Apr 15, 2010

Re-creative thinking

A couple of weeks ago, Scott Berkun tweeted something that I found quite interesting:
Many adults haven't *made* anything in yrs - giving them legos/crayons would help more than reading books on creativity
I wonder if this state of affairs is by unconscious design - reading creativity books seems like a proxy for action to its readers. It is immensely easier than picking up lego blocks or crayons. Children are not (yet) intimidated by a blank canvas or a vacuum, and not so scared about being told off for colouring outside the lines. So to those who want to be more creative, especially to those who know that there are answers in books, the first instinct may be to read about how to be creative, than to practise being creative. It makes you feel you are planning your steps towards that cherished goal without having to dip your toes in the cold water.

And sometimes (who knows) it might not turn out to be that cold!

9 comments:

Ajay said...

In the case of software, I find the reverse to be true. I don't think enough practicing software professionals actually read about software development - say 'The Mythical Man Month', 'Code Complete' or any of Spolsky's essays. When I look at some practices even now, I always feel the software industry is doomed to keep repeating its mistakes, because everyone today thinks they are better than those who passed this road before and don't need to learn from history.

Ramanand said...

Quite. I used to be struck as to why hardly anyone around me (in both the places I've worked so far) read books about the history and philosophies of software engg. Perhaps our general lack of interest about anything remotely historical is to blame?

Rohan Nair said...

"Many adults haven't *made* anything in yrs - giving them legos/crayons would help more than reading books on creativity"

I think this is a pointer to a much, much larger malaise: in this age of information the possessing of information has come to be regarded as more valuable than the possessing of the actual experiences (that might have brought this information into being in the first place).

An extension of this hypothesis is where I think we are going: eventually (ie quite soon) accessing and acquiring information will become so easy and seamless that there will be a natural turn (back) towards acquiring actual real-world experience. (Finally quizzers -- and I used to be one -- will exposed for the masqueraders they are :D :D)

Ramanand said...

Rohan: v. interesting point. As a quizzer, I have been more than a little troubled that I know a lot of things through secondary sources, and it's time I actually experienced things I've heard of in a quiz.

MasQuerade - now that's a nice name for a quiz :-)

Anonymous said...

Glad you picked up on my comment.

I agree with Ajay, but I'd go further. For as long as we've had civilizations we've been lousy at learning from out own history. We repeat a great deal of our mistakes at many levels (nationally, culturally, personally, etc.).

More generally, I think it's safer to read about something than to do it, and it's easier for most people to be passive than active. At some point the distinction between watching a sport on TV and playing it yourself gets forgotten - which is effectively what some fans are. They don't actually want to play the sport, but they want to "actively" watch someone else do it. Nothing wrong with this on its own, but if, in the case of creative thinking, the goal is to develop a skill, the only way to do it is it to be active.

Anyway, thanks for the thought. Reading this post & comments made me think about my own comment differently and I'm appreciative.

-Scott (www.scottberkun.com)

Ramanand said...

Thanks for dropping by, Scott. (Have found most of your writings to be thought-provoking.) Recently, I've been devouring books on creativity and innovation (thanks partly to the kind of work I do), but have sensed the reading still out-weighs the 'doing' part. Have developed an itch to stop merely reading and go try. Your tweet came as a timely reminder.

daemon said...

From what I have experienced, the lack of action is more to do with the lack of will to do it. That's because most of the people are not excited enough about something to experience it first hand and to get deep in it, to get dirty. And I don't think that 99% of the people are even reading books about anything - let alone creativity. Should they read? I am not sure. Lot of this is driven by economics. For the rest of 1% to which the comment applies, purging arrogance and accepting one's nature is the first steps towards doing something. By all means, work hard. But don't get enamoured by it. I am not missing any of the points here or being cynical. Its just an observation.

daemon said...

From what I have experienced, the lack of action is more to do with the lack of will to do it. That's because most of the people are not excited enough about something to experience it first hand and to get deep in it, to get dirty. And I don't think that 99% of the people are even reading books about anything - let alone creativity. Should they read? I am not sure. Lot of this is driven by economics. For the rest of 1% to which the comment applies, purging arrogance and accepting one's nature is the first steps towards doing something. By all means, work hard. But don't get enamoured by it. I am not missing any of the points here or being cynical. Its just an observation.

Ramanand said...

Daemon: I agree that many people are not excited about doing something. Perhaps that's human nature, but I consider it a pity that so many human processor cycles go wasted :-)