Attention: Humans are conscious beings. We share a common experience of a sense of self – a trait some believe is uniquely human. Yet, we can only be conscious of one densely coherent stream of events and a conscious event may decay in a few milliseconds. Every conscious event is shaped by a number of enduring unconscious systems, specialized processors that operate on habitual, automated tasks without our awareness. The role of attention seems to be to select and simplify the multiplicity of messages coming through the senses. While we think of ourselves as conscious beings, we are in fact, unconscious of most of what goes on mentally within our system, and the more habitual the thought or behavior, the more it operates without conscious thought. To be creative requires, that the habitual be made conscious. We must focus our attention on something; typically something we have not focused much attention on before. All methods of creative thinking require that we prepare our minds to focus. This is best accomplished through the use of some technique that separates out the fundamental essence of the issue.
Attitude: Attitudes are predisposed mental disposition with regard to something. Such attitudes develop over time based on our interpretation of our experiences and range from a dislike of certain foods to spiritual beliefs. To have an attitude is to have a predisposed way of interpreting new information. We tend to formulate our point of view to protect our preconceived attitudes. It makes us distort, rationalize or forget things. In order to be creative, we must become aware of and then abandon or at least constrain our attitudes. One way to do this is to deliberately look at the issue from different perspectives. Creative thinking gurus suggest certain basics that can be extrapolated. We can look at the process – which deals with change in time and space [growth, transformation, development, evolution, sequence, stage and cycle]. By concentrating on the details of order we ask about phases and steps, expansion/diminishment, etc. Or we can look at differences [contrasts, distinctions] or similarities [connections, affiliations. These help us to define allegories – “This is like that” – or metaphors – “this is that”. In learning we change contexts by transforming the strange into the familiar, as when we describe gravity as an attraction. In innovating, we need to change contexts transforming the familiar into the strange.
We can also change our attitude by viewing the problem on a different order or level. What does society look like from a molecular level or an astrophysical level? Social problems of individuals look differently from higher or lower orders. All of these changes of perspectives are important, but perspective is not limited to these constructs. We can change our perspective by becoming someone or something else. “Walk a mile in my shoes”, even imaginatively, is a method of changing perspective. Thus the methods of delimiting attitudes, many of which are unconscious, are infinite; but unless one becomes consciously aware and makes a specific effort to develop a beginner’s mind, a mind that is open to considering new options all such perspectives are limited by our attitudes. One effective method is to prohibit your present thinking. If they passed a law prohibiting what you think should be done; what would you do?
Action: The natural mental process of judgement tends to reject new thoughts as not productive and inhibit the ability to get to more creative thoughts. The human mind has a hierarchy of ideas built into its attitudes, and the first ideas that appear to solve a problem are usually those that have worked in the past. While this is quite effective for solving the day-to-day problems, it interferes with creativity. Taking action then means developing an energy, an élan for ideas themselves; no matter how bizarre they may at first appear. Brainstorming, nominal group technique and the like are simply ways of keeping the action going for a while before any conclusions are drawn. While groups can be helpful in breaking down judgements, since most groups will contain at least one person who has a differing set of attitudes; it is not necessary. It is like trying to find the largest number of words out of the letters contained in a single word. When you decide that you have found all you can, you quit trying. However, if you walk away for some period of time and then come back, you may find more. How long are you willing to keep the action going so that more solutions can be found? And this is just a change in perspective occurring because of time. If a specific process for changing attitudes enhances the process of seeking alternative solutions, the imagination is stimulated to find more alternative solutions.
Creative thinking is merely ‘dreaming’ however, unless there is a productive aspect to the process. Unlike our word finding, we do need at some point to make judgements and decide upon a preferred solution to solve a problem or create an innovation or invention. Further, we must act upon the solution. Having thought of personal computers first, is not nearly as effective as having created the Apple Computer.