Genius sees the answer before the question
– Robert Oppenheimer
Michael Michalko, who is a consultant on creativity and is also the author of Thinkertoys, made a special investigation of the method’s that history’s greatest creative geniuses have used to generate their ideas. The result was a list of eight ways that anyone can use to think like a genius, or at least come up with creative ideas.
Here they are:
- Look at a problem in many different ways. Leonardo Da Vinci believed that the first way he looked at a problem was too biased toward his usual way of seeing things, so he would look at a problem from one perspective, then another, then another; with each change, his understanding would grow. Last week I wrote of a technique to help you to look at a challenge from different angles.
- Make your thoughts visible. Galileo used diagrams to explain his ideas, whereas his contemporaries used only conventional verbal and mathematical approaches. Diagrams can be a powerful way to present ideas and stimulate new thinking. MindMeister is a great online mind mapping tool you can use for this purpose.
- Produce a lot. Much of what geniuses produce is worth little, but since they produce a lot, they are more likely to produce real winners. Thomas Edison held 1093 patents, still the record. He gave himself a quota of one minor invention every ten days and a major invention every six months! Asimov, who was described as a writing machine, wrote more than 450 books before his heart failed him at the age of 72. Mozart produced more than 600 pieces of music before he died at 35.
- Combine things in new ways. Einstein’s famous equation E = mc², brought three well known concepts (energy, mass and the speed of light) into a new relationship with each other. Combining different elements leads to innovation.
- Force relationships. Samuel F.B. Morse was trying to figure out how to produce a telegraphic signal strong enough to transmit all the way across the United States. One day he saw horses being exchanged at a relay station, and that gave him the idea that a traveling signal could be given periodic boosts of power.
- Think in opposites. This seems to be a very common trait among the super creative. They constantly turn thoughts inside out: What if we grew younger rather than older? What if we had to eat dessert before the main course rather than after?
- Think metaphorically. Aristotle thought people who had he capacity to perceive resemblances between two separate areas of existence had special gifts.
- Prepare for the benefits of chance. While Edison was looking for a way to make carbon filament for his electric bulb, he happened one day to be toying with a piece of putty, turning and twisting it. Suddenly the answer hit him: twist the carbon like rope. In October 1879, after more than 1200 experiments, Edison lit a lamp with a carbonized thread as its filament. The following year, his electric light bulb went into commercial use for the first time.
So there you have it, this is all we need to start thinking like a genius.
Have you discovered your genius yet?
Photo Credit: Silver ArTiSt