(This post is migrated from my old blog)
Posted by Anders H Tue, January 29, 2008 11:28:00
Brenda Brathwaite has a post (actually two so far) on her website about gamedesign and coming up with ideas: Game Ideas: don't force them
I get my best ideas under the shower or just when I wake up; sometimes it's the same time. My theory is that the mind has a lot of inhibitors that focuses it. When we wake up & get out of bed, the mind instantly start focusing on problem solving: feeding, defecating, getting warm clothes on, - meeting all sorts of physical needs. To focus on solutions, the mind subconsciously activates a series of inhibitors to thinking, so that random association is limited.
But these inhibitors are de-activated when we sleep. Instead the mind cuts of the control of the motorskills, so that the thoughts aren’t activating the body and acting out the dream (I believe that sleepwalkers have a problem with this switch; AFAIK it happens in the higher spinal column).
(As for my showering creativity, - I thinks it’s because I relax under the shower and can’t do anything except be there, so my mind starts wandering).
(Caveat: I make a distinction between creativity and innovation. Creativity is creating something new, innovation is creating new business ideas. Creativity is a component of innovation, but innovation is more than just creativity).
One of the innovation-methods that I’ve worked with is called KUBUS (had a course at Copenhagen Busines School). It’s a black box innovation method, meaning that you don’t understand how the actual innovation takes place. It’s inside the”black box”, KUBUS doesn't describe the psychological & social mechanisms behind innovation, instead it creates a set of conditions that trigger innovation. With KUBUS the conditions are that you are forced to gather immense amounts of knowledge for an extended period, but you’re not allowed to come up with ideas. In essence, you’re forced to stay in the divergent phase of innovation for longer then you would normally do it. This extended period of time is very frustrating (the brain likes to come up with ideas/solutions), so when you’re finally allowed to come up with innovations, they start pouring out. In effect, I think the extended period counter-acts the inhibitors.
Another method of innovation is to frame the innovation as play, using toys or doing it in a playfull environment. Succesful framing has the same effect as sleep, - it’s allows the mind to remove the inhibitors (maybe the innovation rooms should be full of beds?).
And an important part of brainstorming in groups is that you’re not allowed to say “no” in the divergent phase (where you come up with ideas).
(The problem with social innovation (aka in groups) is that there is always a social hierarchy in the group; this is particularly in formal organization (:companies). The boss is still the boss, even if we pretend that we’re all on the level. This can be very detrimental to creativity; - what if the boss doesn’t like my idea? Or my idea is better than his idea? what if the rest of the group like my ideas better than his?)
Yet another not quite healthy way of getting creative is sleep-deprivation, - after 24 hours of staying awake ideas start pouring in (especially if you’ve been working the same concept for the 24 hours). I’ve tried this countless times while doing projects; it’s a good idea to keep audio recorder handy (aka your computer).
(Strangely enough, two of the most creative (not innovative) people I know have both used rather large quantities of drugs in the past. I don’t know about the causality between creativity and drugs, but there seems to be a pattern; however most of the people that I know that do drugs aren’t really that creative. Either way, I won’t recommend it; the mind is a terrible thing to waste).
Either way, I think that it would be a constructive way to examine how you can control the mental inhibitors. So we need to study some psychology.