Thursday, October 18, 2012

Asking The BIG Question...

An interesting exercise I recently tried had me tapping into my  stream of consciousness - I had to write down (or ask) 100 questions in a row.  It came from the book How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci. The book posits that one of Da Vinci's true gifts was his curiosity - that the basis for creativity is curiosity.  

It's strange but it occurred to me  that I've been doing this blog on creativity for many months now and have never asked a very simple question - what is creativity? Is it a single entity? Is it an actual thing that you make - as in you make stuff, therefore you must be creative? Interestingly enough, it reminds me of our origin myths - they are the story of a creation - so at least creation holds a hallowed space. But what is creativity? Maybe it isn't just an action verb - maybe creativity is a byproduct of curiosity.

There's this fatal neurological disease called Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA) where the patient slowly loses their language capabilities. Within the disease, there is a small group who develop new creative skills in music and art. The individual becomes driven to create and wildly does so even after the ability to communicate with words has disappeared. Apparently there's a part of your brain that is a governor - it's the part that stops us from wearing our jammies to the job - well when this governor is laid of...the rest of the brain goes on a creating frenzy.

I digress ... back to my original thought, which is - what if creativity is merely a byproduct of something else? Isn't our curiosity where much of it all starts - that dreamy stare into space that starts the brain on the road to figuring out how to go to the moon? We're intuitively drawn to something and that's when the questions start. "What if I try this?" "What if I did it in blue?"

So, back to the exercise, they ask you to write down 100 questions and you've got to do them all at once because there are layers to your thought process and you need to get past the group at the top of your head. Somewhere towards the end you'll start to go somewhere new. I tried it and I must stay that #87 took a completely wild turn and I ended up with an extra 20-30 that I'm very interested in exploring.

What's really interesting about the exercise is the intense focus on asking questions - rather than finding solutions. I do know that it's important to focus on process as opposed to just results. The power in questions is that they can reframe how you look at a problem. Your questions come from your assumptions about how life works. The right question can flip the subject and open possibilities.

So...the challenge for today is to give it a try. Find somewhere you can sit undisturbed and start writing them down. It's okay to repeat things, that just gives you a sense of what you're focused on...go for it and see what happens!

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