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Creativity Triggers for College Students by Edward Glassman Ph.D.
Edward Glassman : Anti-Creativity Habits and a Fun Puzzle

Anti-Creativity Habits
and a Fun Puzzle

By Edward Glassman, PhD

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."

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