December 29, 2010

Where good ideas come from by Steven Johnson.

Where good ideas come from by Steven Johnson.
The natural history of innovation.

[This book stresses the importance of the network. Completely different outlook from ‘wisdom of the crowds and says, it is the wisdom of the person in the crowd makes it big rather than the wisdom of the crowd itself. I did prove it in my series of projects (me vs. groups) where the group’s output comes down to the average of everyone in the group’s performance. Secondly, the author compared coral reef to big cities for creating an ‘ecosystem’ for generating new ideas]

Scientists and animal lovers observed that as life gets bigger, it slows down the heart rate. Flies live for hours or days; elephants live for half-centuries (Female elephants give birth at intervals of about every 5 years, with a gestation period of 2 years; can bear up to 6 babies in a lifetime). A horse might be five hundred times slower than the rabbits, yet its pulse certainly wasn’t five hundred times slower than the rabbits. Swiss scientist Max Kleiber and his peers analyzed the clearer the equation: metabolism scales to mass to the negative quarter power. The math is simple enough. you take the square root of 1000 which is approx. 31 and take square root of 31 which is approx. 5.5. This means, that a cow which is roughly 1000 times heavier than a woodchuck, will on average live 5.5 times longer and have a heart rate that is 5.5 time slower than woodchuck.

Over the ensuing decades, Kleiber’s law was extended down to the microscopic scale of bacteria and cell metabolism; even plants were found to obey negative quarter-power scaling in their patters of growth. Several years ago, the theoretical physicist Geoffrey West decided to investigate whether Klieber’s law applied to human build cities. Did the ‘metabolism’ of urban life slow down as cities grew in size? The result was, ‘A city that was ten times larger than its neighbor wasn’t ten times more innovative, but 17 times more innovative. A metropolis fifty times bigger than a town was 130 times more innovative. the average resident of a metropolis with a population of five million people was almost three times more creative than the average resident of a town of hundred thousand.

When we look back to the original innovation engine on earth, we find two essential properties. First, a capacity to make new connections with as many other elements possible. And second, a ‘randomizing’ environment that encourages collisions between all the elements in the system. On earth, the story of life’s creativity begins with a liquid, high-density network: connection-hungry carbon atoms colliding with other elements in the primordial soup. The molecules they formed mark the point at which chemistry and physics gave way to biology.

Why are we so confident about carbon’s essential role in creating living things? The answer has to do with the core properties of the carbon atom itself. Carbon has four valance electrons residing in the outermost shell of the atom which for complicated reason makes it uniquely talented at forming connections with other atoms, particularly with Hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sulfur - and crucially with other carbon atoms. These six atoms make up 99 percent of the dry weight of all living organisms in earth. Those four valance bonds give carbon a strong propensity for forming elaborate chains and rings of polymers.

Computer scientist Christopher Langton sometimes use the metaphor of different phases of matter - gas, liquid and solid - to describe innovative systems. In a gas, chaos rules; new configurations are possible, but they are constantly being disrupted and torn apart by the volatile nature of the environment. In a solid, the opposite happens; the patterns have stability, but they are incapable of change. But a liquid network creates a more promising environment for the system to explore the adjacent possible. New configurations can emerge through random connections formed between molecules.

When the first market towns emerged in Italy, they did not magically create some higher-level group consciousness. They simply widened the pool of minds that could come up with and share good ideas. This is not the wisdom of the crowd, but the wisdom of someone in the crowd. It is not the network itself is smart, it is the individual get smarter because they are connected to the network.

The waking brain has an appetite for the generative chaos that rules in the dream state. Neurons share info by passing chemicals across the synaptic gap that connects then, but they also communicate via a more indirect channel.: they sync their firing rates. For a reason that are not entirely understood, large clusters of neurons will regularly fire at the exact same frequency (imagine a discordant jazz band, each member following a different time signature and tempo, that suddenly snaps into a waltz at precisely 120 beats per min). This is what neuroscientists call phase-locking. There is a kind of beautiful synchrony to phase-locking - millions of neurons pulsing in perfect rhythm, But brain also seems to require the opposite: regular periods of electrical chaos, where neurons are completely out of sync with each other (noise period). Robert Thatcher a brain scientist decided to study the vacillation between phase-lock and noise in the brains of dozens of children. He notes that nose period lasted in average 55 milliseconds. The kids who has more noise period has higher IQ (every extra millisecond spent in the chaotic mode - noise period- added as much as twenty IQ points. The phase-lock mode is where the brain executes an established plan or habit and the chaos mode is where the brain assimilates new information, explores strategies for responding to a changed situation. In this sense, the chaos mode is a kind of background dreaming.

Reproduction without sex is a simple matter of cloning; you take your own cells, make a copy and pass that on to your decedents. It does not sound like much fun to our mammalian ears, but it is a strategy that has worked out very well for billions of years for bacteria. Asexual reproduction is faster and more energy efficient than the sexual variety: you don’t need to go to the trouble of finding a partner in order to create the next generation. Asexual organisms reproduce on average twice as quickly as their sexual counterparts in part because without a male/female distinction, every organism is capable of producing offspring directly. But evolution is not just a game of sheer quantity. Overpopulation poses its own dangers and a community of organisms with identical DNA makes a prime target for parasites or predators. For this reason natural selection also rewards innovation, life’s tendency to discover new ecological niches, new sources of energy.

The water flea Daphnia under normal conditions Daphnia reproduce asexually with females producing a brood of identical copies of themselves (females) in a tiny pouch. But when conditions get tough, when droughts or other ecological disturbance happen, or when winter rolls in, the water fleas make a remarkable transformation: they start producing males and switch to reproducing sexually. This switch is attributable to the sturdier eggs produced by sexual reproduction which are more capable of surviving the long months of winter. This strategy of switching back and forth between asexual and sexual goes by the name ‘heterogammy” and while it is unusual many different organisms have adopted it - Slime molds, algae, and aphids have all evolved heterogamous reproductive strategies.

Private serendipity can be cultivated by technology. For more than a decade now, I have been creating a private digital archive of quotes that I have found intriguing, my twenty-first-century version of commonplace book. Some of them are passages that I have transcribed from books or articles; others were clipped directly from web pages. Thanks to Google books and the Kindle, copying and storing interesting quotes from a book has grown far simpler). I keep all these quotes in a database using a program called DEVONthink where I also store my own writing. DEVONthink features a cleaver algorithm that detects subtle semantic connections between distinct passages or text. These tools are smart enough to get around the classic search-engine failing of excessive specificity.

Google and other search engines made easier to find what you are looking for - it is efficient, but dull. You miss time consuming but enriching act of looking through shelves of pulling down a book because the title interests you or the binding... Looking for something and being surprised by what you find - even if it is not what you set out looking for - is one of life’s great pleasure. and so far no software exists that can duplicate that experience. Old style browsing does indeed lead to unplanned discoveries.

There are seven elements in order to understand the history of innovation.

The adjacent possible -
Liquid networks
The slow hunch

Words from the book
Serendipity \ ser-ən-
ˈdi-pə-tē\ is a propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something unrelated
Hunch - an intuitive reckoning /a collective intelligence decision making system
Heterogammy - Switching back and forth between sexual and asexual reproduction.
Exaptation - The utilization of a structure or feature for a function other than that for which it was developed through natural selection.

December 17, 2010

Groundswell by Charlene LI & Josh Bernoff

This book provide many examples of how customer rule the product and this behaviour - that authors call as ‘Groundwell’ - can threaten institutions like companies and brands. Institutions should understand the power of the customer and tap the strength of the customer base using groundwell to strengthen their brand and penetrate to mass market.

[I find the book looks very good, if I read it few years. Now, we all know what is this and hence lacks relevance; hence I am not write the review in detail]

It covers, the following
Why teh groundwell and why now?
Jujitsu and the technologies of the groundwell
The social technographics profile
Strategies for tapping the groundwell
Listening the groundwell
Talking with groundwell
Energizing the Groundwell
Helping the groundwell support itself
Embracing the groundwell
How connecting with the groundwell
The groundwell Inside your company
The future of the groundwell

In the next-gen social technologies, the relationship it builds overrule the power of the technoogy. Following are some of the checkpoints:

1. Does it enable people to connect with each other in new way?
2. Is it effective to sign up for?
3. Does it shift from institutions to people?
4. Does the community generate enough content to sustain itself?
5. Is it an open platform that invites partnership?

December 15, 2010

The art of thoughts by Graham Wallace

The art of thoughts by Graham Wallace

[One of the first models of the creative process based on his knowledge of the accounts written by artistic and scientific luminaries].

As per Walls, creativity has following steps - preparation (gathering background information and exploring and focusing on the problem to be solved), incubation (internalizing the problem and then taking a break from actively thinking about it), illumination (a moment of insight in which a creative solution to the problem pops into conscious awareness) and verification (judging the appropriateness of the solution or idea, elaborating on it and actually applying it to the original problem).

Following are in fact taken from ‘Your creative Brain by Shelley Carson who abstracted the book - Art of thoughts in the following way.

Your brain is home to an immense repository of information, including semantic knowledge (gleaned from school, books and other source of information), auto biographical memories (you. The moment to moment experience of the world) and physical skills (how to ride a bike etc). This collection of information is unique to you. No one else has this particular mental library. That is why there is no doubt that you can create novel and original ideas, because none has your unique database.

The second part of the preparation process consists of acquiring the skills and information that are specific to your particular area of desired creative endeavor (Needs to be a domain expert to create new idea in that domain).

There are two routes in this phase. Deliberate pathway & spontaneous way.

Deliberate pathway steps in the following order::
Gather General Knowledge and specific skills, problem finding, problem solving (iterative), Evaluations, Elaboration, & Implementation.
You will resist the incubation period and continue to consciously searching for a solution to the problem.

Spontaneous way steps:
Gather General Knowledge and specific skills, problem finding & immersion, incubation, Evaluations, Elaboration, & Implementation.
You will be taking break from your creative problem can allow several beneficial things to happen in brain. The incubation period allows you to attend to other matters while you continue to work on the problem at a level below conscious awareness.

This stage is called ‘insight or inspiration (from Greek notion that the gods breathed into). All describe feeling as though the creative idea were coming from somewhere outside themselves because they did not consciously think up the idea: it was just suddenly there. many people believe that illumination is the province of so-called creative geniuses. Illumination is a skill that can be learned.

Not all creative ideas are good solutions to your problem. You need to select the best out of the whole choices/options. this is the evaluation stage. The final phase of this process is called implementation. Your work is no good until it reaches the intended audience.

December 7, 2010

Sudden Genius by Andrew Robinson

Sudden Genius by Andrew Robinson
The gradual path to creative breakthrough

[Likewise Howard Gorden’s book, discuss 10 genius cases with respect to their main creativity product and provide steps to work on your creativity in your everyday life
Leonardo da Vinci - The last supper -1498
Christopher Wren - St. Paul Cathedral - 1711
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - The marriage of Figaro - 1786
Jean- Francois Champollion - decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs - 1822
Charles Darwin - Evolution by natural selection 1859
Marie Curie - discovery of radium - 1898
Albert Einstein - Special relativity - 1905
Virginia Wolf - Mrs Dalloway - 1925
Henri Cartier-Bresson - The decisive Moment - 1952
Satyajit Ray - Pather Panchali - 1955

Creativity covering talent, genius, intelligence, memory, dreams, the unconscious, savant syndrome, synaesthesia, and mental illness]

Ray’s (Satyajit) comment on creativity: “ The whole business of creation of the ideas that comes in a flash, cannot be explained by science. It cannot. I don’t know what can explain it but I know that the best ideas come at moments when you are not even thinking of it. It is very private thing really’. ‘Eureka experience?

Winston Fletcher remarks in his ‘Tantrums and talent: How to get the best from creative people: “Just as creative world is crowded with people who have ideas but no talent, it is also crowded with people who have talent, but no ideas”

Archimedes said to have perceived the principles of displacement and flotation jumped out of the tube and run naked by screaming ‘Eureka!
Newton seeing an apple fall from a tree visualized the law of gravitational attraction.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge while reading a passage in a book about the Khan Kubla, fell into an opium induced sleep and when he woke up, immediately produced poem ‘Kubla Khan’.
Dimitri Mendeleev’s had a vision in the dream and when he woke up wrote down the periodic table of the elements.
Alexander Fleming while culturing ‘staphylococcus’ bacteria in a Petri dish, quite accidently spotted the presence of a bacteria-killing mould, Pencillium which became the source of the first antibiotic drug penicillin.

Great ideas like the above ones, are may have seemed to have come ‘out of the blue’ but in every such experience the mind seems to have prepared itself by long study. As Louis Pastor once said, ‘Chance favors the prepared mind’

Kekule once said, “gentlemen, let us learn to dream and perhaps then we tell the truth.... but let us beware not to publish they have been examined by wakened mind”.

A Very English Genius - A BBC TV program on ‘ The man who deciphered linear B - Michael Ventris The last man who knew everything - Thomas Young a Polymath who decipher Egyptian Rosetta Stone. ‘The man who deciphered Linear B’ told the story of the mid-twentieth century decipherment of Europe’s earliest readable writing by Michal Ventris. ‘The last man who knew everything’ narrated by the life and work of Thomas Young, an eighteenth-century child prodigy in languages and an adult polymath who deciphered the Rosetta Stone. in both cases, their decipherment breakthroughs depended on their knowledge of disparate domains. which their scholarly rivals did not have. their ideas arose from their versatility.

The invention of writing might be said to be the ur-breakthrough, since there would be no history no science and no literature without it. Proto-writing - that is signs capable of expressing a limited range of meaning but not the full range of spoken language seems to have existed during the last ice age in the form of enigmatic cave drawings, petroglyphs and notched bones, perhaps 20,000 years old. The break through that transformed proto-writing into full writing was the rebus. Rebus permits spoken words to be written in terms of their constituent parts - vowels, consonants, syllable and so on - that cannot be depicted pictographically. With Rebus principle, the sounds of a language can be made visible in a systematic way and its abstract concepts symbolized. How was rebus conceived? Some scholars believe it resulted from a conscious search by an unknown Sumerian in Uruk (biblical Erech), circa 3300 BC - the place and date of the earliest clay tablets that apparently record full writing. The world’s oldest surviving literature-in Sumerian cuneiform dates from about 2600 BC.

Even the majority of breakthroughs do involve an identifiable pivotal episode of revelation whether one calls it a eureka experience or not. What is absolutely clear in all ten cases is the long lead-up needed for the breakthroughs and the effort required, following the revelation to explore and substantiate the achievement.

Dreams giving access to unconscious processing may or may not have led to celebrated examples of breakthroughs. The creative role of unconscious processing was recognized long before the work of Sigmund Freud perhaps early as the beginning of 18th century. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz said in early 18th century, “ Our clear concepts are like islands which arise above the ocean of obscure ones. Yet it is not easy to conceive that a thing can think and not be conscious that it thinks’.

Talent & Genius

The relationship between inherited ability and long practice is the most contentious aspect of talent. However genius is even more problematic than talent. Although genius has never inherited or passed on, it seems like talent to be partly genetic in origin in many cases. Unlike talent, genius is the result of unique configuration of parental genes and personal circumstances. Since genius never transmits the full complement of his or her genes to offspring, whose personal circumstances inevitably differ from those of the parent genius, this configuration never repeats itself in the offspring.

IQ & Intelligence:

The IQ test created by Lewis Terman does not measure creativity and even failed to discover gifted students by this IQ method (couple of students who got rejected by his IO tests became Nobel winners).

Reading at the age of three - compared with the age of size - is equivalent to an IQ of six divided by three then multiply by 100 (the average or base IQ by definition), which gives an IQ of 200. As part of creating this IQ test, Terman contacted 15 famous experts to define the conception of intelligence. Terman’s definition was ‘the ability to carry on abstract thinking’. Another one favored, “the capacity of knowledge and knowledge possessed’. The other seven answers were (5 of them did not respond).

1. the power of good responses from the point of view of truth or fact
2. having learned or ability to learn to adjust oneself to the environment
3. the ability to adapt oneself adequately to relatively new situations in life
4. the capacity to learn or to profit by experience
5. the capacity to acquire capacity
6. the capacity to inhibit an instinctive adjustment in the light of marginally experienced trial and error and the volitional capacity to realize the modified instinctive adjustments into the overt behavior to the advantage of the individual as a social animal
7. a biological mechanism by which the effects of a complexity of stimuli are brought together and given a somewhat unified effect in behavior.

All the 9 definition involves the capacity to learn from experience and adaption to one’s environment.

James Flynn in his book, “What is intelligence’, says there are three elements - brain’s neural clusters, individual differences in performance and society.

Henri Poincare, book ‘The foundation of Science, Graham Wallace’s The art of Thoughts & Arthur Koestler’s the act of Creation are all agree that creativity emerges from the combination of unconscious and conscious ideas. However the problem is lack of definition for unconscious. - is it dream, daydream, hallucination or reverie?

The word savant originally referred to a learned person, generally a distinguished scientist epitomized by the brilliant and far-ranging scholars. Today, in striking contrast, ‘savant’ is normally applied to individuals of below average IQ who display an amazing untutored talent often involving inexplicable feats of memory in a restricted field such as calenderical or arithmetical calculations, language learning, music art etc. It is usually with autism kids. There is a consensus among autism researchers that mind-blindness lies at the heart of ASC (Autism spectrum condition) because it accounts well for the impaired and the intact social and communicative behavior of autistic individuals. Autism kids may also respond literally to a question like, “can you pass the salt? by saying merely ‘Yes’ without understanding the implied meaning of the question.

There is a much less agreement as to why mind-blindness should predispose autistic individuals to be talented. In a survey published by Happe in 2009 and a collaborator reviewed three possibilities.

1. It might be argued that individuals with ASC free up both mental and time resources that called ‘neurotypicals’ use on tracking and remembering social content and that these may contribute to talent development.
2. Difficulty tracking the mental states of others may contribute to the originally expressed in a developing talent. Peer pressure can stifle original thinking in children (and also in adult world), but people with ASC on the other hand may oblivious to what others think and hence able to keep the originality of their idea.
3. Mind-blindness for one’s own mind may be relevant to talent development. Self-conscious - too great an awareness of one’s working methods - can easily inhibit the production of talented work. That is the reason, why many artists do not like discuss their creativity. - Not merely because they don’t want to give their secrets, but also because they resist reflecting on their talent.

The other proposes that autistic individuals prefer to process information by focusing on details rather than the whole picture. Autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen says, “In the social world there is no benefits to a precise eye for detail, but in the world of mathematics, computing, cataloguing, music, linguistic, engineering and science, such an eye for detail can lead to success rather than failure. The success of Silicon Valley depends on the love of detail among its geeks’ software developers.

With numbers, savant rival or even excels great mathematicians in calculating skill. Some of them are Thomas Fuller, Shakuntala Devi (an Indian). Many have come from humble background and were probably autistic. These auditory calculators ‘hear’ the numbers in their heads when calculating and their calculation is often associated with some verbalization of exaggerated motor activity. By contrast visual calculators ‘see’ the numbers mentally and stay relatively quite while calculating.

The Lunatic, The Lover and the Poet:

“The combination of these three, the one who sees more devils than the vast hell can hold”, Says Theseus. Aristotle is said to have asked,” why is it that all men who are outstanding in philosophy, poetry or arts are melancholic?” There is a link between insanity and genius. In the 20th century, three of the America’s leading figures, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath and Jackson Pollock took their lives because of depression and so, in UK, did Virginia Woolf. Scientists as a group show less mental illness. Einstein Faraday suffered from mild psychopathology, Darwin and Pasteur from ‘marked’ psychopathology and Bohr and Galton from ‘sever’ psychopathology along with number of other major scientists.

To establish a definitive connection between normal illness and creativity is impossible, at present.

Ten breakthrough in art and science:

Leonardo Da Vinci:
Last supper is his best known painting after the Mona Lisa. As per historian E.H. Gombrinch, “The last supper remains one of the great miracles wrought by human genius”. He emphasis on observing nature is so important in both his art and his writing on art. he is equally good in other fields like military engineering. His books show detailed engineering details on creating various military equipments.

Leonardo’s highly probable homosexuality was surely a factor in his developing power to disturb. As for his art, he unquestionably showed a preference for the male over the female nude.

He is infamous in not completing the projects - mainly due to his artistic perfectionism. Following note from his nephew on the power of the monastery.

“He sometimes stayed there from dawn to sundown, never putting down his brush, forgetting to eat and drink, and painting without pause. He would also sometime remain two, three or four days without touching his bush. Although he spent several hours a day standing in front of the work, arms folded, examining and criticizing the figures to himself. I also saw him driven by some sudden urge, at midday when the sun was at its heights leaving the Corte Vecchia where he was working on his marvelous day horse, to come straight to Santa Maria delle Grazie without seeking shade and clamber up onto the scaffolding, pickup the brush put in one or two strokes and then go away again”.

A second story reveals his passion for perfection. Leonardo delayed the last supper to complete and the impatient prior of Santa Maria della Grazie, eventually told duke in exasperation: “There is only the head of Judas still to do and for a over a year now, not only has Leonardo not touched the painting, but he has also only come to see it once”. Duke Ludovico Sforza summoned the artist and an unabashed Leonardo responded that he had in fact spent the year night and morning in a notorious part of Milan studying ruffians searching for the perfect model for Judas. “but I have not able to discover a villain’s face corresponding to what I have in mind. Once I find that face, I will finish the painting in a day. But if my research remains fruitless, I shall take the features of the prior who came to complain about me to your Excellency and who would fit the requirements perfectly”. The Duke laughed, but appreciated the seriousness of the issue and agreed to Leonardo to take more time.

Christopher Wren
“An architect ought to be jealous of Novelties in which fancy blinds the judgment and got think his judges as well those that are to live Five Centuries after him, as those of his time. That which is commendable now for novelty will not have new invention to posterity. when his works are often imitated and when it is unknown which was the original, but the glory that which is good of itself is eternal.’ - Christopher Wren.

Wren architected the St.Paul Cathedral in London- - the design and construction of the Cathedral was groundbreaking in at least three ways which might be regarded as breakthrough in architecture. First, unlike the medieval or Renaissance cathedrals like Westminster Abbey or St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, St. Paul was the work of only one architect and was built in his lifetime. Second, unlike previous architects, Wren was distinguished scientist and a skilled draughtsman who personally conceived and oversaw both the structural and the aesthetic aspects of the building from the foundations to the carvings on the walls. Third, unlike earlier domed buildings, St. Paul was finished with a unique ‘triple’ dome supporting its lantern which had no precedent in the history of architecture and has not been repeated.

Wren’s most basic problem was follows: a dome that looked right to a worshipper inside the cathedral would puny on London skyline. and yet a dome with the right external silhouette would look like a chimney to those standing underneath it. Hence he needed a double dome. There were other double domes structure and he knew that his foundations and piers which were already showing differential settlement in the 1680s could not stand the weight of two brick domes. So while the inner dome could be made of brick, the outer dome could be much lighter, made of wood covered in lead. Yet, a wooden dome could not support the weight of the planned heavy stone lantern visible both from the outside and from the inside while looking up through the oculus at the top of the inner dome. A wooden dome was ruled out as insufficiently impressive and also liable to rot. Wren’s eventual solution was therefore his ingenious triple dome.

Its inner dome is an almost hemispherical shell made of bricks about 18 inches thigh which supports nothing other than its own height. Above it, but not resting on it, is a hollow brick cone between the inner and outer domes, invisible from below, cut off at the top to reveal light streaming through widows Invisible from outside) located just below the lantern. These cones serve two functions: to support the weight of stone lantern (about 700 tones) and to support the timber framework that holds up the timber outer dome and its lead covering. the invisible brick cone is therefore a key structural element.

Like all breakthroughs, it was the perfect of long experience and passionate involvement made possible in Wren’s case by a rare combination of scientific and aesthetic perception.

Skipping the case study of other eight creative geniuses:


One of the most interesting patterns among genius concerns the effect of the early loss of a parent. A remarkably high fraction of our ten individuals - 9 out of 10 - suffered the early loss of a parent. The 10th one - Leonardo - has to dealt with illegitimate issue of his fatherhood and hence his grand-parents brought him up. Another survey of 699 famous historical personages conducted by J.M. Eisenstadt revealed 25% of them had lost at least one parent before the age of 10 and more than half lost patent before the age of 26. This naturally raises the issue of why some children become stronger through the loss of a parent.

Only two of the ten individuals had a equally important partner. Curie’s husband is also a scientist and got Nobel Prize along with Curie. Wolf’s husband was, if anything even more crucial to Virginia Wolf's. A sensitive and hones-tic critic and editor of her work, Leonard saved her from suicide where she was writing her first novel, The Voyage out. In her much quoted last letter, before she drowned herself in the river in 1941, she wrote to him: “What I want to say that I owe the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me, it would have been you. Everything has gone from me, but the certainty of your goodness. I cannot go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have bee, V.”

Exceptional creativity and breakthroughs have long had an uneasy co-existence with formal education. Following from Mihaly Csikszementmihalyi’s Creativity: Flow and Psychology of discovery and invention,” Often one sense that, if anything school threatened to extinguish the interest and curiosity that the child had discovered outside its walks. How much did schools contribute to the accomplishment of Einstein or Picasso or T.S> Eliot? The record is rather grim, esp. considering how much effort, how many resources and how many hopes go into our formal educational system”.

Mark Twin says about his schooling, “ I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”.
Thomas Young, says, “Masters and mistress are very necessary to compensate for want of inclination and exertion; but whoever would arrive at excellence must be self-taught”.

Mihaly Csikszementmihalyi’s interview with many geniuses, showed that their school days were rarely mentioned by any of them as a source of inspiration. Same with BBC broadcaster John Tusa’s interview with 100 people on creativity in 2000-2002; none mentioned the schooling made any difference to them in their path.

As per Edison, ‘Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration” . This quote was misattributed to Einstein in some magazines.

R.Ochse mentioned in his book, ‘Before the gates of Excellence: The determinants of Creative genius’ “These individuals lead one to realize very important fact - these people must have spent the major part of their waking hours and their energy on their work”. Howard Gordon’s 10 year rule of hard dedication says the same.

Several psychologists such as Arthur Koestler , David Perkins and Dean Keith Simonton have attempted to design theories of creativity. None of these has been truly explanatory except for Wallas’s preparation/incubation/illumination/verification model and Csikszementmihalyi’s domain/field/person model.

One of the more useful is Simonton’s theory that creativity arises as a ‘joint product of logic, chance, genius and Zeitgeist. Zeitgeist is a German word that can be translated as ‘spirit of times meaning the trend of thought and feeling in a period. It is a product of the socio-cultural system and therefore the antithesis of the notion that history is made by ideas and actions of great individuals - geniuses- standing outside their society and culture. Good examples of Zeitgeist are the Romanticism of the nineteenth century, and the anti-imperialism of the second-half of the 20th century. Applied to the history of science, the term suggests that a discovery or invention such as the structure of DNA or WWW is determined not by individual scientist but the developments internal to a particular science by emerging social needs. In other words, discoveries and inventions become virtually inevitable when the levels of scientists are focused on solving a problem. It is the Zeitgeist that is said to bring about the phenomenon of more or less simultaneous discovery or invention by two or more independent investigators.

Famous instances of multiple discoveries include: the discovery of sunspots by Galileo in 1610, and other three individuals independently in 1611 and there are more such examples....

Genius is not a myth. However sudden genius is a myth. The ten individuals did not involve magic or miracles. They were the work of human grit, not the product of superhuman grace. From this truth we can surely derive both strength and stimulus for our own life and work.

Musical minded Einstein is reported to have said of Mozart, his favorite composer along with J.S. Bach: Mozart’s music is so pure and beautiful that I see it as a reflection of the inner beauty of the universe”.

PS – Book recommended in this book.
‘Tantrums and talent: How to get the best from creative people: by Winston Fletcher
Lateral Thinking: A textbook of Creativity - Edward Bono
Before the gates of Excellence: the determinants of Creative genius by R. Ochse. (Excellent book as per the author)
The early mental traits of three hundred geniuses by Catherine Cox
Hereditary Genius by Francis Galton (1869)
The foundation of Science by Henri Poincare
Bright Splinters of the Mind by Beate Hermelin (Study on Savant)

November 27, 2010

Your creative brain by Shelly Carson

Your creative brain by Shelly Carson

Seven steps to maximize imagination, productivity, and innovation in your life.

[This book gives many methods/exercise to work on your creativity; type-casting what type of creative brain you have...]

The seven steps are CREATES -Connect, Reason, Envision, Absorb, Transform, Evaluate, Stream]

Connect Brianset :

When you access the connect brainset, you enter a defused state of attention that allows you to see the connection between objects or concepts that are quite disparate in nature. You are able to generate multiple solutions to a given problem rather than focusing on a single solution. This type of cognition is called divergent thinking and a condition known as synaesthesia.

Reason Brianset:

When you access the reason brainset, you consciously manipulate information in your working memory to solve a problem. When you are thinking, you are using this brainset.

Envision Brianset:

In this brainset, you think visually rather than verbally.

Absorb Brainset:

You open mind to new experience and ideas everything fascinates you and attracts your attention

Transform Brainset:

You find yourself in a self-conscious and dissatisfied state of mind. In this state you are painfully vulnerable but you are also motivated to express (in creative form) the pain, the anxieties and the hope that we all share as part of human experience.

Evaluate Brainset:

You consciously judge the values of ideas, concepts, products, behaviors, or individuals. This is the 'critical eye' of mental activity.

Stream Brainset:

Your thoughts and actions begin to flow in a steady harmonious sequence, almost as it they were orchestrated by outside forces.

What is creativity?

First, the creative idea or products needs to be novel or original.

Second, it has to be useful or adaptive to at least a segment of the population.

How brain communicate with itself:

Your brain contains around 10 bn nerve cells called neurons and each of which can form up to 10,000 connections with other neurons making a total of 100 trillion connections - that is the strange capacity of your brain. When you learn something new or form a new memory, new connections are made between neurons. The more you learn,, the richer and denser your 'neural forest' will become. If you revisit those memories or bits of learning, you will increase the speed and strength of these connections. It is like building highways between cities.

A memory is not stored in one specific location in the brain. Parts of the memory are stored in different locations.

Geography of Brian:

The right and left hemispheres:

The left hemisphere is for - letters, words, language, verbal memory, speech, reading, writing, arithmetic, objective processing, systematic problem solving, abstract thinking, sequential processing analysis, logical problem solving & approach emotions.

The right hemisphere is for - geometric pattern, face recognition, environmental sounds, melodies, musical chords, nonverbal memory, sense of direction, mental rotation of shapes, avoidance emotions, concrete thinking, parallel processing, & holistic picture versus details.

Frontal lobs - motor movement, planning, decision making, working memory, self-awareness, attention, reasoning, and problem solving.

Parietal lobs is for - sensory perception, sensory integration, spatial skills, body awareness in space

Temporal Lobe is for - language comprehension, face recognitions, memory function and emotion function

Occipital lobe - vision processing.

Creative 'Hot Spots in the brain:

Executive center (scientific name DLPFC) is for - planning, reasoning, decision-making, visualizing future.

The "me' brain is for - self-awareness, social understanding, social comparison, determining how events affect you personally, autobiographical memory

The judgment center - conforming to social demands, inhibition (embarrassment) of inappropriate behavior, judgment of positive or negative impact of an event

The reward center - internal rewards that make you feel self-confident and good about you

The fear center - appraisal of fear-related events and other highly emotional stimuli.

The association center - integration of sensory information & connecting meaning with words

Opening mind- Accessing the absorb brainset.

The first and arguably most important strategy for thinking and acting creatively is to develop your ability to absorb information nonjudgmentally. A second result of accessing the absorb brainset is that you are more receptive to seeing association between things in the environment and problem that you are trying solve. This is called 'opportunistic association'. The third result of the absorb brainset is that you remain receptive to ideas originating in your unconscious (eureka moments)

This is associated with such as words as autohypnosis, trance, alpha state, absorption, mindfulness, primary process thinking, openness to experience, disassociation and translimilariity. Three princiapl factors define the absorb brainset: attraction to novelty, delayed judgment, and mental or cognitive dis-inhibition.

The state of cognitive disinhibition and receptivity that we are calling the absorb brainset is so important to the creative process that people from all creative walks of life seek it out through a number of methods. (The easy way to have this is through the influence of alcohol, drugs). Roman poet Horace wrote:"no poem can please for long or live that are written by water drinkers"

Imaging the possibilities: accessing the envision brainset:

Imagination is more important than knowledge - Einstein.

Mental imaginary or thinking without words is a type of cognition that employs the perceptual of the brain ordinarily used for processing the sensory information of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Highly creative people appear to be able to form vivid mental images and manipulate those images both to envision creative dilemma and to come up with creative solution to problems.

One way to improve or increase your creative capacity is to improve your ability to mentally image and research indicates that this is definitely possible. We can divide visual imagery into two basic types. The first type is pictorial in which you visualize a replica of an object or scene as it appears in real life of pictorial image. The second type of visual image is 'diagrammatic' in which the image is seen as a symbol or diagram of a real object or scene. This type of imaging involves an extra step of mental processing. In addition to imaging an object, you have to transform that object to a symbolic representation between objects. The other way to practice manipulating images through guided sequential visualization. Hypothetical thinking is the foundation of your imagination. When you do this, you are mentally imaging something that is not manifest in the world of reality.

Thinking Divergently: Accessing the connect Brianset.

Brianstom is a way of divergent thinking. The process should be divergent thinking and gather many solution/idea a- using the contents of memory to generate multiple solutions to a problem in an open-ended manner. Convergent thinking - directing all of one's knowledge toward a problem that has a singular and specific solution.

Synaesthesia is an unusual condition in which different sensory and verbal systems in the brain seem to be cross-wired. They may hear hear colors.

Goals are essential to creative work. Following are some of the things that goal settings can do to help you achieve your creative objectives.

Motivate action

Help you manage time

Increase chances for success

Increase self-confidence

Increase sense of control over your life.

The trick is to have written and specific goals and you achieve this in the reason brainset.

Steps in the problem solving process:

Recognize when you have a problem

Define the problem

Set a goal

Brianstorm possible solutions

Evaluate possible solutions

Choose the best solution based on pros & cons

Make a plan to implement the solution and try it

Assess success

If the first solution did not work, try another.

Some guidelines for evaluating your work

Get some distance

Evaluate your work with respect

Don't decide to throw out a work midway through the project

Look at individual parts of your work

Look at the work from the point of view of the audience

Be flexible

Decide whether to consult others

Be hard on your work.

Rules for handling negative evaluation from others.

Congratulate yourself - you did something new and hence others criticizing

Consider criticism to be valuable feedback

Do not defend yourself if criticized

Rephrase the main points of the criticism

Thanks the person criticizing your work for their feedback

Determine the value of the criticism objectively.

The conditions of state of flow as described by Mihale Csikszentmihalyi in his book - Flow and the Psychology of discovery and invention.

1. There are clear goals

2. There is immediate feedback to your actions

3. The level of challenge matches your skill level.

When these conditions of flow are met, the ensuing mental state includes the following characteristics.

There is a merging of action and awareness

Distractions go unnoticed

There is no worry of failure

Self-consciousness disappears

Time become distorted

The activity becomes an end in itself.

How can you increase your intrinsic motivation in the activities that fill your daily life?

1. Set time limits on the task or establishes deadlines

2. Increase your appreciation for the task

3. Increase your standard for task performance.

If the tasks are too challenging, bring down the challenge so you won't feel anxious or overwhelmed by it.

1. Break the task down into smaller manageable parts

2. Reinforce your skills

Setting the Mood: tips for establishing a creative environment.

1. Increase your exposure to creative work - Go to concerts, museums, opera and lectures

2. Create an environment hat values and expects creative behavior - Insist that everyone in your environment respects and encourages creative behavior even when the results do not pan out.

3. Avoid premature evaluation of ideas

4. Provide time and opportunity for solitude - Creative ideas often occur during moments of solitude and contemplation.

5. Spend time in places of natural beauty - Spend time in mountains, at the seashore, gazing at the stars, walking in the forest r watching colorful sunset.

6. Spend time with other creative individuals

How do you find a creative problem?

1. Keep a list of things that bother you (pet-peeves?)

2. When something goes wrong, brainstorm possible causes

3. Think about what slows you down

4. Pay attention to your negative emotions

5. Scan your env. Regularly for things that could be changed and improved.

Following are the hints on how to enter the absorb brainset and prepare for insight while you are allowing ideas to incubate.

1. Make a creativity playlist of music that inspires you and allows your mind to wander

2. Find a place of natural beauty

3. Take a walk

4. Spend time in natural light

5. Carry a notepad or digital recorder.

Here are the tips on getting your work out

1. Increase your visibility in your community

2. Create talking points

3. Brand yourself (Special logo that's associated with your work)

4. Develop a web presence.

Books recommended:

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The art of thought by Graham Wallas