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Divergent thinking

by Douglas Eby

"Women are used to juggling their lives - 
taking care of kids, husbands, jobs... 
It's lateral thinking.
And that's how Jill works."

That comment about former Mattel CEO Jill Barad, by Oxygen Network CEO Geraldine Laybourne, refers to a mode or style of thinking that enhances creativity. 

A related concept, divergent thinking, refers to 'diverging' from the known or accepted, to access new ideas. One kind of creativity test asks you to come up with as many solutions as possible to open-ended problems such as: "How many uses can you think of for a shoe?" 

Some board games can also have these kinds of idea-stimulators. One game called "Cowgirls Ride the Trail of Truth" (mentioned in Psychology Today, July/Aug, 1998) includes questions like "If I woke one morning as a man, what are the first three things I would do?"

One of the keys to creativity is the willingness to move outside the known, or even rational. Georgia O'Keeffe reportedly wrote: "Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant -- there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing -- and keeping the unknown always behind you."

Organizational creativity consultant MG Taylor Corporation notes "You haveto let go of your old assumptions before you can find new solutions." Of course, "leaving normal" (to use the name of a film with Meg Tilly and Christine Lahti) means you may also come up with a lot of ideas that aren't "creative" but just nonsense.

A side note on IQ: As psychologist Ellen Winner wrote (in her book "Gifted Children: Myths and Realities), "Intelligence and creativity are not the same things. Intelligence in a domain... means the ability to function at a high level in that domain, but creativity involves asking new questions and altering the domain. One can be highly intelligent but rigid, noncreative, or lacking in the kind of single-minded passion that drives creators." 

High intellectual ability can be an asset in developing and pursuing creative ideas, but it isn't the same talent. Back to divergent thinking: this ability is something men also have, of course, but women may have some advantages.

Vonda Shepard (the singer/songwriter famed for her work on "Ally McBeal") once commented in an Electra magazine interview that having a very complex and demanding life is stimulating and "a great test of your ability to trust your instincts."

Putting creativity to work demands a complementary skill of convergent thinking, a focused, more linear attention. Writer Debra Hotaling notes in her article about Jill Barad ("A Girlfriend to the End," LA Times, June 27,1999) that she has a reputation for micromanagement: "Like Disney's Michael Eisner, she is known for hovering over the tiniest details." 

But there is also a need to let go of compulsive concern with non-essentials, and to make a space for creative pursuits.

Author and creativity consultant Viki King advised in our interview : "Don't worry about completing the ten thousand things before you go to the oasis of your creative expression. And I'm not saying lock yourself in the bathroom; that's the escape route that you must have. But when you do your creative expression, do it with the children, sitting on the floor. If they're coloring, you can do your painting. If they want a story, start telling them about your novel."

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Viki King.  How To Write A Movie In 21 Days - The Inner Movie Method

Ellen Winner.  Gifted Children: Myths and Realities

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giftedness : books

HSP & gifted books

intensity / sensitivity

intensity / sensitivity resources : articles sites books

introversion / shyness.

introversion resources : articles  sites  books


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