When I have arranged a bouquet for the purpose of painting it, I always turn to the side I did not plan.
—Pierre Auguste Renoir
When the impressionist painter Renoir made this statement, he suggested the importance of developing creative perspectives. It could be argued that there can be no creative product without a creative perspective. To produce something new, we must see something new. What we see may be some previously overlooked element of a problem or a solution from combining two previously unjoined problem elements or ideas.
Perhaps the most well-known historical example of a sudden insight involves Archimedes, who jumped out of his bathtub and ran naked through the streets, shouting, "Eureka! Eureka!" This rather odd behavior followed his discovery of the principle of displacement. While taking a bath, he noticed how his body weight displaced an equal amount of water. This led him to an insight, or new perspective on how to determine whether a crown was solid gold.
A more contemporary example is Art Fry, inventor of Post-it® Notes. He combined his need for a piece of paper that would stay put when he marked his church hymns with a scrap of paper that used a "failed" glue developed by Spencer Silver, one of his colleagues at 3M. Both Archimedes and Art Fry produced a more creative perspective when they combined two previously unconnected problem elements.
Not everyone can make creative connections easily. We sometimes get so close to a problem that we lose ourselves in it—something like the old expression, "We can't see the forest for the trees." In one respect, becoming deeply involved with a problem automatically increases our understanding of it. This is good. We must understand problems to deal with them.
Too much understanding, however, can be harmful because it causes us to narrow our focus and lose a broader perspective. This is bad. Too much detailed problem awareness causes us to lose sight of the big picture. The solution: create new perspectives.
Each activity in this book will help you produce new perspectives and see problems with new eyes. Idea generation activities do this by facilitating free association, combining problem elements, promoting interaction with other people, or eliciting responses to various stimuli. In each case, the outcome is the same: new ways of thinking about a problem. Over time, most people find that the more they use a variety of activities, the easier it becomes to create new perspectives.
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