This chapter describes the most important
invention of all, although it has gone unnoticed by most people. Simply
described, it is the invention to systematically invent new inventions. This
technique allows one (or many) to make more inventions without limit or
personal restriction. It could be called a ‘metainvention’, for it is a way
to make inventions in any and every area of human activity, from the most
arcane science to the most ordinary social or physical activity.
It is a short note
about how to be creative. Nearly everyone knows the fable of the fairy who
is released from imprisonment by some lucky person and is rewarded by being
granted three wishes except the wish to have more wishes. But with knowledge
of techniques of creativity one can make unlimited number of wishes. It’s
easy! It’s fun!
The process of
creativity is now becoming a science. That is, there are repeatable
techniques that, if followed, produce results. The techniques are so clear
and simple that they can be learned by anyone. Unlike the good fairy who
will grant three wishes except a wish to wish for more wishes, following
creative techniques there is no limit to what you can create. Technology,
new discoveries in physics, biophysics, chemistry, biology, business, or
international relations can all benefit.
The discovery of how to
be creative certainty ranks with all the top discoveries of the last two
centuries, for it means we can make new discoveries without end. This is
more powerful than atomic energy. It may be worth millions of dollars or
substantial reductions in human suffering. Every area of human activity can
be addressed and new solutions found.
You can easily learn to
be more creative. Some of the techniques are simple and could be taught to
small children. With a little more effort they can be taught to politicians.
There’s individual and group creativity. Group creativity is the most
powerful. They overlap, and both are covered in this chapter.
Some basic techniques
for increasing individual creativity are described in the next section.
Individual Creativity Methods.
1. Ask ‘how’, not
“why”. Ask ‘how’ we can make it possible, sell it, get a grant for funding
it, get a business partnership, etc. The key is to ask ‘How’ questions, not
‘why’ questions. How to improve this or that? How can it be made it less
expensive?, simpler?, more efficient? It’s simple to use the word ‘how’ not
‘why’. ‘Why’ questions don’t usually lead to anything concrete, just
philosophizing or speculating.
2. Ask and LISTEN to
everyone. Little children and uneducated adults often can ‘see’ things in
fresh ways. Listening, truly listening to another person is not so easily
learned. It takes practice to empty my mind and give full attention to
other’s ideas, without jumping in with MY ideas which of course I think are
better, truer, or easier to apply. By truly listening to another I have
found they often give me ideas or fresh approaches to a problem, sometimes
without even knowing it. Listening is a skill; it may take a while to learn.
Older people often have crystallized minds, or learned assumptions, or
unexamined folk rules such as ‘What goes up must come down.’ ‘Energy is
conserved.’, ‘There is no free lunch.’, or ‘life is hard, that’s the way it
is.’, ‘That’s impossible!’, ‘The only way to do that is... .,’Wars are just
human nature.’ and on and on with endless clichés that limit or stop
creative thinking. Even so, some creative ideas may squeak through. If I
listen with an empty mind, perhaps I’ll get them.
‘The law of entropy.’
Who says it’s a law? The ‘laws’ of physics, the ‘laws’ of chemistry, the
‘laws’ of the land., etc., etc., etc. There so many so-called ‘laws’, so
many restrictive boxes to our thinking it’s no wonder people need to get
their brains deleted every 84 years or so. Our soft drives get clogged with
useless or restrictive principles. Every ‘law’ should be questioned. Is it
really a law or just a convention? Just because it seems to be true for most
cases, does that mean its forever a rigid ‘truth’ everywhere?
Young children have
clearer, emptier brains (until filed with lots of dumb beliefs by adults.
Sure, some are necessary for optimum survival, like ‘don’t cross a busy
street’, ‘stay out of the water there are stinging jellyfish today’, ‘don’t
hurt other people’, etc., but even then sometimes there are exceptions. Keep
Question all so-called laws.
3. Empty your head of all mind chatter.
Allan Watts said: “Words get in our eyes”. Some people live in the world of
words, of who said what, of TV and computer screens, of names for things, as
if that were what ‘is’.
Why do apples fall to
earth? Because gravity pulls them. Why do pieces of iron sometimes attract
one another? It is magnetism. Those words don’t explain anything. Yet
people think they have understood the phenomenon because they have named
Zen practitioners learn the value of internal
silence. The world is. No words can completely describe what is. No words
can explain anything.
When I am confronted by a problem, usually
the first step is to get rid of the words. To clear my mind of all words;
look at the problem; ignore the words, the laws, the reasons why it can’t be
solved. Ignore beliefs about it. Observe, contemplate with internal silence.
Then construct your own words, beliefs, or ideas. Use imagination to solve
the problem. Make up new, imaginary, better solutions. Never mind so-called
reality, at least for a while.
4. Ignore skeptics.
Anyone who says ‘that’II never work, it violates the law of....’ has a
limited attitude. A common statement is ‘the only way that can be done is…‘
is obviously an ‘in the box’ thinker, probably a pretty tiny box. When
people say that, I immediately laugh and feel challenged. There are usually
several ways to do just about anything. But instead of telling them to ‘bug
off’, ‘go away’ ‘leave me alone’, I take it as a challenge and immediately
start thinking of other ways to do ‘it’.
A powerful way to
develop creative ideas is with the aid of a small group.
Group Creativity Methods
The Synectics company developed a wonderful
group creativity technique. The company they formed, called Synectics, works
with some of the top fortune 500 companies in the world. At one time I was
Director of Training and Research; one of my best loved jobs. Harnessing the
creative power of a group is many times more effective than one individual.
It must be done carefully, it is not just simple matter of good old
fashioned brainstorming, although that sometimes is enough to get a few
solutions for simple problems.
An abbreviated outline of the Synectics
1. Choose a problem or challenge that needs
It’s best to choose
something that probably has a definite, though presently unknown, answer,
not something vague, like ‘why do the democrats not believe in starting
wars’? or ‘why is the world in such a mess’? Technical problems are usually
good ones for the Synectics methods.
2. Select a
facilitator who can write quickly and clearly on a bulletin board, wall
chart, or free standing flip chart.
3. Limit the group
size to six, seven or eight people. More people will probably create too
many ideas to process.
4. Get everyone’s
initial solutions. The facilitator must write down everyone’s idea, no
matter how impossible or crazy it sounds. The facilitator must insist that
each participant abbreviates or summarizes his idea in a few words. These
initial ideas should be saved for later evaluation. Participants are not
allowed to ramble. They must be succinct or precise in their contributions.
The facilitator may summarize ideas, and limit garrulous participants and
encourage reticent ones to contribute.
5. Ask people to make
wishful solutions for the problem. These don’t have to be practical or
possible. This is an exercise to open the minds of participants.
6. Be sure to
have one person in the group who can make final decisions. A boss or the
person who will be spending the money if required.
7. It’s good to
have at least one person who doesn’t know anything about the problem. Maybe
a person with expertise in a different field, or a very young person whose
mind is relatively uncluttered, free from preconceptions. They will be able
to look at problems with ‘fresh’ eyes. Creative talent is usually greater in
participants not to be negative to others ideas. This is very important.
People are often even negative to their own ideas. It can take up to three
days of skillful guidance by the facilitator to teach participants not to be
negative to ideas. It is the most important part of the group creativity
process. One negative participant or few unnoticed negative comments can
quash group creativity like a dark cloud.
It amazing how common and sometimes subtle it
is. People can be negative by voice tone, or posture as well as verbally.
We all know the nonverbal head shake, the folded arms and sitting back with
head back or eyes closed posture. Some negative responses are more subtle.
Some are obvious, such as the ‘yes, but’ types who pretend to be agreeing
while really disagreeing. Ask them to rephrase their disagreements in the
form of ‘how to’ questions.
Being negative to someone’s idea can turn off
that person’s creativity for once, or for the whole time the group meets.
Practice in careful listening to each other. It is common for
participants to ‘tune out’ others in order to develop one’s own rebuttal or
great idea. Really listening, not just pretending to, is worth a separate
lesson in group creativity.
Another important creativity technique is to
teach group members by listening carefully and bui1ding on other member’s
ideas. People often are so internally focused on their own ideas they don’t
pay attention to other people’s. Better to note their great idea on a note
pad for mentioning later and attend to the person speaking. Often they may
be expressing a similar idea and the next person can expand on their idea.
Then the next person to speak may further expand the idea and “presto” there
is a great idea built by everyone. This can be true group creativity. It ‘s
fun and easy.
11. Teach people
how to listen and build upon the ideas of others. Ideally creative group
work should be built by everyone, not just a collection of ideas from the
most talkative or creative participants. When everyone participates in
evolving solutions everyone will want to help them manifest.
12. Limit what
people say to each other or to a question by the facilitator. The
facilitator must not let people ramble on about their great idea or plan or
justify it. This can be done by writing down just a few words or a phrase
or two, succinctly summarizing their idea or their comment, no matter how
goofy or impractical it seems. People like to know that their comments are
being recorded. When the main idea is recorded, the facilitator records it,
says “thank you” and focuses on someone else. A good facilitator will draw
out ideas from everyone. No group member is allowed to dominate the group.
Neither the boss, nor the oldest person, or the most educated.
13. A special way
of ‘playing’ with ideas follows: Essentially it involves guiding a group to
focus on an analogous problem in another area, perhaps completely unrelated
to the initial problem. The purpose is to open up participants minds to
wider creative thinking and not get stuck on the main problem. It is to
start out of the box thinking. Ideally it requires a trained facilitator and
will not be discussed here. An interested person may read books and material
by George Prince and Bill Gordon or take a Synectics workshop.*
facilitator gets serious and focuses the group on selecting the best ideas
for the initial problem for further evaluation and plans for specific
action. Auxiliary ideas or remaining parts of specific plans that have not
been fully resolved may be saved for other group meetings.
14. Use intuition.
After a break, ask participants to relax, shut their eyes, and ask their
Inner Mind, Higher Self, Spirit Guide, God, or whatever or whoever they
wish, for any other ideas. As usual, the facilitator writes down ideas that
come from this process, no matter how ‘far out’ or impossible, or irrelevant
they seem. Sometimes a fragment of an idea received by one person ties in
with another participant’s fragment to make a coherent, sensible, and
practical solution to the initial problem.
In my experience group members feel excited
by this process and are ready to begin enthusiastically working on plans for
action. Each person knows they have contributed to the solution; it has not
been one person’s loud authority dictatorially pushing his or her own idea
As a frequent group facilitator I usually
write a summary of the meeting(s) reporting on the main plan or action as
well as any brilliant ideas given by others, so they all feel satisfied that
they have been heard, recorded, and that they personally have been helpful.
I, personally, have been so stimulated by
these ideas that my creativity seems boundless. I have a reputation among my
friends as an idea man, and sometimes have been called a genius. I’m not,
but studying Zen, Korzybski, Gurdjieff, Seth, the Anastasia material, and
most of all, working for Synectics, has helped me sometimes ‘think outside a
While working for Synectics, I gave General
Mills the idea for the Granola Bar, started the first biofeedback company,
and later rediscovered a new force simply detected and measured by a few
tinker toys and some magnets.
I wish you similar success in whatever you
choose to do.
Just one new idea, put into practice, could
enrich your life and that of many others. Besides its fun, and basically
simple, so turn that TV off, invite 6 or 7 friends over and get your minds
bubbling! Especially now that the economy is low. Step right into creative
productivity. The world is full of opportunity. Now!
General Comments on Creativity
It is not always easy
to come up with clear arguments why something could or should be done. You
may be following your intuition, not current scientific methods. There seem
to be an endless number of negative or narrow thinking people who enjoy
finding something wrong with your thinking. Don’t let these people slow you
down. Tell them to shut up, at least mentally, if not in actuality.
Here is a list of
typical reasons such people may come up with. Usually it is a waste of your
time trying to argue with them.
reasons why it won’t work:
1. We’ve never done it before.
2. Nobody else has ever done it.
3. It has never been tried before.
4. We tried it before.
5. Another company tried it once.
6. We’ve been doing it this way for 25 years.
7. It won’t work in a small company.
8. It won’t work in a large company.
9. It won’t work in our company.
Why change -- it’s working OK.
11. The boss will never buy it.
12. It needs further investigation.
13. Our competitors are not doing it.
14. It’s too much trouble to change.
15. Our company is different.
16. The ad dept says it can’t be done.
17. The sales dept says it can’t be sold.
18. The service dept won’t like it.
The janitor says it can’t be done.
20. It can’t be done.
21. We don’t have the money.
22. We don’t have the personnel.
23. We don’t have the equipment.
24. The union will scream.
25. It’s too visionary.
26. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
27. It’s too radical a change.
28. It’s beyond my responsibility.
29. It’s not my job;
30. We don’t have the time.
It will obsolete other procedures.
32. Customers won’t buy it.
33. It’s contrary to our policy.
34. It will increase overhead.
35. The men will never buy it.
36. It’s not our problem.
37. I don’t like it.
38. You’re right, but …
39. We’re not ready for it.
40. It needs more thought.
41. Management won’t accept it.
42. We can’t take the chance.
43. We’d lose money on it.
44. It takes too long to pay out.
45. We’re doing all right as it is.
46. It needs committee study.
47. Competition won’t like it.
48. It needs sleeping on.
49. It won’t work in this department.
50. It’s impossible.
Can you turn these
statements into “how” questions or the only sane answer: “Let’s try it.”
In addition a
successful inventor needs courage, persistence, and some salesmenship
ability. Sometimes one has to be stubborn and thickheaded as well. Don’t
It is also good to be
aware that the grammar of our language subtly moulds our thinking along
certain patterns and certain ways the world is put together. These
grammatical patterns may not conform to the way the world works. The world
outside our skins is not made up of nouns (things) and actions. It is always
in flux. Static ‘things’ are only static in our made up language. ‘Things’
are always in motion, or constant change. Words, however are just static
symbols. Convenient abstractions for simplified usage.
Our verbal world is
often based on two valued thinking: black or white, off or on, true or
false, us or them, good or bad, living or not living. You may hear a rabble
rousing politician say “are you with me or against me?”
thinking is often an indication of a simple and non creative mind. The world
is not two valued. In mathematics the term ‘n-valued’ is used or the
language of probability. Better conformation to many world events, things,
or structures, is possible if n-valued logic is used. Computers use the two
valued logic based on ‘0’ and ‘1’. Sometimes by using many zeros and ones it
is possible to bridge the gap from two valued to n-valued logic, if n is a
very large number.
inventor gave his formula for inventing. Below are 7 principles he
1. Be alert every day
for problems to solve, for better ways to make things, for better ways to do
things. These are all problems crying out for new products.
2. Promptly check it
out and, if you can, make a working model. Try it out, but don’t spend an
extra penny until you check out the market and perform a patent search.
3. Be practical. For an
inventor life is too short to get higher degrees in one narrow subject.
4. Be alert to other
people’s abilities and use them. If you’ve got a metallurgical problem, find
someone who knows an alloy from an alibi.
5. Combine other
people’s talents with your own, and get on with the project.
6. Find a good
intellectual property law firm to complete your patent applications.
In closing, I’d urge
you to “take a crack” at a new invention or development if it makes sense.
It’s a great thrill to see your inventions in use, creating new jobs, and
making people’s lives a little easier. And, above all, helping make our air,
water, and land clean and safe.
7. Even if you don’t
want to be an independent inventor, concentrate on looking for needs that
will help your organization. There are lots of them out there.
I wish you success. You
can do it!