Break it down – A lesson in creative insight

To spark creative insight, you don’t necessarily need to start from scratch.

Staring at that blank sheet of paper for hours on end probably isn’t doing you any favors.

We find inspiration from increasing the number of associations in our brain, and according to new research , also breaking apart our items of inspiration to just their component parts.

This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about this technique for busting through rigid thinking, also known as “functional fixedness”.

To overcome your functional fixedness, says researcher Tony McCaffrey:

1. Break down the item at hand into basic parts

2. Name each part in a way that does not imply meaning.

Strip away the fixed associations that are holding you back.

In his research, subjects he trained on this technique solved 67 percent more problems requiring creative insight than subjects who did not learn the technique, according to his study published in March in Psychological Science.

Give this trick to engineer friends, and those who enjoy and crave tactile problem-solving and learning.

His research is a nice reminder to remove the limitations we put on everyday objects, and maybe even… people? Is our description or label of something or someone keeping us from creative insight and innovation and a better way of working?

To me, this technique applies to more than just design thinking. Finding your creative solution starts with building your platform. What do you already have to work with. How can you “yes, and”, or amplify these pieces to find your creative solution?

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