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Creative thinking – how to get out of the box and generate ideas: Giovanni Corazza at TEDxRoma

Transcript

0:00
Translator: Michele Gianella Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard
0:24
Sometimes, easy means difficult.
0:27
Have you ever been assigned an easy task,
0:30
which for you is actually very difficult to perform,
0:33
and maybe for nobody else?
0:35
That is when you experience frustration.
0:38
I have experienced that when I started taking singing lessons,
0:42
and my teacher told me to breathe with my diaphragm.
0:45
That’s easy, it’s our natural breath, but actually very difficult to do,
0:50
and it’s a secret of the great singers.
0:54
It’s similar to what happens
0:56
when a boss comes into a meeting and tells you to think out of the box.
1:01
Come on, give me your creative ideas.
1:04
Think out of the box. I want to hear that.
1:07
I need innovation.
1:09
Easy, simple, but actually very hard to do.
1:12
You need to practice.
1:13
You need to know how to get out of the box, where to go,
1:18
and how to come back inside the box, because that’s where we live.
1:22
We actually live inside our boxes.
1:24
I want to ask these questions.
1:26
I asked those questions to myself.
1:28
This presentation is a little journey through my answers.
1:32
I hope that some of these will resonate with yours.
1:35
The first thing is to ask, why.
1:37
Why should you really go out of the box?
1:40
Because inside the box, we feel safe.
1:43
We agree with everybody else.
1:46
And when we go out, we risk our reputation.
1:50
We worked so hard for a lifetime to build it up,
1:54
why should we risk it?
1:56
Is this something which is a luxury, that only a few people can do,
2:01
or is it really a necessity?
2:03
Why?
2:05
Think of our lives today.
2:07
We are really a part of a network.
2:09
We are nodes in a network.
2:11
We share information in a real time,
2:14
and we, in the end, all possess the same information.
2:19
That’s the end of it, and that is a scary thought.
2:24
If we all possess the same information,
2:27
what makes a difference between ourselves?
2:30
Where does our dignity as human beings lie?
2:34
It really depends on what we generate with that common shared information.
2:41
To think creatively, to go out of the box, is not a luxury.
2:46
It’s a necessity for us, and for our dignity as human beings.
2:51
Which box are we talking about?
2:53
We must have a clear definition,
2:56
so that we are really talking about something specific.
2:59
It’s not our mind; we cannot think out of our minds.
3:03
It’s a boundary within our minds.
3:07
The boundary between what we know,
3:10
and what we haven’t still, or yet, thought about.
3:14
What is our mind?
3:15
What is our knowledge structure?
3:17
It’s an emergent phenomenon out of the complex mechanism,
3:21
which is the brain.
3:24
We start with initial conditions, our genetic heritage.
3:28
We have boundary conditions, the environment.
3:31
We have indirect experience,
3:34
years and years spent in school and University
3:37
to learn what other people have thought,
3:39
what other people have discovered,
3:41
what other people have created.
3:42
Then, we have our own direct experience,
3:45
our successes, our failures that really make what we are.
3:50
All of this builds the anthill within which we live,
3:54
and we live very well in that.
3:57
Whatever we think inside that anthill, that box, we feel safe.
4:03
Whatever is outside, it’s invisible to us.
4:06
We don’t know what it’s outside.
4:08
That is why it’s so risky, because nobody else knows.
4:14
We are faced with something which is necessary to our dignity,
4:18
but actually it’s very difficult to do.
4:21
How do we go out of the box? How do we do that?
4:24
What are the mechanisms?
4:26
Do we need to wait for an apple to fall on our heads,
4:30
or are there some specific techniques?
4:34
Reality is out there for us to perceive it.
4:37
It’s beautiful. You see these flowers.
4:40
We have a lot of ideas, which is our convergent information,
4:44
the dominant ideas.
4:46
Whenever we need to think about an area, a focused area,
4:50
we have ideas on how things should be.
4:53
We have requirements, we have specifications.
4:56
We know how things are,
4:58
because that’s the way they always have been.
5:02
But if we want to go out of the box,
5:04
we need to add something more, a little spice,
5:08
something which goes beyond the convergent information.
5:11
Something wrong, something absurd,
5:15
something which apparently is not relevant,
5:18
something which takes us far.
5:20
This is what we call divergent information.
5:24
We need a little bit of that divergent information
5:28
to cross the borders within our minds,
5:31
from what we know to what we haven’t yet thought about.
5:35
This is the essential mechanism that is necessary,
5:40
and it takes us to a place where we don’t really know where to go.
5:45
We are suspended.
5:47
It’s like the middle game in chess.
5:49
Where do you go once you’re out of the box?
5:52
You have no preset direction.
5:55
It’s really a potential situation
5:59
that brings us to a feeling that we should immediately go back.
6:04
This does not make any sense.
6:06
Let’s go back to safe place. Let’s go back inside the box.
6:10
That’s a temptation that we need to resist.
6:15
We need to value long thinking.
6:18
Normally, we talk about brilliant thinking,
6:21
fast thinking, deep thinking,
6:24
but here we’re talking about something different,
6:27
long thinking.
6:28
What does that mean?
6:30
It’s some thought that takes us far.
6:34
It’s as if you were reading poetry or listening to music.
6:37
You don’t judge the single notes.
6:40
You don’t judge the single words.
6:43
It’s the ensemble that gives you a feeling, and takes you far.
6:48
We must do the same thing with our concepts.
6:51
We need to go far.
6:54
We can use association of ideas,
6:57
combination of ideas, extraction of principles,
7:01
and application of those principles
7:03
to areas where they were never applied before.
7:06
We need to be open-minded. We need to be fluent.
7:10
Look for alternatives, and not for the correct answer.
7:15
Because when you think creatively, there’s no single correct answer.
7:20
There are many possible alternatives.
7:23
Suppose now that we are lucky.
7:25
We land upon a new idea in our travel,
7:29
in the exploration out of the box.
7:31
What is the value of that?
7:34
How do we assess the value of a new idea?
7:37
It’s very difficult if it’s really new, because you’ve never seen that before.
7:42
Nobody else has seen that before.
7:44
It’s as if we landed on a new planet, totally undiscovered territory.
7:51
It’s difficult to understand the value of something new.
7:54
First of all, because we don’t feel entitled to be inventors.
7:59
Who am I to be the generator of that new idea?
8:02
Probably this has been thought about before.
8:05
If this is correct, somebody else would have done it before me.
8:10
These are all natural mechanisms with which we kill our own ideas.
8:15
We have to resist that.
8:17
We have to look for the match between the new idea
8:21
and our initial drive, our initial focus,
8:24
or evaluate the idea per se, for its own value
8:29
and maybe see that that’s something that solves another problem,
8:33
which it was not yours.
8:35
Serendipity happens all the time.
8:38
We just need to have the eyes to see that,
8:41
to notice the difference.
8:45
Ok, but we are social animals.
8:48
We live in an environment,
8:49
so to think out of the box, bring in new ideas,
8:52
is going to challenge that environment.
8:54
When is it a good idea to challenge everybody around you
8:59
in your working environment?
9:01
You have a boss.
9:02
You don’t really want to upset him or her.
9:05
When is it a good idea to think out of the box?
9:08
First of all, if the environment punishes mistakes,
9:13
you will never be really tempted to go out of the box.
9:17
You will remain safely in a known environment.
9:21
If you want to stimulate an environment which is creative,
9:25
you need to allow the existence of divergent information.
9:31
You need to allow irrelevant information to come in.
9:35
You have to mix and match different disciplines.
9:38
You have to use metaphors in the organization.
9:42
Only in that case, you will allow the environment
9:46
to be really prone to the generation of new ideas.
9:51
I want to end my talk with a little experiment.
9:55
We wanted to do this interactively with you,
9:57
but the time is scarce.
9:58
I have indeed prepared a little thing,
10:01
but if you believe me, and to be honest,
10:04
this has been generated in the space of few minutes.
10:07
The generation of ideas, this travel outside of the box,
10:11
is something which happens very fast.
10:14
Where should we experiment?
10:16
Let’s say that we want to generate new ideas about TEDx Conferences.
10:22
We are here, so that’s a focused area which is very clear to all of us.
10:27
Let’s start from the convergent information about TEDx Conferences.
10:33
What is needed to make an excellent, good TEDx conference?
10:38
You need the brilliant speakers that will come up.
10:42
You need an excellent theme.
10:46
You need fast speaker to speaker transitions.
10:51
You need grand settings.
10:53
The list can go on, and all I’m saying is things that you already know.
11:00
This is all convergent information, safe.
11:02
I’m not generating anything new. I’m inside the box.
11:06
Now I want to go out,
11:08
so I apply a divergent modifier
11:12
to any of these convergent elements.
11:15
Start from the last one for example, the grand setting.
11:19
A divergent modifier, for example, is to exaggerate.
11:22
Bring it to the limit.
11:24
Instead of thinking of a TEDx conferences in a theater,
11:28
think of a TEDx Conference in a stadium.
11:32
Does this make any sense, in a stadium?
11:34
Very difficult to organize, even more difficult than in a theater,
11:38
and how do you fill the place?
11:40
How do you fill the stadium?
11:42
It’s too difficult. It doesn’t make any sense.
11:45
I’m tempted to reject that idea.
11:48
But then I move, and I say,
11:50
ok, maybe the stadium is already filled with people.
11:54
From that, you can get the idea
11:57
of having a TEDx Conference at half-time of football matches,
12:03
a network of speeches which happens at half-time of football matches.
12:09
Good idea, bad idea? I leave it for you to assess.
12:13
Take another element: good speakers, brilliant speakers.
12:17
That’s the most fundamental element of a TEDx Conference.
12:20
Let’s take that away.
12:22
We eliminate the good, brilliant speakers.
12:26
Does this make any sense? No, we’re out of the box.
12:30
Does this lead to anything useful?
12:33
I could say that, OK, I don’t need the speakers,
12:37
but I need the speeches, the talks, the scripts.
12:41
From this comes the idea
12:43
of one speaker delivering the speech of somebody else.
12:48
We exchange speakers.
12:50
So it’s a cooperative TEDx Conference.
12:54
Maybe we have duets on stage, instead of a single element,
12:58
or we have people that speak about,
13:02
somebody has this topic.
13:03
In that way we have one advantage at least.
13:06
We take away the element of the ego.
13:08
There’s no ego anymore,
13:10
if you’re speaking with somebody else’s script.
13:13
These are just examples, just examples,
13:16
to show you that it’s possible and not too hard, actually,
13:20
to think out of the box.
13:22
I hope this journey, in a way, was interesting for you,
13:26
and now you want to do more of that.
13:29
Thank you very much for your attention.
13:31
(Applause)

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