Saturday, January 14, 2006

Creativity and the 'gun to head' mentality

This post in a nutshell: when a creative directive (such as 'find a face in the dots') sets you a creative challenge, treat the completion of the challenge as mandatory - even if your completion is a little weak or a cheat.

Space Cadets

There was a programme on TV recently called Space Cadets. Participants were told they would be participating in a space mission. However, it was a practical joke - everything was filmed in a studio and at the end of the series the door of the 'shuttle' opened and the participants found themselves in a TV studio.

During the preliminary testing to find participants, the applicants were shown images of random dots and asked to find a face hidden within the dots. The programme explained that there wasn't a face in the dots at all, and that it was actually a test where a face would be found by only the most suggestible candidates (I think they mean gullible ;) ). But I also think the dots test would be a good test of creativity.

The 'Gun to head' mentality

If I were taking the test I know I would be able to find a face suggested by the dots. In fact, I would be able to find many. This is the 'gun to head' mentality. With the gun-to-head mentality I respond to the challenge set by a creative directive as if there is a gun to my head - as if completing the challenge is mandatory etc.

Even if a single yellow dot was shown and I was set the directive "find a face in the dot" I would adopt the GTH mentality and complete the challenge - even if my responses include 'cheats':

MSN smileys, acid man, Mr Happy, a budgie, Henry's Cat


I also incorporate the setting of a quota into the GTH mentality. Edward de Bono discusses the value of quotas in his book Lateral Thinking (Chapter 7: Generation of alternatives). Incorporating quota-setting into my single-dot creative directive results in:

Find five faces suggested by this yellow dot.

I can, for a moment, also approach the challenge with a different, more open mind-set if I imagine a ridiculously high quota such as five hundred.

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