accept may not be correct. This may create resistance, conflict, or even ridicule by others.
Creative problem solving is inherently risky, there- fore, because it potentially involves interpersonal con- flict. It is risky also because it is fraught with mistakes. As Linus Pauling, the Nobel laureate, said, “If you want to have a good idea, have a lot of them, because most of them will be bad ones.” Years of nonsupport- ive socialization, however, block the adventuresome and inquisitive stance in most people. Most of us are not rewarded for bad ideas. To illustrate, answer the following questions for yourself:
When would it be easier to learn a new lan- guage, when you were 5 years old or now? Why?
How many times in the last month have you tried something for which the probability of success was less than 50 percent?
When was the last time you asked three “why” questions in a row? To illustrate the extent of our lack of inquisitive-
ness, how many of the following commonly experi- enced questions can you answer?
❏ Why are people immune to their own body odor?
❏ Why are there 21 guns in a 21-gun salute? ❏ What happens to the tread that wears off tires? ❏ Why doesn’t sugar spoil or get moldy?
❏ Why doesn’t a two-by-four measure two inches by four inches?
❏ Why doesn’t postage stamp glue have flavor- ing?
❏ Why is a telephone keypad arranged differently from that of a calculator?
❏ Why do hot dogs come 10 in a package while buns come 8 in a package?
❏ How do military cadets find their caps after throwing them in the air at football games and graduation?
❏ Why is Jack the nickname for John?
❏ How do they print the M&M on M&M can- dies?
Most of us adopt a habit of being a bit complacent in asking such questions, let alone finding out the answers. We often stop being inquisitive as we get older because we learn that it is good to be intelligent,
and being intelligent is interpreted as already knowing the answers, instead of asking good questions. Consequently, we learn less well at 35 than at 5, take fewer risks, avoid asking why, and function in the world without trying to understand it. Creative prob- lem solvers, however, are frequently engaged in inquis- itive and experimental behavior. Spence Silver at 3M described his attitude about the complacency block this way:
People like myself get excited about looking for new properties in materials. I find that very satisfying, to perturb the structure slightly and just see what happens. I have a hard time talk- ing people into doing that—people who are more highly trained. It’s been my experience that people are reluctant just to tr , to experi- ment—just to see what will happen. (Nayak & Ketteringham, 1986: 58)
Bias Against Thinking
A second manifestation of the complacency block is in an inclination to avoid doing cognitive work. This block, like most of the others, is partly a cultural bias as well as a personal one. For example, assume that you passed by your subordinate’s office one day and noticed him leaning back in his chair, staring out the window. A half-hour later, as you passed by again, he had his feet up on the desk, still staring out the win- dow. And 20 minutes later, you noticed that his demeanor hadn’t changed much. What would be your conclusion? Most of us would assume that the fellow was not doing any work. We would assume that unless we saw action, he wasn’t being productive.
When was the last time you heard someone say, “I’m sorry. I can’t go to the ball game (or concert, dance, party, or movie) because I have to think”? Or, “I’ll do the dishes tonight. I know you need to catch up on your thinking”? That these statements sound outlandish illustrates the bias most people develop toward action rather than thought, or against putting their feet up, rocking back in their chair, looking off into space, and engaging in solitary congnitive activity. This does not mean daydreaming or fantasizing, but thinking.
There is a particular conceptual block in Western cultures against the kind of thinking that uses the right hemisphere of the brain. Left-hemisphere thinking, for most people, is concerned with logical, analytical, linear, or sequential tasks. Thinking using the left
SOLVING PROBLEMS ANALYTICALLY AND CREATIVELY