I give to you a candle, 1 matchbox with matches in it and some tacks.
Here’s your challenge. How can you get the candle to stick to the wall using only those things?
The answer is in one of my top 5 books from 2019, and later in the post.
In the meantime, while you’re flexing your creativity muscles…
Today’s problems aren’t going to be solved by the thinking of yester-year. We need to be creative and innovative, no matter who we are, where we live or what we do.
Creativity is a must in our toolbox for life.
Looking back in history, why for example, did so many brilliant, creative people come together in the gold and silver ages vrs the Dark Ages?
Dean Simonton, University of California psychologist, and creativity expert, found two reasons.
Any guesses before I tell you?
You’re going to be surprised.
He discovered the two things that amped up brilliance were multiculturalism….
….. and bilingualism.
“Eras of artistic creativity often follow periods of openness to outside influences.” (Nonsense, the power of not knowing by Jamie Holmes).
Openness to outside influences and frequency of travel abroad were correlated with gains in achievement in business and religion.
He also found that the more diversity there was in Japanese society from 580 to 1939, the more creative the society was two (yes two!) generations later in medicine, fiction, poetry and painting.
Talk about lasting impact.
Lest you think this only works historically, foreign-born immigrants represent 13% of US pop but 30% of patents and 25% of Nobel laureates. That’s some powerful diversity effects.
Diversity pushes us out of our prescribed worldview and into other, multiple worldviews.
And that, in turn, helps with “cognitive flexibility” – for example how we come up with creative ideas.
Before you bemoan not being able to book that round the world ticket, even encouraging people to remember time living abroad made them more creative.
Culture is the set of instructions for the contradictions we blot out and the things we have faith in, says Jerome Bruner, author and researcher (quoted in Nonsense).
Expanding our cultural influences and seeking out diversity then helps us handle ambiguity which is a very good thing. And why it’s key to know what your own tolerance for ambiguity is (you can find out here).
“How we collectively deal with ambiguity, serves as one of the founding elements of what we speak of as human culture,” says Jerome.
So back to that candle riddle. Were you able to solve it?
The riddle was created by Karl Duncker, a German psychologist and it has to do with something called functional fixedness. Functional fixedness is simply our minds getting stuck in a rut and assuming that something has only one function, which ends up hiding lots of possibilities.
Like a matchbox.
You may have assumed that its function was to hold matches. But exposing ourselves to diversity is one way to amp up our creativity and realize that the same box can be pinned to the wall with a tack and can hold the candle to the wall (with a little melted wax to hold it in the box).
Voila! By exposing yourself to diversity, instead of getting lost in translation, you just get found, including finding more creativity.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead.
- Figure out your tolerance for ambiguity by taking my quick survey (the link to it is at the end of this post).
- As a Canadian living in Kenya, I’ve been a part of many cultural hiccups. Here’s a classic example of getting lost in translation.
- Seek out and celebrate diversity, Seek difference. Seek “other.”
P.S. Curious to know more about your worldview and perspective? Check out my Life Lenses® online assessment.