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Team Creativity At Work I and II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best
Edward Glassman : Everyday Creativity and Card Magic

Everyday Creativity & Card Magic

By Edward Glassman, PhD

What on earth was I thinking? I have been a creativity consultant for more than a decade, and an amateur magician since I was a teenager, and yet I did not perceive the elegant creativity in the construction of a magic trick until I recently wrote two books on magic: Family Magic I & II.

There I was, writing about the secret behind a fine trick, and it finally struck me as immensely creative.

THE ILLUSION: Consider this card magic trick. I tell a spectator-volunteer that he has magical talent. To test his potential, I ask him to do a trick with my coaching.

I give him the deck and request that he ask me to:

  • select a card
  • put it back into the deck
  • cut the deck and place it on the table.

I request that he ask me the identity of my card. I tell him, say, the 3 of clubs.

Now I ask that he say that he will reach into the deck with his mind and reverse my card, the 3 of clubs, so it rests face-up in the face-down deck. He closes his eyes to 'mentally enter' the deck with his mind to reverse the 3 of clubs. After a moment, I suggest he look through the deck face-up to see if he succeeded.

Sure enough, he finds a card turned upside down, my Chosen card, the 3 of clubs. Wow. I ask him not to reveal how he did the trick.

How do you think I carried out this magical deception? Remember I did not touch the cards.

THE SECRET: Before I suggested this trick to the spectator-volunteer, I secretly turned over the bottom card of the deck (say, the 3 of clubs), memorized it, and placed it second from the bottom.

Later, when asked the identity of my Chosen card, I answered the 3 of clubs, not the card I actually picked. Of course, since I turned over the 3 of clubs before the trick, he found it reversed in the middle of the deck. Simple & easy.

This bewildering trick oozes creativity. And yet, only when writing about it did I recognize the elegant creativity needed to create a magic trick so simple and at the same time so baffling to a spectator. Before that moment I thought the trick clever, not necessarily creative. And this applied to all the magic tricks I know.

Isn't this what we do every day when we encounter an unusual idea. We almost always don't recognize the creativity that went into it. Instead, we call it ingenious, tinkering, Yankee ingenuity, intuitive, trial-and-error, novel, imaginative, clever, witty, smart, inventive: anything but creativity. We think creativity an exceptional gift inherited by other people.

Not true. Almost all people think creatively most of the time; it depends on what you spend your time creating that makes the difference. Best of all, creativity techniques help solve problems in all areas of your life and work.

Many levels of creativity exist, from low, everyday levels to hot, unexpected, focused levels. Increase the probability you operate at a higher level by using advanced creativity techniques to solve problems creatively, to create a creative atmosphere in your mind and in your life, and to stop pigeonholing yourself and other people.

Along these lines, some people think that innovation only requires creativity during the generation of the big-bang idea. After that comes hard, dull work. Purely a myth.

Creativity solves on-the-job problems throughout the innovation process. Usually we see it as something else, like messing about or fooling around. On-the-job creativity spurs the daily, ongoing process of transforming & combining old ideas into new ideas, and surely adds spice throughout the innovation process.

Now try to identify an object in your life that is not an outcome of someone's creativity. That's where the magic hides. •

© 2010 by Edward Glassman. All rights reserved.

Edward Glassman, PhDEdward 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. More »

11/20/10