What I’m Reading – Sparks of Genius

Sparks of genius takes a multi-sensory and multi-disciplinary view of the creative process based on scholars who have dedicated their lives researching creativity. Using results from analyzing creativity for over decades these researchers were able to identify thirteen thinking tools to help us tap into our own personal genius and become more creative. By observing, imaging, abstracting and recognizing, forming patterns. This book defines each quality, such as abstraction, patterning, modeling, and provides an investigation on how they can be used by thinkers or creators in a variety of fields.

Much of this book can be applied into understanding oneself as well as looking at the tools to support the mental breakdown of how to examine ideas. It provides an example of 13 steps, and then goes into detail with research on the concepts. For me personally I felt that it was important to have an understanding on the idea that creativity could be broken down based on research helped to analyze process and procedures to get work finished. This book reframes the idea of frames of mind and how creativity and logic are associated. Essentially rethinking how we think. Although artists and scientists are often categorized separately, they are uniquely intertwined and both are necessary in order to find innovation or creativity. There are different preferences of thinkers, scientists are logico-mathamatical thinkers, poets and writers are highly verbal thinkers, psychologists as intrapersonal thinkers and politicians as interpersonal thinkers. This specific research supports the importance of integrating the arts within school systems.

Using your imagination is the key to creative problem solving, however the idea of creative problem solving is rarely looked at logically. By retraining how to use your imagination you can reunite the idea of logically creative thinking. Harvard psychologist “In so distinguished institution like MIT, a student can learn and have mastered calculus to the satisfaction of the teacher by having solved the problem set on the final examination. On entering the physics course, he cannot see how to apply calculus to the solution of problems in physics.

Observing: Initially, all knowledge about the world is acquired through observing, paying attention to what we seen, heard, touched, smelled, tasted, or felt within the body. To close one’s eyes and construct what is going on nearby through sound alone. Listening TV without looking at it or watching it without sound is also an educational experience in observing; all too often either the visual aspect or the sound is irrelevant. However, simply looking, even patiently, is not sufficient.

Imaging: Imaging is explained as the ability to recall or imaging these feelings and sensations is also an important tool. There may be several methodologies and approaches however in the end it comes to the same result a way to communicate their results. Numerous studies have found significant correlations between the aptitude for visual imaging and career success in engineering.

Abstracting: Because sense experience and sense imagery are rich and complex, creative people in all disciplines also use abstracting as an essential tool. – The process of paring down complicated things to simple principles is the same. Abstraction is done by pure simplifications. By using simplicity to reveal inobvious properties and hidden connections. Knowing what abstracting is and why it is important is half the problem. The other half is learning how to find the simple concepts hiding among complex expressions. Learning how to abstract in one discipline provides the key to understanding the abstractions of all disciplines. As physicist and inventor Mitchell Wilson wrote half-century ago “I’ll tell you what you need to be a great scientist. You don’t have to be able to understand very complicated things. It’s just opposite. You have to be able to see what looks like the most complicated thing in the world and in a flash, find the underlying simplicity. That’s what you need; a talent for simplicity”.

Recognizing Patterns: It is involved in the discovery of nature’s law and the structure of mathematics, but also the rhymes and rhythms of language, dance, music and the formal intentions of the painter. Recognizing patterns is also the first step toward creating new ones. Pattern forming whether in music, art, engineering or dance almost always begins with combining simple elements in unexpected ways. Recognizing patterns within the patterns has stimulated many artists. “ A way of stimulating and arousing the mind to various inventions,” Leonardo da Vinci advised himself and others to “ look at a wall spotted with stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones , if you have to invent some scene, you may discover a similarity with different kinds of landscapes, embellished with mountains, rivers rocks, trees, plants, wide valley and hills in varied arrangement: or again you may see variety of objects which you could reduce to complete and well drawn forms.
Learning to create patterns is one of the keys to innovating in every discipline and it is wise to learn this skill early on. You can do this easily in writing by taking a very limited number of words and exploring all the possible ways of making sense with them.
Looking through the history of almost any scientific field or studying any scientific controversy will show that scientists always try many ways of expressing their insights before some standardized textbook formulation ossifies thinking in that area.
Making patterns for oneself is a lot more fun than memorizing – and lot more valuable. Teasing apart one pattern and composing another require real understanding of the basic elements of phenomenon and process. More, it opens up whole new worlds of knowledge.

Analogizing: The realization that two apparently different things share important properties or functions lies in the heart of the world’s greatest works of art and literature and the most enduring scientific and engineering inventions. It is critical to understand the difference between analogy and similarity. Analogies recognize a correspondence of inner relationship or of function between two or more different phenomena or complex set of phenomena. Similarities are resemblance between things based upon observed characteristics such as color or form.
Body thinking: Thinking that occurs through the sensations and awareness of muscle, sinew, and skin. Well before they have found the words or the formulas to express themselves, many creative people ‘feel’ ideas emerging. Bodily sensations, muscular movements and emotions act as a springboard for more formal thought.

Empathizing: It is related to body thinking. Many creative people describe ‘losing’ themselves in the things they study, integrating ‘I’ and ‘it’.
Dimensional thinking is the imaginative ability to take thing mentally from a flat plane into three dimensions more, from earth into outer space, through time, even to alternate worlds. It is essential in engineering, sculpture, visual art, medicine, mathematics and astronomy – indeed in any activity that involves interpreting pictures, in one set of dimensions as objects in another set.
Modeling objects and concepts require some combination of dimensional thinking, abstracting, analogizing and manipulative or body skill. Playing is another integrative tool, build upon body thinking, empathizing and play-acting and modeling
Synthesizing completes the imagination’s tool key, for understanding is always synthetic, combining many ways of experiencing. There are 2 fundamentals components to the synthetic thinking. One is synesthesia, a neurological and artistic term for experiencing sensations in multiple ways at once. Synthesizing also supposes an integration of knowledge in which observing, imaging, and empathizing and the other tools all work together organically – not serially as in transformational thinking, but simultaneously, such as everything – memory knowledge, imagination, feeling is understood in a holistic way. Managers want concrete results this quarter and have no patience for intuition, yet this is a huge paradox because the people who really accomplish important things function fluently in the pre-verbal and pre-logical realm. Yes, you have to learn to translate the ideas to other forms to communicate, deliberate, document and profit from them, but if you cut of the environment for the initial synthesis, you will hurt your outcome in the end.


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