Creativity emerges from the basic mental operation of conceptually blending dissimilar subjects. When analyzed, creative ideas are always new combinations of old ideas. A poet does not generally make up new words but instead puts together old words in a new way.
When asked, "what is one-half of thirteen?" Most of us would answer six and one-half.
Typically we think reproductively, on the basis of similar problems encountered in the past. We become arrogantly certain of the correctness of our conclusion.
In contrast geniuses think productively, not reproductively. When confronted with a problem, they ask themselves how many different ways they can look at the problem, how they can rethink it, and how many different ways they can solve it. They tend to come up with many different responses, some of which are unconventional and possibly, unique. A productive thinker would say there are many different ways to express "thirteen" and many different ways to halve something. (6.5. Six and one-half, Thir and teen, 13 = 1, 3)
Once geniuses obtain a certain minimal verbal facility, they seem to develop a skill in visual and spatial abilities that gives them the flexibility to display information in different ways. When Einstein had thought through a problem, he always found it necessary to formulate his subject in as many ways as possible, including diagrammatically. He had a very visual mind. He thought in terms of visual and spatial forms, rather than thinking along purely mathematical or verbal reasoning. He thought that words and numbers did not play a significant role in his thinking process.
"Thinking Fluently,” presents a set of timeless and solid principles on how to produce a quantity of ideas. A distinguishing characteristic of genius is immense productivity. Thomas Edison held 1093 patents, Bach wrote a cantata every week, and Einstein published 248 papers.
Out of their massive quantity of work came quality. Most do not survive; in fact 95% of a new species fail and die in a short period. Geniuses produce, period.
Making Novel Combinations
Geniuses are geniuses because they form more novel combinations than the mere talented. Consider Einstein’s equation, E=mc2. Einstein did not invent the concepts of energy, mass, or the speed of light. Rather by combining these concepts in a novel way, he was able to look at the same world as everyone else and see something different.
Connecting the Unconnected
If one particular style of thought stands out for creative geniuses, it is the ability to make juxtapositions that elude mere mortals. It's a facility to connect the unconnected by forcing relationships that enable them to see things to which others are blind. Leonardo da Vinci forced a relationship between the sound of a bell and a stone hitting water. This enabled him to make the connection that sound travels in waves.