Intuition, Creativity and TRIZ
Intuition, Creativity and TRIZ
I have always had a bit of a problem with the role of intuition or insight in creativity. When I was first taught the psychology of problem solving and creativity at Oxford Brookes University, I remember our lecturer talking about the âaha!â moment, and getting annoyed, as a lot of the descriptions she gave of moments of creative insight seemed to be reinforcing the âmythicâ side of creativity.
The idea that the answer will come to you in a blinding flash of
insight, after a period of incubation, annoys me because itâs random,
and I donât believe that you can (or should, or need to) rely on chance
to come up with clever ideas.Creativity is difficult to define and
predict and that moment when we come up with a clever idea feels
magical: however just because it feels magical doesnât mean that it is.
People talk about the âeurekaâ moment and Archimedesâ realisation of how
he could measure the volume of gold in an irregularly shaped crown by
submerging it in water (as he was stepping into the bath) is a brilliant
story. The image of the mathematician running through the streets,
naked and wet, exclaiming âeurekaâ is a wonderful evocation of the
emotional response to having a great idea, but what no-one talks about
is the years of training to develop his mathematical genius, and the
hours (days, weeks?) spent understanding and defining the problem
A lot of the research into creative genius, such as the work
by Weisberg, highlights the importance of expertise and experience in
creativity: you canât have a flash of insight without years of hard work
No-one is terribly sure how insight happens but there are some theories regarding the importance of incubating an idea and why it might be useful (and therefore lead to insight). One theory is that when weâre working hard on a problem we just get tired: having a break just gives us more mental energy, and when we return to thinking about the problem we are more likely to think of a solution.
Another theory is that we get mentally stuck in a rut of thinking â psychologists call this fixation, TRIZ people call it psychologically inertia â and when we go away and leave the problem for a while, we come back to it with a fresh perspective, having broken out of our fixation. This allows us to see new possibilities and allows a moment of insight to happen. This is probably what is happening when we are in the shower, or on a bike ride, and suddenly think of a solution to our problem â we have brought a fresh perspective. However, it doesnât need to be random â we can logically and systematically understand our problem and consciously break our psychological inertia in order to come up with creative ideas.
This is what I use TRIZ for (although itâs only one way) and one
of the ways that TRIZ can feel like magic. There are times when youâre
working on a problem and you are just not sure that itâs going well.
Youâre facilitating a group, and have helped them uncover a
contradiction, for example, and a number of inventive principles have
been suggested and you look at them and your heart sinks. âColour
change!?â you think, âHow is that going to be useful?!?!â and you feel
sick and want to go and hide in the toilets.
However, you give the group the principle, you explain it, and what happens, what ALWAYS happens, is that they will take their years of expertise and domain knowledge and see a clever way of applying it, and come up with a brilliant idea. A ripple of excitement goes through the group, the magic has happened, but it wasnât random.
may the fourth be with you ...
This is why we always say: trust the TRIZ.
Itâs a bit like Obi Wan Kenobi telling Luke Skywalker at the end of the first Star Wars movie to âtrust the forceâ. This is what problem solving with TRIZ is likeâŠyou donât know when the magic is going to happen, but it willâŠ
in honour of Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you)
TRIZ teacher, facilitator, author and MD of Oxford Creativity - a TRIZ company based in Oxford, United Kingdom. www.triz.co.uk
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