Quick Tip: Ignite your Creativity and Problem Solving By Thinking ... Less!

brighter minds better futures critical thinking Feb 09, 2024
Child Thinking

Whether you consider yourself inherently creative or aspire to enhance your creative problem-solving skills, you can supercharge your creativity with a few straightforward techniques.

Understanding Creativity as a Learned Skill

First, regardless of whether you feel as though you're already very creative or because you fear that you're not, it’s essential to understand that, while some people certainly are more creative and better creative problem solvers than others, creativity is nevertheless not simply an innate talent. Creativity is a learned and practiced skill, and as we learn more about the brain, we're learning more and more ways to tap into and maximize creative networks. 

In fact, even though most people think that the left brain is purely analytical and the right brain is purely creative, the truth is that the best creativity always happens when both sides of the brain are in communication with one another. In fact, if you want to know how to be more creative, what you want to understand is that there are actually three brain networks involved in creativity. 

Creativity Networks

The first of those networks is the Executive Attention Network, which is for deliberate, conscious intellectual thought, when you are trying to reason your way through something logically, using evidence, creating arguments, and so forth. The second network that is active during creativity is the Salience Network, which is what your brain uses to determine what's interesting to it and what is not, and therefore what is relevant to the problem that you're facing and what is not relevant to the problem you're facing. 

The final network that's involved in creativity, which is the most important for this discussion, is the Default Mode Network, which is always running in the background. Your Default Mode Network creates subconscious connections and patterns between things that otherwise wouldn't get connected in your brain. It's effectively always scouring the corners of your mind for pieces of information, ideas, and experience to connect to whatever is going on in your world. 

How Do You Tap Into Your Default Network?

The question is this: how do we tap into and elevate our use of that Default Mode Network? Actually, you do this all of the time. If you've ever been thinking about a problem and then you were out driving, or maybe you were in the shower, and all of a sudden a solution came to you, then you have experienced the power of the Default Mode Network. 

As I said, the Default Mode Network is always operating in your subconscious. In fact, whenever we're thinking about something there's actually an interaction between the Executive Attention Network and the Default Mode Network. Both are working simultaneously, and, when we're doing our best thinking, that interaction is easy and optimized. But there's also an advantage at times to shutting off our Executive Attention Network and allowing the Default Mode Network to act alone.

Here are the three steps to powering up your Default Mode Network:

  1. Recognize your mental friction and fatigue. When you're thinking about a problem, be cognizant of the moment that it starts to feel like work, when you feel like the gears in your mind are starting to grind on each other. What's happening at that moment is that your Executive Attention Network and your Default Mode Network are no longer synced up very well. They're starting to argue with each other or misunderstand each other. So, it’s time to take a break.
  2. Activate your Default Mode Network with low-key physical and mental activity. This could be as simple as going for a walk, taking a shower, doing some gardening, having a catch, or anything that's occupying your body and mind at the same time. Perhaps you like to doodle, perhaps you want to draw a picture, it doesn't really matter. If you’ve ever been one of those people who gets all your ideas in the shower - this is why! Find what works for you. 
  3. Employ Analogous Abstractions: In between feeling that mental friction and doing that low-key activity, shock your brain with something called an “analogous abstraction,” which is a fancy word for an analogy thinking about something that has absolutely no direct connection to the thing that you're thinking about. So, ask yourself how the problem that you're working through is related to just about anything else, such as a rose, a rugby game, a pillow fight, the orbits of the planets around the sun. Doing so will spark your creativity and prime your Default Mode Network to make powerful subconscious connections. 

Example: Applying Analogous Abstractions

By way of a quick example, imagine that you're a manager who needs to promote one of two different people. And let's say, for the sake of argument, that on paper each of these two different people are essentially equally qualified for the position: Ben and Bob. What happens if you simply try to think of each of them as a snack food? Which snack food would each of them be? 

Ben, you realize, is kind of a sweet guy. Maybe he's kind of like a Snickers bar: sweet on the outside, maybe a little nutty on the inside, and actually a little substantive in his thoughts. His ideas have a little chew to them. 

Bob, on the other hand, is more like trail mix, not as sweet, maybe a little bit rougher going down, but still tasty and a little bit more nutritious for you. Bob’s going to provide a little bit more fuel and energy to the organization, but perhaps he’s not quite as easy to work with, not quite as sweet. 

So, again, as you start to feel mental friction hit and you know you're about to take a break, take just a couple of minutes to draw connections between what you're thinking about and some kind of analogous abstraction. (Don't reuse the abstractions for your analogies, because your brain will already have created patterns for thinking around that particular abstraction.) And as you do so, don’t scrutinize any of the associations that you make. They don't need to make perfect sense. 

The whole point of it instead is to free your mind from the constraints of the Executive Attention Network and allow yourself to be creative. 

And so there are your three steps for stoking your creativity: Recognize when friction starts to interfere with deliberate thinking. Think of an analogy to something entirely abstract. And then, take a break of low-key physical and mental effort. 

Don't worry about that problem anymore. An answer will come.

Ready to Invest in Your Child’s Future?
Embark on a journey towards brighter minds and better futures with us! Join a community of proactive parents witnessing extraordinary advancements in their children's critical thinking skills. Our courses are not just educational adventures but an animated world that transcends age barriers. Crafted for young minds, teens, and adults alike, it is a universal choice for intellectual growth. Unsure if it's the perfect fit for your family? Don't let uncertainty hold you back. Our team is here to assist you in navigating through the options, ensuring you make the most informed decision for your child's development. Reach out to us anytime – your family's educational adventure is just a decision away! 


Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.