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Simply put: problems, solutions and creativity

“What we cannot think, we cannot think; so we cannot say what we cannot think. Ludwig Wittgenstein

“All modern thinking is permeated with the idea of ​​thinking the unthinkable.”

Michel Foucault

According to cognitive psychologists, creativity is a particular type of problem-solving experience, which involves the activation of two opposite but complementary mental processes, convergent thinking and divergent thinking, as well as insight.

Simply defining creativity in terms of a “problem-solution” is not the same as realizing it. Large industrial enterprises, which have a great need for the brilliant invention, also need a continuous and solid supply of creative ideas on a smaller scale. The execution machinery then exploits these ideas in a production engine in order to transform the invention into a product.

Antony Jay wrote a biting commentary in his incisive book ‘Management and Machiavelli’ where he said that big problems and big solutions are useless without tackling the small solutions needed to make things profitable.

The same goes for understanding the problems as a whole. “A problem left to itself withers or rots. But fertilize a problem with a solution – you’ll hatch dozens of writings NFSimpson


It was in the 1930s that Chester Carlson married his knowledge of photoconductivity production gained as a physicist with his knowledge of the document copying demand market gained as a patent attorney to produce the idea for Xerography, and he did the experiments privately in his own kitchen. But it wasn’t until 1960 that Xerox copying began to revolutionize offices and libraries around the world. It was the creative group under Joseph C. Wilson of the Haloid Corporation that turned a brilliant idea into a revolution and made Xerox copying one of the great industrial successes of a decade. Making an idea commercially successful takes action, and it requires iterative problem identification and resolution.

Often, great inventions can go untapped. the Byzantines invented clockwork but only used it to levitate the emperor to impress visitors. The Chinese invented gunpowder and used it largely for fireworks. the Tibetans discovers the movement of turbines and uses it only for the rotation of prayer wheels. Charles Kettering perhaps had them in mind when he said, “It’s not that they don’t see the solution, it’s that they don’t see the problem.

Arthur Koestler in his book “The Act of Creation” explains creativity, like humor, as the result of two unrelated facts or ideas coming together to form a single new idea. When Newton saw an apple fall in an orchard, the theory of gravitation and the attraction of masses appeared to him. Gutenberg was baffled by means of reproducing the written word, but looking at the pressed grapes, he saw the printing press as the answer.

“Discovery is seeing what everyone has seen and thinking what no one has thought.” Albert Szent-Gyorgyi. The easiest path to a solution is usually the best. But the path to creativity is not only inspiration, but also laborious thought. Thinking is learned. “A lot of people think they’re thinking when they’re just rearranging their biases.” wrote William James. In fact, these biases are often institutional, social and individual – in that order.

Cosmetic solutions are those that are expedient rather than effective. There’s a joke about a man wearing a suit complaining that one of the shoulders wasn’t cut off properly. The tailor suggested that he turn his body slightly. This improved it, but the back developed a bulge. Never mind, said the tailor, lean forward a little. This fixed this issue, but the left pant leg tended to ride up. Keep your knee bent and you’ll be fine, the tailor says. The costume now fitted provided that the man stands sideways instead of standing straight, leans forward, and hobbles when he walks. Passing him in the street, a lady told her companion how lucky the unfortunate man had been to have found such a good tailor!

Of course, if the only tool is a key, then every problem is a lock. Modern management makes us make assumptions. But the assumptions prevent shaking the answers. This riddle is only a riddle because of a guess. A man lives in an apartment on the twentieth floor. Every morning he gets in the elevator and presses the button for the ground floor, comes down, gets out and goes to work. In the evening, he returns, enters the elevator and presses the button for the tenth floor. He goes down and up the stairs to the twentieth. Why when he gets home doesn’t he go straight up to his apartment? Maybe he’s a half-hearted fitness freak? Maybe he isn’t. Maybe he’s just a dwarf. “The irrational is not necessarily unreasonable,” said Mr. Lewis Namier and our problems often go unsolved because our approach never challenges conventional assumptions.

Trying to solve most problems is like trying to put together a puzzle without first seeing the picture on the box. We know that a solution exists provided that all the elements are put together in the right way. “A problem well posed is a problem half solved” said GK Chesterton so having the picture of what we are trying to solve will get us to the solution faster.

The architect of the Duomo in Florence died without leaving plans for the construction of the huge dome. This left a dilemma as no one could figure out how to do it, so the Duomo was built without a dome. A hundred years later, someone came across an ancient document that described how they built the dome of the Pantheon in ancient Rome by filling the space between the walls with earth. A neat piece of lateral thinking honed by scattering coins into the dirt so that once the building was completed, the eager populace was invited to take the dirt and rubble away. For some reason, the authorities did not adopt this system and held a contest instead. Brunelleschi came up with the answer by tapping an egg on a table, so it dented, then stood it up. He got the job.

the Santa Trinita Bridge in Florence, blown up during the World War, has been reconstructed from photographs and Ammannati’s original drawings. One difficulty was that the curves of the arcs did not conform to standard geometry. Some have speculated that they were catenary curves, the shapes produced by the loop of the chain, others that they derived from the shape of a violin. Finally, someone suggested that they were drawn freehand by someone brighter than Ammannati. They were right. When Cosimo de’ Medici commanded the bridge he was talking to too Michelangelo on other topics. Ammannati simply executed the solution. The original design of the triple curves is found engraved in the tombs of the Medici on Michelangelo’s sarcophagi of Night and Day, Dusk and Dawn. There is a juicy but possibly wrong quote from Michelangelo’s comment on seeing the sculpture of Neptune in Piazza della Signoria in Florence `Ammannato, Ammannato, che bel marmo hai rovinato.’ (Oh Ammannato, what a beautiful piece of marble you ruined.’)

The other problem with problem solving in management is that we explain and define problems and solutions in words. The temptation to equate thought with language is due to the fact that words are more tangible than thoughts.

Thinking is hard work; few do it. This is how it can be broadly categorized:

Natural thinking. It is fluid and undirected, it wanders and meanders, it is subject to repetitions and generalizations. The kind of thinking that happens when we don’t think we think.

Logical thinking. This selects a route and follows it to its conclusion. With this approach, the solution is largely predetermined, so if you go in the wrong direction, you may end up getting yourself into a corner.

Model thinking. It limits thoughts to operate within given rules. Therefore, the solutions are limited by the possibilities available in the model.

Lateral thinking. It is a deliberate intention without a specific goal. Freewheel to reveal solutions that might have been overlooked in other approaches.

Grasshopper thought. Most of the time, our thinking oscillates around an alternation and mixture between a reasoning that adheres to measurable answers and an imagination that allows unpredictable currents to play with the data.

“For hundreds of years we believed that if something makes sense in hindsight, then logic should have been enough to get the idea in the first place. This is complete and utter bullshit. wrote Edward de Bono in “I’m right, you’re wrong”.

Since Aristotle, logical thinking has been extolled as the most effective way to use the mind, but it doesn’t help much in generating new ideas. You have a chance to look at things from different angles if you maneuver your mind like this Australian bird that can fly upside down and upside down. Turning problems upside down can often turn them into solutions.

At the height of disillusionment over Vietnam, a brilliant senator suggested that the best way for America to emerge from the mess was to declare victory and step down immediately.

A man on learning that his son had lost his credit card didn’t bother to report the loss because the thief didn’t spend as much as he did.

the Nijo Castle in Japan is famous for its Nightingale Floor. This is cleverly constructed so that even with the lightest step the planks emit a creak – to warn of approaching assassins.

the Shilla Kings of the ancient Korean empire were buried in tombs covered with loose rocks and stones that created huge mounds. When the thieves tried to dig a hole, the space immediately filled with rubble.

Zugzwanged is a chess term that describes how black, due to white’s extra move at the start of the game, is forced to play a losing move. Thus, the obligation to act without thinking is a serious and decisive disadvantage.

A potzer is a chess term for a weak player with an inflated ego.

By thinking creatively to identify problems and imagine solutions, most of us are Potzers and life makes us Zugswanger most of the time.

Think long. Think carefully. Keep thinking.

Shubhranshu Singh is Vice President, Marketing – National and IB, CVBU, Tata Motors. He writes Simply Speaking, a weekly column on Storyboard18. The opinions expressed are personal.

Note to readers: I am intrigued by information such as eight percent of the population is left-handed, that giraffes sleep only five minutes every twenty-four hours and so on, which is unnecessary but important! In the 18th century, German aristocrats kept glazed cabinets that displayed trinkets. They called it Wunderkammern. This column is such a thing. In an unmarked field, it’s easy to walk around… I want to open windows to glimpse views rather than a thriller or a how-to. I have a license to be long or short. Be structured or abrupt. This column has no beginning, middle or end. It is a journey without a destination. Simply speaking…

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