Creativity is not a talent
It is a way of operating
Creative challenge no. 3
The Candle Problem is a test of creative problem solving developed by psychologist Karl Duncker in 1945. The test challenges functional fixedness, a cognitive bias that makes it difficult to use familiar objects in abnormal ways. Subjects are given a candle, a box of thumbtacks, and a box of matches, and are asked to fix the lit candle to the wall so that it will not drip wax onto the table below. Intrigued? Stay a bit with the problem to find an answer, tolerate the discomfort of pondering time and indecision, before you check out the solution (which we moved to the end of this newsletter, so you’re not tempted to click immediately). Check out the next video if you need to get into an open mode.
‘Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.’
‘You know, when Video Arts asked me if I'd like to talk about creativity I said: No problem! No problem! Because telling people how to be creative is easy, it's only being it that's difficult.’
A great video of John Cleese (remember Monty Python?) giving a speech on creativity 30 years ago, delivered with his signature blend of cultural insight and comic genius. We’ll outline here the five factors that you can arrange to make your lives more creative, but the video is worth watching in its entirety; it’s witty, funny and full of ‘aha!’ moments:
Space: You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures.
Time: It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time.
Time: Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original and learning to tolerate the discomfort of pondering time and indecision.
Confidence: Nothing will stop you from being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.
Humor: The main evolutionary significance of humour is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.
You can also read the transcript of the speech here.
Apparently, there’s nothing like a good joke to get the creative juices flowing. In a brainstorming study where 84 participants - students, professional designers and improvisational comedians - took a cartoon caption humour test and a nominal product brainstorming test, the improvisational comedians generated 20 percent more ideas than professional product designers did, and the comedians generated ideas that were also rated 25 percent more creative. The study also found that many of the games used in improvisational comedy training could be effectively adapted to product design idea generation, because they strongly promoted associative thinking - and found that it increased idea output on average by 37 percent in a subsequent product brainstorming session. The findings suggest that improvisational comedy games are a useful warm-up for idea generation, that prolific generation is not a domain-specific ability and that it is possible to teach and train creativity (by developing tools and methods that designers can use to improve their idea generation skills).
Find out the solution to the candle problem.