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Anti-Creativity Habits and a Fun Puzzle

Anti-creativity habits inhibit spontaneity and repress our wit and humor.

By Edward Glassman, PhD | Updated July 16, 2018

The following is an excerpt from Creativity Triggers for College Students, Chapter 6, 'Create A Creative Atmosphere In Your Mind.'

ANTI-CREATIVITY HABITS SPOIL CREATIVE THINKING. For example, we inhibit spontaneity and repress our wit and humor. Instead of expanding the 'box,' shifting the paradigm and striking out into new territory, we tend to turn to the same old successful approach repeatedly. Our mind focuses on the previously successful solution and we continue the old time-worn ways of doing things even if counterproductive. This dampens the creative atmosphere in your mind.

The creativity-trigger to counter this habit starts with becoming aware of this process and taking measures to reduce or eliminate it. Let us start with a fun puzzle to discover how we spoil creative thinking in ourselves and other people, and the creativity-trigger to avoid such spoiler-habits.

Add one line to a "IX" and turn it into a 6. If you think you know an answer, think up a different solution. Spend at least three to four minutes on this problem before moving on. No peeking at the answers yet, please...

There are many solutions to this puzzle. The most common: add an "S" to the "IX" and produce a ... SIX. If you got this, congratulations.

If you did not get this answer, why not? One or more of the following may have blocked you:

  • You forgot that words can express numbers.
  • You looked for a straight line. You forgot that lines also curve.
  • You connected this in your mind with a match stick problem.
  • You got stuck on Roman numerals.

Our thoughts act like they get trapped by collectors in our minds and cannot get out. And out of habit, we keep trying to find a solution within these collectors even though they do not work to solve the new problem.

MIND CHANNELS: I call them mind channels, collectors that capture problems. Once you get stuck in a mind channel, you find it hard to get out without deliberate creative thinking, that is, without using special creativity triggers. Every time a related new problem arises, you return to the mind channel that succeeded before. If you stuff a new problem into an old mind channel that once worked, you generate the same time worn solution. In this sense, mind channels act like paradigms.

Since a mind channel gets bigger each time you use it to solve a problem, you eventually have little choice about how you perceive and deal with a new problem. That huge mind channel captures your problem, and you exert your thinking efforts to push the problem through to an adequate solution, a quick fix, instead of seeking alternatives. You need to shift paradigms using targeted creativity triggers to get out of old mind channels.

Thus, to convert "IX" to "SIX" you need to pass through at least two mind channels: one that tells you "words can express numbers," and another that tells you "lines can curve." If you don't do that, you will not get to "SIX" from "IX."

You might have shifted the paradigm and gotten into other mind channels and other answers, such as:

  • Add a 6, and make 1X 6 (one times six). This equals 6.
  • Cover the top half of the IX with a thick line, and turn it upside down so it looks like this: vi
  • Move the vertical line in IX to the right and one slanting line of the X to the left to produce a distorted \/ \
  • Fold the paper through the middle of the IX, and turn it over so all you see is VI
  • These last two solutions may disturb you because I did not add a line. Try to discover what mind channel(s) grabbed your thoughts. Perhaps the following:
  • Fairness: I said add a line, and it seems unfair not to add one.
  • Making Unwarranted Assumptions: You probably assumed the added line must attach to the answer. Actually, I did not specify where or when you add the line, perhaps on the next page, or in the next edition of this book, or you could add it next week.

AN ANTI-CREATIVITY HABIT: Solutions to problems have to seem fair, fit preconceived notions, old paradigms, and unstated phantom criteria.

AN ANTI-CREATIVITY HABIT: We make unwarranted assumptions about problems and do not check them out. We stay stuck in old paradigms and old mind channels.

You trigger your mind channels and paradigms by words, remote associations, visual impressions, ideas, etc. They keep you glued to the past. Connecting new problems with old mind channels and paradigms produces the same solutions and spoils creative thinking, the closed mind syndrome.

You easily get locked into an old, ineffectual mind channel or paradigm, because you maintain it with old ideas and traditions, not by current success. Shift into new mind channels by shifting paradigms.

AN ANTI-CREATIVITY HABIT: The quick fix depends on accepting the first adequate solution to a problem, thereby denying your creative ability to find a better solution. To avoid the quick fix, set a quota for three to five different ideas before choosing a solution. Or non-evaluatively list all the ideas you can think of in a three-minute brainstorming session.

AN ANTI-CREATIVITY HABIT: One habit based on the quick fix includes rushing to generate solutions before carefully clarifying the problem (or examining alternative mind channels) to make sure you work on the right problem. You use old paradigms instead of new ones.

Old mind channels and paradigms distort current reality and produce an inability to even see other alternatives. They lead to low quality solutions if you use the wrong channel. Since they get bigger each time they successfully solve a problem, they diverge from reality as time passes. We refer to successful mind channels as 'perspectives,' while we refer to unsuccessful mind channels as 'channels.'

AN ANTI-CREATIVITY HABIT: We do not search a single mind channel for the entire range of possible new ideas.

AN ANTI-CREATIVITY HABIT: We do not explore new ideas for additional new mind channels and new paradigms.

We use advanced focused creativity triggers to alter these habits, get into different mind channels, and shift to new paradigms by clarifying problems and listing many 'how-to' problem statements. We then use idea-generating creativity triggers. And we use creativity triggers to select and combine ideas into trigger-proposals, and then into quality solutions.

Next: Assess How Your Team Helps Creativity

©2011 Edward Glassman. All rights reserved.

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Edward GlassmanEdward Glassman, PhD was the President of the Creativity College®, a division of Leadership Consulting Services, Inc., and Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he headed the Program For Team Effectiveness And Creativity ...

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