To be creative, you must unleash your curiosity, quest for knowledge, and propensity for noticing things. No lesser minds than Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein were noted for being passionately curious, using their imagination as their prime lens to see ahead and their creativity to solve problems. Einstein wrote: "The important thing is not to stop questioning." You should also notice all kinds of things, however unrelated to your quest they may seem. When Will Carrier noticed the apparently odd behavior of water droplets in fog, he had stumbled into the basics of air conditioning, the ground-breaking technology of his Carrier Corporation.
“For three weeks, the Huygens probe had coasted, dormant, after detaching from the Cassini spacecraft and being sent on its way to Titan. Those of us watching anxiously felt a deep personal connection with the probe. Not only had we worked on the mission for a large part of our careers, but we had developed its systems and instrumentation by putting our minds in its place, to think through how it would function on an alien and largely unknown world.” So wrote Ralph Lorenz and Christophe Sotin in the Scientific American about their great space adventure.
These space scientists nailed it: to make new theories, new inventions, and other great creations, we have to do better than adjusting existing theories and designs. We must forcefully move our mind beyond the existing thinking about the subject. We must move out of our conscious world and focus our mind in a new place occupied only by the new creation.
Reduced to its simplest elements, what you are required to do is solve a problem or construct a work of art without a complete set of instructions or without comprehensive data. In a creative process you are using your imagination to make an appealing or useful whole from a set of components that would not appear to be sufficient or adequate for the job. To do this you need to see beyond mere recollection or simple association. You are projecting the mind’s eye to another point in space or time. You are putting your conscious being in an entirely different surrounding environment.
One way of looking at this process is that you will be creating a new mind out of your regular mind.
Einstein placed himself in speeding trains, moving clocks and elevators in space. This was more than metaphorical thinking; it was a mind transforming itself to another place. Einstein’s strength came from his imagination and creativity. For the most part his mathematics is a precise description of the relationships he discovered rather than the way he arrived at those relationships.
See more at the invention page.
Larry Kilham is a Sloan School of Management graduate from MIT, received three patents, and has founded two high-tech companies. Many of his product designs required innovative use of computers, and as early as the 1960s he was researching artificial intelligence (AI).