"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."

Thursday, March 19, 2009


In an earlier post, I highlighted the Torrance Tests with an excerpt from Dilip Mukerjea's book, 'Brain Symphony: Brain-blazing Practical Techniques in Creativity for Immediate Application'.

Yesterday morning, while walking on the treadmill in the gym, I somehow thought further about the post.

Here's a quick snap shot of those rambling thoughts of mine:

Although the four parameters had been originally conceived by E Paul Torrance to help determine the level of creativity among especially gifted kids, I think it is best for us just to consider them as 'factors of creativity'.

Hence, they will certainly make more practical sense when we look at - & use - them from the standpoint of idea generation.

As Dilip had rightly explained, 'fluency' is the number of ideas, solutions & so on which one can generate within short amounts of time.

The focus in on quantity, or rather, the flow of thought.

In order to be fluent, we need to think of the most - a large number of relevant responses.

Fluency is not difficult as long as one is aware of the logic sensor in the head.

The logic sensor, sad to say, often impedes our flow of thought, as it invariably creates the fear of looking stupid &/or fear of being ridiculed by our peers, especially when we come up with some fancy ideas.

Once we can by-pass this logic sensor consciously, we are on our way to many interesting ideas.

As a case in point: just watch your children or others kids doing the same exercise. With their natural curiosity, they generally don't have any inhibitions at all in pushing the mental envelope when come to idea generation.

The funny thing is this: All of us as adults have already gone memorable childhood. What happened?

So, my point is, in order to be fertile in our thoughts, act like a child, but of course don't be childish!

Next, 'flexibility' is expressed as the ability to find multiple types of ideas, solutions & so on, to represent different categories, diversity & direction of thought.

With flexibility, one can think about a broad range of topics, since the focus is on a large & broad variety of responses.

In other words, at least from the standpoint of idea generation, it sort of measures whether one can take different approaches & make detours in one's direction of thought.

Flexibility is comparatively more difficult that fluency, as it requires more deliberate efforts.

Once again, kids are pretty good at it. As I had worked with school-going kids as well as professional adults in my creativity workshops, I can relate to this more readily.

In my past workshops, when I drew a full stop on the flip chart, I asked them to write down on a sheet of paper, say in 3 minutes, what they think it could see.

Oftentimes, the adults were stumped initially by the question, but after a short while, they got the hang of it following some nudging from me. The moment they realised that it could be a glass ball, they started thinking about all kinds of ball.

As for the kids, their responses were often amazing, in terms of their mental flexibility, as shown below:

mummy's nipple, toothache, Phua Chu Kang's mole, hole in the ozone, black beetle sleeping at night, cockroach's shit . . .

Next, 'originality', which is the ability to produce truly new ideas or a new approach to an old way of thinking.

The focus is novelty: uncommon & clever responses, smart solutions or unique ideas.

For me, my sentiment here is best expressed by the great American inventor Thomas Edison through one of his favourite quotes:

"Always keep on the lookout for novel ideas that others have used successfully. We don't know one millionth of one percent about anything . . . I start where the last man left off . . . Your idea has to be original, only to its adaptation to the problem you're working on . . . A good idea never was lost. It's possessor may die, but it will be reborn in the mind of another."

That's to say, ideas have to be original only with regard to their adaptation to the problem at hand!

Lastly, 'elaboration', or 'elaborativeness' as Dilip puts it, which is the degree to which one can develop & embellish an idea. The focus is aptness of the idea.

From the standpoint of idea generation, one constantly needs to develop & embellish an idea that floats around in the head. To expand or stretch it with more pertinent details.

Sometimes, even to embellish it in visual form for the purpose of clarity or detailed presentation.

Occasionally, even to take it to the extreme, by making it more unique.

To elaborate further on the idea of embellishment, I like to refer to an earlier post in the 'Optimum Performance Technologies' weblog, which I am reproducing herewith:

Roughly, ideas churning inside the head can often be categorised as follows:

1) Ready-to-Use or Ripe Ideas (RI):

- these ideas are detailed enough & robust enough to have outgrow their downsides;

- immediately actionable;

- ready for pilot use;

2) Seedlings or Seed Ideas (SI):

- these ideas are not yet developed but seem worthy;

- generally, very raw ideas;

- require enhancement or developmental work;

3) Broad Concepts (BC):

- these ideas are too broad in scope, although they may give some useful directions (UD);

- require further idea generation;

4) Mulch or Not Ready Ideas (NRI):

- these ideas seem to have too many downsides or insufficient details to make them worthy of use;

- are seemingly not usable;

- may require further idea generation to make them workable;

I reckon a clear understanding of these fine distinctions will enable one to make more productive use of idea generation exercises.

This will result in us more willing to go for a quantitative pursuit of ideas. A qualitative assessment of ideas can always come later.

Consequently, all the ideas generated in the exercises can then be gathered, collated & organised for immediate implementation as well as for further developmental work.

In this respect, no ideas will ever go into the trash can. Best of all, this is one good way to build up an idea bank in the long run.

Interestingly, business & innovation strategist Tom Peters once asserted that it takes 250 raw ideas to get a 1 major money making product.

Who knows, one NRI may turn into a money making RI after some deliberate efforts in development &/or embellishment.

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