The Ingenuity Series Part 3: How to boost your creativity
Keeping with the creativity theme from last week, what can we do to augment our creative powers?
One thing we know from the field of neuroscience is that, unlike computers, the brain is very slow at individual processing. In one second, a computer circuit can handle millions of instructions, but a neuron can fire only about two hundred times. That’s why computers are so much faster than human beings at serial, computational tasks.
But why can a child understand someone speaking with a lisp, or a foreign accent, better than the best voice recognition software? Why can a baby recognize facial expressions better than a supercomputer?
The answer is that the brain is a massive parallel processor, with 100 billion neurons operating simultaneously, making it extraordinarily powerful at pattern recognition. Much of what our brains do is to pre-process information—we store up experience—and then, in real time, determine which patterns to apply to which circumstances.
That’s why business and law schools teach via case studies. It’s why entrepreneurs are so fond of biographies. It’s why religions teach morality through allegories. In each case, we load up our brains with examples that enhance our ability to spot patterns. Those patterns can later be summoned to help us manage unforeseeable situations.
What are the implications? To boost your pattern-recognition abilities, give yourself exposures to a variety of experience bases. Don’t limit yourself to one model of reality. Different fields — the law, physics or religion, for example — offer complimentary ways of understanding the world. Steve Jobs traced his invention of the Mac to a calligraphy course that gave him an aesthetic appreciation which he later fused with his technical know-how. Today, we see advances coming at the intersection of fields like biology and computer science, economics and psychology, finance and social entrepreneurship. If you want to be an effective problem-solver, gather experiences from different fields, sectors and cultures—and keep thinking about the patterns.
Photo: Mrs McArthur’s Blog