Innovation & Creative Thinking

May 15, 2011

Moving the blog

The Vanity Experiment is moving to

Small change you won't hardly notice if you're browsing online, but if you're reading this via a RSS reader, you'll want to go change the feed address to this: feed://

Why the change? I've been using Movable Type version old.OLD since about 2004, so I decided to get with the times. Bring on Wordpress (which is now running my entire site).

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June 15, 2004

Solving Creative Block

Great, practical article at UIWEB on getting around creative block.

Burnout means you've pushed your creative energy beyond the point of recovery. Like a well of water, creative energy replenishes itself slowly over time. A person who has pushed their creative well too hard for too long will, like it's watery counterpart, one day find it empty.

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April 19, 2004

Magnetic Creativity

The genius machine is a fascinating article featured in New Scientist about research into the brain and the seat of genius and creativity. Allan Snyder, the professor behind this research is persuing a way to override the brain's normal functions of pattern matching, in order to achieve a heightened ability to process certain information.

"In Snyder's view, what savants lack is mindsets. They experience only raw sensory information, and their precise drawings are a reflection of that. The reason most people can't draw like that is because their mindsets get in the way. Once the brain forms a concept, it inhibits the conscious mind from becoming aware of the details that created that concept in the first place. So instead of drawing what you see, you draw what you know."

Edward de Bono has long looked at creativity and ways to enhance it. His technique of Lateral Thinking is about getting a different perspective on a problem in order to solve it creatively. To escape your preconceptions or 'mindset'.

The idea of being able to enforce this change in mindset through magnetic fields is intriguing, if a little scary. The New Scientist article goes on to argue that perhaps this will or won't lead to leaps in creativity, but tests show it certainly does something.

Any research I've done into creativity seems to hinge on this concept of shifting logic, or indeed turning it off. Roger von Oech's Creative Whack Pack and Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies use cards of random concepts to jolt or suprise the user into a different thought pattern. When tied back to the original problem (the 'lateral' bridge of thought), new and innovative solutions can be found.

In art college, you are taught to draw looking at negative space (the space in between objects, rather than the object itself), or using your less dominant hand. The results are always surprising. Not always better, but looser and more natural and somehow realistic. In design school, we were taught word association as a tool for creating original concepts. Our 'creativity' became stronger with practice, showing the brain to be merely another muscle that develops according to how it is used, rather than being bestowed with certain gifts. All these tools exercise the right hemisphere, or the creative side of the brain. Perhaps Allan Snyder is sticking magnets on the wrong side of people's heads.

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January 16, 2004


Theory as far as I am concerned, then, is best understood as an emergent property of practice. Theories are in part post hoc rationalisations—the plausible stories which we tell ourselves to account retrospectively for our actions.

If only I could explain myself with such impeccable clarity! This paper entitled Theory for Practice by David Sless shows that when somebody can explain a concept or set of concepts without relying on jargon or buzzwords, it is extremely powerful. This is because it demonstrates a full understanding; to the point where there are no holes in comprehension of the explanation of the presented concepts due to the use of the syntax of an exclusive club.

Aside from the writing style of this article, the concepts within are also so very pertinent to what I've been thinking/writing about with process and design theory. Not only does it suggest that rigid process isn't as valuable for solving problems as it is for teaching people how to solve problems, but it also articulates my feelings about moving from a linear way of working, to an 'inspect and adapt' or Agile mindset... and that's just a little bit of it. if this is 'Constructionism', I must find out more about it.

Abstract from the paper: This paper discusses a constructionist approach to information design and contrasts it with the more widely used constructivist approach. The paper suggests that there are five principles of information design: politics, position, parsimony, politeness, and performance. Of these, politeness is the most important.

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October 25, 2003

10 Steps to instant creativity

Oh, I wish it were that easy... but there may be something in a few of these things. Actually, I know there are. It's basically all the things I was taught at school and Art College, but have somehow lost track of. This 10 point guide to achieving creativity is a part of a larger website dedicated to just being creative in general. Creativity Web - Resources for Creativity and Innovation.

If you dig deep enough, you can also find little gems like this! I got a chuckle out of the design anyway. Perhaps the ideas within aren't so laughable.

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