What is common to the thinking style that produced the theory of relativity and Mona Lisa?
How do geniuses come up with ideas? What characterizes the thinking strategies of people, such as Einstein, Mozart and Steve Jobs? What can we learn from them?
If we can understand the commonality, we can apply it to become more creative in our work and personal life. Genius is not about scoring high on an IQ test, or mastering ten languages. Creativity is not the same as intelligence. An individual can be far more creative than he is intelligent, or far more intelligent than creative.
The key question isn't "Why are some people more creative then others?" It’s more like “Why isn't everyone creative? Where was our potential list? Why does education cripple creativity?”
We have been educated to process information based on what has happened in the past and to be analytical thinkers. Once we think we know how to get the answer, based on what we have been taught, we stop thinking. We have the ability to make common associations between subjects that are related. We are far better at associating two things, than we are at forcing ourselves to see connections between things that seem to have no association. We form mental walls between association of related concepts and concepts that are not related.
We are all born spontaneous and creative. As children we embraced all kinds of outlandish possibilities. We knew a box was much more than a container. A box could be a fort, a car, a tank, a cave, a house, something to draw on and a space helmet. Our imaginations were not structured according to some existing concept or category. And then something happened to us: we went to school. We were taught how to think; we were taught to reproduce what past thinkers thought. When confronted with a problem, we were taught to select the most promising approach based on history, and then work logically in a carefully defined direction towards the solution.
This is why, when most people use their imaginations to develop new ideas, those ideas are heavily structured in predictable ways by the properties of existing concepts. Creative thinking requires the ability to generate a host of associations and connections between two or more dissimilar subjects, creating new categories and concepts.
Imagine that thought, is water! When you are born, your mind is like a glass of water. Your thinking is inclusive, clear and fluid. All thoughts intermingle and combine with each other. Once something is learned and categorized, your thoughts about it become frozen like ice cubes in a tray. You are taught, when confronted with a problem, to examine the ice cube tray and select the appropriate cube. Then you take the cube and put it in the glass, where your thinking heats and melts it.