hemisphere is apt to be organized, planned, and pre- cise. Language and mathematics are left-hemisphere activities. Right-hemisphere thinking is concerned with intuition, synthesis, playfulness, and qualitative judgment. It tends to be more spontaneous, imagina- tive, and emotional than left-hemisphere thinking. The emphasis in most formal education is toward left- hemisphere thought development even more in Eastern cultures than in Western cultures. Problem solving on the basis of reason, logic, and utility is gen- erally rewarded, while problem solving based on sen- timent, intuition, or pleasure is frequently considered tenuous and inferior.
process of writing down as many words as you can remember.
Most people remember more words from the first list than from the second. This is because the first list contains words that relate to visual perceptions. They connect with right-brain activity as well as left-brain activity. People can draw mental pictures or fantasize about them. The same is true for creative ideas. The more both sides of the brain are used, the more cre- ative the ideas.
REVIEW OF CONCEPTUAL BLOCKS
A number of researchers have found that the most creative problem solvers are ambidextrous in their thinking. That is, they use both left- and right- hemisphere thinking and easily switch from one to the other (Hermann, 1981; Hudspith, 1985; Martin- dale, 1999). Creative ideas arise most frequently in the right hemisphere but must be processed and inter- preted by the left, so creative problem solvers use both hemispheres equally well.
Try the exercise in Table 4. It illustrates this ambidextrous principle. There are two lists of words. Take about two minutes to memorize the first list. Then, on a piece of paper, write down as many words as you can remember. Now take about two minutes and memorize the words in the second list. Repeat the
Source: Von Oech, R. (1986). A kick in the seat of the pants. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Exercise to Test Ambidextrous Thinking
So far, we have suggested that certain conceptual blocks prevent individuals from solving problems cre- atively. These blocks, summarized earlier in Table 3, narrow the scope of problem definition, limit the con- sideration of alternative solutions, and constrain the selection of an optimal solution. Unfortunately, many of these conceptual blocks are unconscious, and it is only by being confronted with problems that are unsolvable because of conceptual blocks that individu- als become aware that they exist. We have attempted to make you aware of your own conceptual blocks by asking you to solve problems that require you to over- come these mental barriers. These conceptual blocks are not all bad, of course; not all problems should be addressed by creative problem solving. But research has shown that individuals who have developed cre- ative problem-solving skills are far more effective with complex problems that require a search for alternative solutions than others who are conceptually blocked (Basadur, 1979; Collins & Amabile, 1999; Sternberg, 1999; Williams & Yang, 1999).
In the next section, we provide some techniques and tools that help overcome these blocks and improve creative problem-solving skills.
Conceptual blocks cannot be overcome all at once because most blocks are a product of years of habit- forming thought processes. Overcoming them requires practice in thinking in different ways over a long period of time. You will not become a skilled creative problem solver just by reading this chapter. By becom- ing aware of your conceptual blocks and practicing the following techniques, however, research has demon- strated that you can enhance your creative problem- solving skills.
SOLVING PROBLEMS ANALYTICALLY AND CREATIVELY