"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Monday, March 16, 2009


Dr E Paul Torrance of the University of Minnesota found in his research that imagination tends to contract as knowledge and judgement expand. Alex Osborn reports on these investigations from Torrance's book, 'Guiding Creative Talent'.

Tony Buzan, Lee Towe, Michael Gelb, Carol Goman & James Adams & several other researchers in the field of creativity have evaluated their findings on the basis of these tests.

Torrance established four criteria for the measurement of creativity. Emerging ideas could be categorised as follows:

1) Quantity (or fluency);

2) Variety (or flexibility);

3) Elaborateness;

4) Uniqueness;

Now, pause & take out a sheet of blank paper. List, in three minutes, all the uses you can imagine for an elastic band.

How did you fare? Did you feel pressurised by the time constraint? Could you carry on writing for the entire three minutes? Are you still gushing with ideas? Or did your well run dry?

Let us evaluate as per Lee Towe's interpretation of Torrance work.

Evaluating the Criteria:

1) Quantity:

Were you able to produce 24 ideas in three minutes?

Towe reports a benchmark of eight ideas per minute as an admirable goal.

2) Variety:

Did you have at least six categories of answers? If your list included responses such as:

- holding books together;
- holding chopsticks together;
- holding files together;
- holding pens together;

your tally of answers as regards quantity could be high, but this does not demonstrate variety.

In the former case you were fluent by being able to render quantity in the same category. However, you were not flexible, which calls for different categories of answers. Let us consider a few answers which, through being diverse, would be considered flexible.

- as a catapult;
- to fasten saplings;
- for crafting puzzles;
- use as a compass for describing arcs;
- as a clothesline;
- as a lengthening device;
- to paint with (special effects);
- as a skipping rope;

Since the time trial was for three minutes, endeavour to get at least two or three categories per minute;

3) Elaborateness:

This focuses on you being able to visualise or list ways whereby you could have your ideas interact with the surroundings, i.e. the ambience, or with nature. Were you able to do this?

Ideas that come into this category are generally more creative than those contained in the preceding two categories. If we consider a contrast between a simple idea and an elaborate idea for an elastic band, we could propose:


- Use it to tie a pony tail.


i) Use a huge, long elastic band, impregnated with fibre optics and signal conduction material, to make a specially coded undersea connection between two continents, say North America and Europe. This could then be used for communication at diverse levels between the populace in both continents.

ii) Use a powerful elastic band as a giant trampoline in each major city around the world for children to jump on, every New Year's Day. Their message on tee-shirts and helmets is "Pay Heed to the Need, to Train Your Brain. Look for the Joy in Learning"

A word of advice: Beware of making snap judgements. Much of what we take for granted today emerged from responses that looked impractical, illogical or plain stupid.

4) Uniqueness:

Did your list contain any unusual ideas? The creative value of an idea rises inversely with its rarity. If 99% of the people responded with elastic bands being used as a catapult, and only one came up with "elasticated chopsticks for beginners using this device,"that individual would be credited with a higher score by experts doing the evaluation.

Once again, it must be emphasised, it is of utmost importance to NOT judge an answer as stupid or useless. There is no such thing in creativity. As you will see later in the book ("The Certainty of Scepticism" on page 204), the judgement of experts proved to be completely wrong. An idea that appears useless from one perspective could very well be invaluable form another.

From the viewpoint of quantity alone, there have been various evaluations proffered by experts. Towe rates this criterion as follows:

0-6, it's a start;

7-12, average;

13-18, commednable;

19-24, proficient;

25-30, expert;

30+, master;

[Excerpted from the book, 'Brain Symphony: Brain-blazing Practical Techniques in Creativity for Immediate Application', by Dilip Mukerjea. All the images in this post are the intellectual property of Dilip Mukerjea.]

Please read my personal comments in a subsequent post.

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