Last time I described our creative attempts somewhat like a heroic battle with a dragon. Briefly: facing any sudden or new situation (e.g. problem) first we use the primal part of our brain (closest to brainstem), called reptilian brain, what results in basic instinct reactions: fight or flight. Rest of our logical and creative parts of cerebrum are used just for recognition of feelings and rationalisation of already taken decisions. For subconsciousness it means life protection, for us – fear of leaving the comfort zone.  

In fact, there is a lot in it from a legend of St. George. So how to become your own hero? Any kid knows it. It turns out that apart from the automatic way of nerve impulse from stem through reptilian brain (reaction), then limbic system (emotion) to neocortex (thoughts), there is another one – roundabout through neocortex first – which gives us a chance to use our imaginative and intellectual abilities ahead of instinct. By taking a time and refraining from compulsive reactions we can cheat a reptilian brain. Al right – kids do not know this. But they behave as if they exactly knew. 

So, what do they do? They follow curiosity and ask questions – all the time, endlessly. They are more interested in asking them than in the answers they receive. Sometimes we (adults) are irritated by this because for us an answer is a main goal. What’s the sense in further asking if you have an answer? If you do not have it – find it quickly. Answers are most important. So much that sometimes we try to get them before we know a question. No kidding. I happened to attend the meetings where people spent a lot of time on proposing various answers before hearing a real question; just a general remark that we need to get this or we have to think about that. It is not a way. No wonder an old saying goes: better to ask the way than go astray. 

Yet questions are not equal. We remember from school the close-ended ones – verifying our knowledge and demanding specific precise answer – designed for testing the comprehension of what was taught before. They refer to knowledge, memory and established order. The rule is simple – you know the answer or not. In school this may work but with real life complex problems such an application of memorised schemes is not enough. We need more proactive approach, treating every problem individually. 

Open-ended questions are very useful for that. They stir natural curiosity, allure conjecture, and prompt an exploration of various options. They coax leaving behind familiar responses, schemes and associations – beyond our comfort zone. They inspire for using our creative abilities in confrontation with the problems. That is exactly why the creative techniques refer to them. Those are the questions which can help set the imagination free. 

So, how about you? Are you restless in confronting reality with own curiosity? What set of questions are you going to ask at the next meeting?

  • 2015-04-08 19:44:29
  • Darek Olak
  • creativity, problem solving, innovation, creative techniques, personal development