Back in the 1970s, Edward de Bono, from Malta of all places, originated the term “lateral thinking,” and authored the book “Mechanism of the Mind,” where he emphasized the importance of disrupting conventional patterns of thinking in order to facilitate creativity. Lateral thinking is about creative problem solving, said he, whereas horizontal thinking is daydreaming without putting those ideas into action, and vertical thinking is about nitpicking and conforming to old ideas. De Bono suggests that creativity begins with perception. But that was then. More recently, (in the past twenty years), Roger Penrose wrote “The Emperor’s New Mind,” which covers a wide range of scientific concepts including artificial intelligence, but also makes the case that creativity can be explained in terms of quantum physics. Any given person has billions and billions of thoughts which are like subatomic particles that can result in any of numerous possibilities. Heady stuff.
Such abstractness is good food for thought, but for all who want something more practical there is “Thinkertoys,” by Michael Michalko, who is said to be one of the “most highly acclaimed creativity experts in the world.” The book has four parts, Linear Thinkertoys, Intuitive Thinkertoys, Group Thinkertoys and Endtoys. In one of his articles on creativity and the mind, Michalko tells the story of Swiss Inventor George de Mestral who wanted to improve on the humble zipper. While ruminating on the concept of fasteners, de Mestral took his dog for a walk. Upon returning, he realized that numerous burrs from plants had fastened themselves to him and to his dog. By analyzing the ideas behind Mother Nature’s fasteners, de Mestral invented Velcro – a combination of two words for velvet and crochet. Meanwhile, Frank Capra once said, “A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something.”