ‘really good page of really bad Hemingway’. Also to mention the “Hemmingway Look-alike Society”, a bunch of “portly gray-bearded old men.”: not being unique is the pursue, but striving for the likeness of someone else is worth pursuing.
It is all about perception shift. A shift from looking for perfection to valuing imperfection. In Japan, it is called Wabi-sabi, the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”
What about the 25 inventions that are completely pointless, as a Car Exhaust Grill or a sadomasochistic tea kettle?
Leaning towers seem to attract a lot more visitors than towers standing upright.
A choir for people who cannot sing and are tone deaf was started by Nadine Cooper, 48, who wanted to join a singing group but never had the courage because she was aware she could not stay in tune. Her self-consciousness started when she was a child after a music teacher ordered her to keep her mouth shut because of her awful singing.A tuneless choir for those who . . .well can’t sing: Listen, this bunch is really hair-raising the roof!
Concepts occur in solid form and are often not questioned. After all, they have proved their worth and value. Concepts as an abstract or generic ideas, conceived in the mind, are generalized from particular instances. The more “solid” a concept appears the higher the chances are that the concept was conceived in the collective mind decades or ages ago.
Historically, marriages in most societies were arranged by parents and older relatives with the goal of legacy and economic stability and political alliances. So, the concept then was defined as a kind of business agreement, rather than something that involved love. It is therefore not surprising that a concept such as matchmaker – as the process of matching two or more people together for the purpose of marriage – also got outdated.
In general, outdated concepts can be considered as originally adequate in the circumstances in which they were designed, but now hopelessly outdated because of the changed circumstances, be it economic, social, historical, technological, etc.
For example: since we have reduced democracy to selecting representatives, and reduced representative democracy to mean simply voting, a valuable system is now mired in deep difficulties.
” In a referendum, we ask people directly what they think when they have not been obliged to think – although they have certainly been bombarded by every conceivable form of manipulation in the months leading up to the vote. But the problem is not confined to referendums: in an election, you may cast your vote, but you are also casting it away for the next few years. This system of delegation to an elected representative may have been necessary in the past – when communication was slow and information was limited – but it is completely out of touch with the way citizens interact with each other today.”
“This blind faith in the ballot box as the ultimate base on which popular sovereignty rests can be seen most vividly of all in international diplomacy. When western donor countries hope that countries ravaged by conflict – such as Congo, Iraq or Afghanistan – will become democracies, what they really mean is this: they must hold elections, preferably on the western model, with voting booths, ballot papers and ballot boxes; with parties, campaigns and coalitions; with lists of candidates, polling stations and sealing wax, just like we do. And then they will receive money from us.”
“Local democratic and proto-democratic institutions (village meetings, traditional conflict mediation or ancient jurisprudence) stand no chance. These things may have their value in encouraging a peaceful and collective discussion, but the money will be shut off unless our own tried-and-tested recipe is adhered to.”
Could we conceive alternative designs for a system that would express the will of the people, as is the original idea behind the concept of democracy: a system of government in which all the people of a state are involved in making decisions about its affairs?
There are many concepts that have become outdated or soon will become. Can you think of any? And can you design any new concepts that can be used instead?
There is a misunderstanding that conceptual thinking is abstract in nature. Conceptual thinking is seen as just playing in your head, without physical devices?
Conceptual art is the physical result of conceptual thinking. In conceptual art, the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.
Academic pre-promotions are the most boring ones in the world. The candidate presents his or her findings to a committee of academic professors, verbally and only incidentally supported by audio-visual means. But why not dance a thesis or explaining statistics?
To get a drivers license most people study traffic rules by books. Traffic rules are indeed conceptual by nature but in Africa, they use dinky toys to explain them. What about simulating traffic jams by using dinky toys?
The approach of Lego Serious Play is based on research which suggests that hands-on, “minds-on” learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities. Lego Serious Play is a powerful example of the benefit of using physical things for conceptual thinking. Participants are forced to express concepts in bricks, literally.
We assume that conceptual thinking –thinking with the help of abstract concepts – will improve dramatically when using the opposite: physical objects.
Conceptual Thinking – Thinking with the help of concepts – does have a lot of advantages.
- abstract and general idea; an abstraction
- understanding retained in the mind, from experience, reasoning and/or imagination; a generalization (generic, basic form), or abstraction (mental impression), of a particular set of instances or occurrences (specific, though different, recorded manifestations of the concept).
Stripped of all details, and nuances it makes the thinking far more efficient, straightforward and fast, at the same time getting more insight and overview. It is like the counter-intuitive result of speed-reading. The faster the reading, the more comprehension and recall. Or like learning only the main points of a lesson. It turns out that students who are told that only headlines would be examined, scored far better on detailed questions than students who were told to study for details and in-depth knowledge.
For people who are afraid of letting out nuances, different perspectives and subtleties, thinking in boxes – conceptual thinking – is very difficult and they get often emotionally blocked, as shown in the cartoon below. However, it is a false dilemma.
We assume that it is a result of academic education with its emphasis on accurate and complete description and consequently the status someone can get by his ability to nuance, showing different perspectives and adding subtleties. The fallacy is: “complex is per definition right”.
However, the goal of thinking is not a description. Thinking with the help of condensed concepts – leaving out details, subtleties, perspectives- is nothing else than setting up some hypothesis, in order to get more insight.
However, there is no objection at all to formulate 5 or more descriptions of the same concept, in terms of different functions, mechanism and values. (See for more “How to describe a concept“)
At that way, one obtains some overlapping concept descriptions that contain subtleties, nuances, and perspectives. It takes only a few minutes and three sentences per concept description.
As for now, we can identify benefits from thinking with help of concepts
Stripped of details, it makes thinking must more simple.
The simplification enables higher level thinking
It helps one to draw conclusions
Because a pattern might be identified one can guess how a situation is likely to evolve
Once the main characteristics of a concept are identified, one is able to escape from the underlying dominant thinking, and create new concepts
By extracting underlying concepts, one can multiply the results of an idea generation session.
The latter, concept extraction is one of the most, but also unknown, fruitful techniques to boost ideas. Ina later blog post, we will explain how it works.
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The ability to come up with a lot of alternatives is an important Thinkibility skill, reflecting “mobility” in thinking. As all skills, they have to be trained and maintained by exercises. Recently we came across a funny, but existential exercise.
Since the 1950s, scientists have argued the idea that “habitable zones” around stars are the most likely places to find life. Numerous discoveries in these zones since 2007 have generated estimations of frequencies of Earth-like planets —in terms of composition— numbering in the many billions though as of 2013, only a small number of planets have been discovered in these zones. Nonetheless, on November 4, 2013, astronomers reported, based on Kepler space mission data, that there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarfs in the Milky Way (Extraterrestrial life).
And yet, we see nothing, hear nothing, and we’re visited by no one.
So where is everybody?
Welcome to the Fermi Paradox.
We have no answer to the Fermi Paradox—the best we can do is “possible explanations.”
The Thinkibility nibble for today is just that. Give us at least 15 “possible explanations” why mathematically there must be extraterrestial life, yet we have never experienced it.