No Marshmallows, Just Term Papers
C H A P T E R
So far our examination of the creative process has demonstrated how to recognize problems and issues, express them clearly, and gain essential insights into them. There is one additional stage in the creative process: producing possible solutions. In this chapter you will learn the advantage of producing a wide range of solutions rather than settling for a few. You will also learn how to stimulate your imagination, how to be more original, and how to overcome the obstacles most common at this stage of creativity.
magine a pearl diver on an island in the South Seas. He pushes off his canoe from the shore, paddles out into the lagoon, dives deep into the water, picks an oyster off the bottom, surfaces, climbs into his boat, paddles to shore, and opens the shell. Finding nothing but an oyster inside, he sets off in his canoe again and begins paddling into the lagoon. “Wait a minute,” you’re probably thinking. “He’s wasting an awful lot of time. The right way to do it is not to paddle back to shore with one oyster but to dive again and again, fill the canoe with oysters, and then return to shore.” You’re right. Pearls are rare; a diver must open many oysters before finding one. Only a very foolish diver would waste time and energy making a separate trip for each oyster.1 And it’s exactly the same with producing ideas. Foolish people think of a single solution to a problem and then proceed as if that solution had to be creative. But creative ideas, like pearls, occur infrequently. So sensible people produce many ideas before expecting to find a creative one. Researchers have found a clear relationship between the number of ideas produced and the quality of the ideas. The more ideas produced, the better the chances of having one or more good ones.2 There are two reasons for this. The first is a matter of simple probability. Creative ideas are statistically uncommon. As Alfred North Whitehead explains, “The probability is that nine...