Chaos Breeds Creativity – Why is That?

Chaos breeds creativity? Well, yes, although that’s only part of the story, and popularized by the notion of the absent minded professor. This possibility is a characteristic of the brain based on it being an asymmetric self-organizing patterning system. More about that below. To illustrate what I mean, let me tell you a story I read today in a financial newsletter. It debunked the old story of the apple falling on Isaac Newton’s head as the cause of his understanding of the Law of Gravity. Rather, they said, it was his shock at the costly fluctuations of the stock market caused by the fickle nature of fellow investors that had Newton spouting “I can calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.” Hrumph!

Whichever version of the story you buy, something caused Newton to shift his well-trained scientific perspective into seeing the force called gravity in a new way. His scholarly way of thinking about forces was somehow bumped out of its familiar rut and into the chaotic world of alternate possibilities. From this new point of viewing the old phenomenon, he could then apply his trained knowledge to identify a new explanation of gravity. And the rest, as they say, is history.

There’s a wonderful creativity technique that makes use of this ability to bump your thinking out of its familiar ruts. Depending on who claims they discovered this technique, it’s called different things. Since I’m a Master Trainer of Dr. Edward DeBono’s teaching methods, I’ll use his term: Random Input. Here’s how it works based on the architecture of the brain.

As mentioned, the human brain is designed as a self-organizing pattern recognition system. That which is encountered frequently creates a path, called a neural trace, in the physical surface of our brain. A well-worn path gets used more often, which makes it the path of least resistance to go that way. So in terms of brain function, this means that we are, by nature and by design, creatures of habit and familiarity. 95% of the time this is a great attribute, and we should be grateful. It saves us from having to start from square one at every move- remembering people’s names and words to songs, knowing the steps to drive a car or what clothes to put on first. But when we need something different, when we want something new or better, when we have to come up with something that doesn’t exist yet (often referred to as progress) we need ways to break out of these patterns; to escape our habits or ruts of thinking. We need creativity.

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