Intergalactic Problem Solving

When do you need to think outside the galaxy? When you don't know the solution (which really should be all the time, because even when you think you know the solution, how do you know it's the best solution?).

When do you ordinarily not have a solution? When you encounter problems you've never faced before. We already established in Chapter 2 that there are basically two ways to solve a problem: Find solutions or create solutions. And where do you find things? In the known, or your "home galaxy."

When we can't find a solution, we are then forced to create solutions. Problems force us to stretch to a place outside our limited known; that's why we call it creative problem solving.

Since most people do consider finding solutions in the known to be a type of problem solving in addition to creating solutions, let's go with those two alternatives and see how this all ties together in the concept Intergalactic Thinking.

The Problem-Solving Spectrum

Let's look at what I call the problem-solving spectrum, because most of the time it isn't really a black-and-white issue of finding versus creating. Except for the old dyed-in-the-wool, tried-and-true ideas, virtually every idea has some components of both old and new thought.

When you can find a solution in your direct experience—that is, in your personal galaxy—you're at the less original thinking end of the spectrum.

But suppose you've never encountered this problem before (thus you have no direct experience), but you know someone who has been

The Problem-Solving Spectrum

Experience Knowledge Ideas

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We tend to find ideas in our own galaxies, never thinking to go elsewhere to "find" creative ideas.

We tend to find ideas in our own galaxies, never thinking to go elsewhere to "find" creative ideas.

there, or you find out through a little research what knowledge does exist. Then you're in the midrange of the spectrum. You take some known, put your own spin on it, and you have a somewhat original solution.

Now, let's take the far-right extreme. Let's say no one has ever faced this problem in this way before. There is virtually no knowledge, direct or otherwise, to draw upon. Then you have no choice but to create a solution.

Let's see how this all plays out intergalactically.

You tend to find in your home galaxy. And you tend to create outside your galaxy, what you may see as the unknown. But is it really unknown? Not in the least. Sure, it's beyond your home galaxy, but didn't we just discover that we know a great many things beyond our own private galaxy, outside our own box? If you think about it, it isn't truly a case of finding and creating, after all. We don't really create new ideas; we just find them outside our own galaxy.

So, you see, technically you can't be totally creative.

Scientists have been telling us for years that you can't really create anything.

The Great Unknown. Oh, really?

We tend to think of the area outside our home galaxy as the great unknown. But we do know a great deal that can be great starting places for creative exploration. It's not that the data relating to golf, music, banking, and gravel are unknown. We just think of it as inappropriate data for the solution mix. Or we don't think of it at all. But we're overlooking a great resource for creative inspiration.

Scientists used to say we can't create anything in the physical realm, we just transform energy and matter, until they discovered that matter is energy. So we don't create; we transfer energy. The same is true in the conceptual realm. New ideas are not really created; they're old ideas transformed. The only question is do we find the answer inside or outside the box. Traditional thinking or Intergalactic Thinking.

Intergalactic Thinking as a Conscious Creative Thinking Tool You can practice Intergalactic Thinking in different ways. There's the strict, disciplined way used in both groupthink and when you're on your own. Then there's the method of simply being open to new ideas from any realm.

The most highly realized creative thinkers are usually people who can draw inspiration from almost anything almost anytime. Some of the greatest thinkers of all time were people who did not limit their thinking to the relatively small "atmospheric influence" of their own area of expertise. These Intergalactic Thinkers reached many of the greatest creative achievements of all time as a result of their intentional or unwitting use of data from a totally unrelated galaxy of thought to provoke a creative spark. (In Chapter 18, we talk about these hyper-

creative types, whom I call dreamers, along with other creative person-ahty types-)

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