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Is There Creativity In Ignorance?

Natalie Portman recently gave a commencement speech at Harvard. She made an interesting point about inexperience and originality:

“Fear protects us in many ways, but what has served me is diving into my own obliviousness. Being more confident than I should be … trying things that you never would have tried. Your inexperience is an asset in that it will make you think in original, unconventional ways. Accept your lack of knowledge and use it as your asset.”

Creativity is often described as the ability to combine different ideas into one collectively novel idea. This form of creativity requires knowledge to begin with, it exists only if there is information to find connections and relationships between.

Perhaps, this is not the only form of creativity.

Screen shot 2015-07-20 at 3.14.04 PM“One common failure is the difficulty that most people have in discarding and transcending the ideas and perspectives of their peers.” — Ray Kurzweil

As we gain greater understanding of some topic or idea, we essentially learn it from different perspectives. If we were to listen to a single lecture from a single person, we get one perspective; by exploring other ideas and related topics, we get other perspectives.

Of course, you’d always want to get as many perspectives as you could, without which you’d likely lack any real grasp of the information.

But, at what point do we need to step back and critically examine the views that we’ve explored?

When one way has been championed for a long time, and the majority of perspectives lead down the same path, we run the risk of going with the heard. In this way, there is some creative value to delving into something headfirst, before we’ve taken the vantage point of an outdated pair of eyes.

Generation and Abundance

Make It Stick“By wading into the unknown first and puzzling through it, you are far more likely to learn and remember the solution.”Make It Stick

In terms of learning, generation refers to the attempt at solving a problem when one has not learned the way to do so. When we think of school, we often get given the means to solve math equations or some other problem first, then we’re asked to implement that method to solve problems of that type, and that is how we learn.

Turns out, when we put in time and effort to try to solve those problems before getting any help, we learn the material more effectively, even if we failed and had to be told the correct method.

Abundance“[…] ever since James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix in 1953, the business as usual of bioteck meant mammoth companies such as Genentech or Human Genome Project-sized government efforts, both requiring billions of dollars and thousands of researchers. All [Drew] Endy and his friends did was teach a monthlong class to a handful of students.”Steven Kotler & Peter H. Diamandis

Drew Endy is helping bring biology to the masses with BioBricks — biological building blocks that can be used to design biological circuits. Like you do with the electrical parts of a computer.

With the abundance of technology and freely available information everywhere, those activities that were once only the purview of those with extensive educations and working conditions that allowed for expensive gear, are now becoming accessible by anyone with a computer and delivery address.

Learn By Doing

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and falling over.” — Richard Branson

If we think about it, gleaning our knowledge by sitting passively in a classroom is not our natural method of learning. Before we had this schooling system, we’d be out exploring the world, fighting for survival, and learning through experience.

It’s not that you should try to remain ignorant, it’s simply more of a guide as to how to begin. Knowledge is of course very helpful to creativity in its own way, the idea however is to get some of that knowledge by going in blind.

Be happy with uncertainty, and welcome complexity. Don’t take someones else’s word for it, form your own understandings. You’ll feel much greater if you can solve a problem using your own ability than someone else’s.

“The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.” — Socrates

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Published in Brain Hacks Creativity

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