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Lesson Plans

8 ways to think like Einstein

From: Patricia Knott (pknott)
Date: Sat Jul 01 2000 - 07:02:08 PDT

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    This is from an article in Utne Reader July/Aug. '98, adapted from an
    article in the May '98 issue of The Futurist

    It's about studies that try to determine the thinking strategies of
    geniuses. By studying the notebooks, correspondence, and conversations of
    some of the world's great thinkers in science, art, and industry, scholars
    have identified eight thinking strategies that enable geniuses to generate
    original ideas:
    1. Look at problems from all angles.
           "To solve a problem creatively, you must abandon the first approach
    that comes to mind, which usually stems from past experience, and
    reconceptualize the problem. Geniuses do not merely solve existing
    problems; they identify new ones."
    2. Make thoughts visible.
           "Einstein thought in terms of spatial forms, rather than along purely
    mathematical or verbal lines. In fact, he believed that words and numbers
    did not play a significant role in his thinking process.
    3. Produce
            " Edison held 1,093 patents... and gave himself idea quotas: one
    minor invention every 10 days and a major invention every six months. Bach
    wrote a cantata every week, Mozart produced 600 pieces of music...'
    4. Make novel combinations
           " Like playful children with buckets of building blocks, geniuses
    constantly combine and recombine ideas, images, and thoughts. Einstein
    didn't invent the concepts of energy, mass, or speed of light; he simply
    combined them in a novel way."
    5. Force relationships
           "Their facility to connect the unconnected enables geniuses to see
    things others miss.'
    6. Think in opposites
           "Geniuses...can tolerate ambivalence between two incompatible
    subjects...if you hold opposites together in your mind, you will suspend
    your normal thinking process and allow an intelligence beyond rational
    thought to create a new form."
    7. Think metaphorically
            "Aristotle believed that the ability to perceive resemblances
    between two separate areas of existence is a special gift."
    8. Prepare yourself for chance
           "Whenever we attempt to do something and fail, we end up doing
    something else. That's the first principle of creative accident....the
    creative accident leads to the question: What have we done? Answering that
    one in a novel, unexpected way is the essential creative act. It is not
    luck, but creative insight of the highest order."

    So there it is, go teach it (I'M SMILING)
    Seriously, the recently recommended Art Synectics and Design Synectics, by
    Nicholas Roukes incorporates many of these thinking strategies. These are
    excellent sources for exercise and project ideas.


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