One of the “big” things of the 60′s and 70′s was to learn to expand your mind using a variety of tools and techniques, most of which I vaguely recall as involving a chemical intervention. Not that I would know anything about that. You don’t hear much talk about that concept these days but I still think it’s a good idea.
The creativity genius Edward de Bono wrote a book called “The Mechanism of Mind,” which offered suggestions to improve anyone’s creative thinking. Most of his advice is very practical and simple. But not necessarily easy. That’s because we have been trained to think in a certain way and really don’t know any other. de Bono starts by suggesting that we look at a problem in different ways if we want to be creative.
To do that he suggests a number of techniques:
Expand Your Thinking, Randomly: Try opening a book at random, or pointing to a word by random. Go for a walk and let the objects you see influence your thinking. Whatever the input is, it has to be random and from outside your mind.
Expand Your Idea Quota: Just because you have thought up a perfectly good solution to your problem, don’t stop. You may be able to come up with an even better solution. One way to practice this is to set a goal of finding three solutions and picking the best.
Expand Your Attention: Try and bring your attention to different parts of the problem: If you bring one aspect of a problem into the foreground of your thoughts for a while it will sometimes lead you to a full solution of the problem.
Expand Your Thinking, in Reverse: Try thinking of the opposite situation or problem to what you might be facing. It might be a reversal in size, time, direction or meaning. Asking a question about a problem in the opposite way may in fact lead to some other solution that one might not have thought of if one hadn’t asked the question.
As I said, simple, but not easy. But try expanding your mind. It just might work. After all, what’s the alternative?
Mike Martin is the author of The Walker on the Cape, a Sgt. Windflower mystery.