UTNE August '98

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The Art of Genius - Eight Ways fo Think Like Einstein, by Michael Michalko, Utne Reader, August 1998, p. 73-76, submitted by Jill Katrin

Thinking Creatively

Michael Michalko describes how for many years, researchers and scholars have studied what it takes to be a genius. Through their studies, they discovered that their data doesnt provide any concrete link of what makes a genius. Michalko discusses how a genius isnt about measuring the persons IQ, but really about the persons creative ability. He also discusses the distinction between thinking reproductively versus thinking productively. He discribes thinking reproductively as thinking about previously learned information, and then applying this with a clearly defined approach toward a solution to solve a problem. Contrary to this type of thinking is the productive approach where, the person strives to look at the problem in many different ways and explores numerous alternatives for solving the problem. Geniuses would then be categorized as productive learners.

According to Michalko, some of worlds great scholars have established eight thinking strategies that provide opportunities for geniuses to think creatively. They believe that our thinking strategies need to be thought out creatively to foster new new ideas. We have to go beyond our normal thinking and explore many alternatives to create originality. The eight thinking strategies were listed as follows: 1. Geniuses look at problems from all angles. 2. Geniuses make their thought visible. 3. Geniuses produce. 4. Geniuses make novel combinations. 5. Geniuses force relationships. 6. Geniuses think in opposites. 7. Geniuses think metaphorically. 8. Geniuses prepare themselves for chance.

The first thinking strategy has to do with viewing a problem in a way that is different from past experiences. A person needs to go beyond the first thing that comes to mind to explore other possibilites of solving the problem creatively. Second, information needs to be visually and spatially displayed in a way that fosters creativity. Works of Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei are good examples of this strategy. Third, productivity must be accomplished on a regular basis. Not all inventions, paintings, lyrics, etc. will be noted as the geniuss best work. Fourth, geniuses are continually combining ideas, images and thoughts. Fifth, geniuses are able to see connections to things that would otherwise go unnoticed. Sixth, geniuses are able to think with simultaneous and contradictory attitudes toward an object, person, or action. Seventh, Geniuses are able to think in a way that allows them to see similarities between two separate areas of existence. Finally, geniuses dont look at failure as an end to a problem, but as an opportunity to explore it further.

I agree with Michalkos statement, Similarly, we all have a rich repertoire of ideas and concepts based on past experiences that enable us to survive and prosper. But without any provision for variation, they become stagnant and ineffectual. I identify with this statement as taking the easy way out; just solve the problem in the most practical, logical way. Why should we challenge our minds to go beyond if we are satisfied with our solutions? As educators, I believe it is important for us to challenge our students to think creatively to produce creatively. I believe every individual is capable of achieving original ideas by thinking and producing in creative ways. Some students need a bigger push than others to get an activity rolling.

In discussing this article with colleagues, we felt that encouraging activities that fostered creativity was of great importance. We discussed how giving ideas or showing examples of projects discouraged childrens creativity because many children want to produce something that looks like the example. We all reflected about how some students creativity stands out. These are the students that are able go beyond the example or idea to produce something with uniqueness or creativity. These students arent necessarily the best writers, readers, or mathematicians. Creativity is sparked when they are truly self-absorbed in an activity. We also discussed the importance of gearing our assignments with student choice. This decision making process promotes the love of learning in a creative way. We all agreed that we often get self-absorbed with teaching to our textbook and loose sight of how we can teach in more challenging, and creative ways. If we want our students to produce creatively, we must provide ample time, materials, and choice. We discussed the importance of cooperative grouping, web writing, and use of asking open-ended questions as helpful teaching tools.

In conclusion, we might not all think the way geniuses do, but I feel that all individuals are creative in their own way. Thinking productively, allows us to visualize and produce many possibilities. It allows us to think the unthought, discover the undiscovered and create the uncreated. I also feel that it is up to each of us to make the best of our hidden talents. As Michalko states, When you find something interesting, drop everything and go with it, and They dont wait for gifts of chance; they make them happen.

-- Anonymous, January 09, 1999

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