As a culture–and as individuals and organizations–we more than ever need to make some breakthroughs. Sometimes this can be in the form of a “Breakthrough Innovation” that changes the way we work, communicate, access information, or structure our healthcare system (this would be a “miracle breakthrough,” I’m afraid). Other times it’s you as an individual suddenly seeing differently and getting insight that can make your life a lot better.
The creativity competency here for you to build is flexibility, which includes your ability to break out of a paradigm or mindset that you may not realize you’re stuck in. Here’s a mindset challenge I like to offer in my creativity sessions:
A great mathematician determined that half of eight can actually be zero. How is that possible?
If you can’t figure this out immediately (usually only about 1/3 of people can), it means you need to change the way you’re thinking, which researchers refer to as “breaking set” or “blockbusting.” I call this the skill of shifting–your perspective, your lens, sometimes even your attitude. Understanding and consciously flexing our multiple intelligences is one way to do just that.
Multiple Intelligence theory, widely accepted in the world of education, came out of the work of Harvard researcher Howard Gardner, a great paradigm-shifter himself, who studied prodigies and people with brain damage to build his theory that intelligence cannot be measured as a single entity. In addition to the IQ-associated S.A.T. intelligences–mathematical/logical and verbal–he delineated at least six other autonomous intelligences that all healthy people possess, but not necessarily in equal strengths. They include the four above–visual-spatial, interpersonal, intrapersonal and bodily-kinesthetic–as well two others, auditory-musical and natural. These intelligences are quite different from each other–thus you can be great with words and terrible at math, smart in your head but not smart in the world. The key to understand about intelligences is that we are all smart. But it’s how we are smart that matters, especially when it comes to our flexibility and creativity. Flexibly acessing different intelligences is not only a hallmark of creative people, but it is also essential for teachers and presenters who need to engage people who learn differently.
Consciously shifting your intelligence is a technique I use in brainstorming/ideation sessions to get you to think in ways you hadn’t considered. When you’re stuck, ask yourself, “What if I think about this visually or interpersonally or naturally?” Most creative business breakthroughs–ranging from wearing your music to the latest software program, from an experiential marketing campaign to the new restaurant that feels like it’s outdoors–come from insight originating from a flexibility among intelligences, a movement from logical to visual, from words to moods, from the man-made to the natural.
Now back to our mindset challenge. To figure out why half of eight is zero, just shift from your mathematical intelligence to your visual…
For more from Adam, go to his Innovation on my Mind blog…