Sustaining creativity


Creativity can be stimulated by information or an event. But how does creative thought develop when there is no such stimulus? How can you achieve sustained creativity on demand?

The deliberate tools of lateral thinking is the answer. Our own minds can provide the events that trigger new ideas if we train them to do so.

Try to think of five different ways of running a car park in 20 minutes. This simple test shows the difference between the deliberate formulation of ideas and just waiting for inspiration.

You can use a very simple technique which seems completely illogical in terms of our normal thinking habits. Take a random word and use it to come up with new ideas. If this word is truly random, then it can be applied to any situation - any word would apply to any situation.

Looking at my watch, it shows 56 seconds. So I look up word number 56 on a list of random words and see that the word is 'coin'. Now I can use the word 'coin' to stimulate new ideas on running a car park.

Most obviously, the car park could be coin operated – either the whole car park or individual parking areas.

We can now try to get more ideas from the same word. Coins are round so that could suggest a circular car park in a spiral arrangement.

Coins have two faces, which could inspire a short-term car park and a longer-term car park.

Coins are a convenient, transportable store of value – maybe petrol stations could give vouchers or tokens that could be used as a means of payment in car parks.

Coins are stored loosely in pockets or purses. This could suggest that cars would drive onto a small mobile platform which could then be moved around the car park to get the most out of the space available.

Small coins can be put together to equal the value of a bigger coin. Maybe there could be 'free' car parks run on a points system. A certain number of points would be required for entry.

'Value' is suggested by coins - what is the value of a car park? Is it simply a place to park a car? Maybe the car park could own all the cars that used the car park and lease both the car and the place to park the car.

Coins also suggest 'exchange'. You could exchange your fast car for a much smaller city car once you drive into the car park.

These are just a few of the ideas that you can come up with using one random word. The point of the exercise is to show that we no longer need to see creativity as a mystical gift, or the outcome of a brainstorming session, or the result of a chance event.

In other words, creativity can be as deliberate as mathematics.

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About The Author

Edward de Bono
Edward de Bono

Edward de Bono is a leading authority in the field of creative thinking. Over 35 years after the publication of his first book, "The Mechanism of Mind", the basic principles he outlined are now mainstream thinking in the mathematics of self-organising systems and in the design of neuro-computers. His many subsequent books have been translated into 26 languages.