Thursday, March 4, 2010

9 strategies to think like a genius

I found this list of strategies for creative problem-solving on the website "StumbleUpon".  Years ago I taught classes on creative thinking at the college level and these suggestions are not new, but are excellent for nudging the mind out of its favourite thinking ruts.  We all need to think and live more creatively in challenging times, so I encourage you to give these easy time-tested tips a try!

The following strategies encourage you to think productively, rather than reproductively, in order to arrive at solutions to problems. The following creative thinking strategies are common to the thinking styles of geniuses in science, art, and industry throughout the ages.

Look at problems in many different ways.
Find new perspectives that no one else has taken (or no one else has publicized!)

Leonardo da Vinci believed that to gain knowledge about the form of a problem, you begin by learning how to restructure it in many different ways. He felt that the first way he looked at a problem was too biased. Often, the problem itself is reconstructed and becomes a new one.


When Einstein thought through a problem, he always found it necessary to formulate his subject in as many different ways as possible, including using diagrams. He visualized solutions, and believed that words and numbers as such did not play a significant role in his thinking process.

A distinguishing characteristic of genius is productivity.

Thomas Edison held 1,093 patents. He guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his assistants idea quotas. In a study of 2,036 scientists throughout history, Dean Keith Simonton of the University of California at Davis found that the most respected scientists produced not only great works, but also many "bad" ones. They weren't afraid to fail, or to produce mediocre in order to arrive at excellence.

Make novel combinations.
Combine, and recombine, ideas, images, and thoughts into different combinations no matter how incongruent or unusual.

The Austrian monk Grego Mendel combined mathematics and biology
to create a new science of heredity. The modern science of genetics is based upon his model.

Form relationships.
Make connections between dissimilar subjects.

Da Vinci forced a relationship between the sound of a bell and a stone hitting water. This enabled him to make the connection that sound travels in waves. Samuel Morse invented relay stations for telegraphic signals when observing relay stations for horses.

Think in opposites.

Physicist Niels Bohr believed that if you  held opposites together, then you suspend your thought, and your mind moves to a new level. His ability to imagine light as both a particle and a wave led to his conception of the principle of complementarity. Suspending thought (logic) may allow your mind to create a new form.

Think metaphorically.

Aristotle considered metaphor a sign of genius, and believed that the individual who had the capacity to perceive resemblances between two separate areas of existence and link them together was a person of special gifts.

Prepare yourself for chance.

Whenever we attempt to do something and fail, we end up doing something else. That is the first principle of creative accident. Failure can be productive only if we do not focus on it as an unproductive result. Instead: analyze the process, its components, and how you can change them, to arrive at other results. Do not ask the question "Why have I failed?", but rather "What have I done?"

Have patience

Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906) is recognized as one of the 19th century's greatest painters, and is often called the father of modern art, an avant garde bridge between the impressionists and the cubists. During his life he only had a few exhibitions though his influence on subsequent artists was great as an innovator with shape and form. His genius, however, was not evident until late in life. He was refused admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts at age 22 and his first solo exhibition was at age 56. His genius was the product of many years' practice and experimental innovation.


  1. And perhaps, a tenth:

    Look/listen/feel outside the box for something that's missing.

  2. Bonnie,
    Excellent post. Yet another thing I should print out and stick up on my bulletin board!!

    Something else about Cezanne that has something to do with patience - although not his own - is that his father, an accountant, assisted his son throughout his life, although he neither understood his son's art nor was particularly interested in art of any sort.

    There was no deadline, in the father's view, for his son to be 'out of the house' and independent. He recognized, apparently, that his son was committed to something and needed help in order to achieve it.

    This isn't relevant to your post, really, but finding this out made me re-think the arbitrariness of the age at which we expect young people to be independent. Hmm...maybe I'll write a post about this! Or maybe you have already!

    Back to the topic at hand, thank goodness there were examples given, otherwise I would have been a little stuck on some of those concepts.

  3. To go beyond Dan's count, I think there may be an eleventh strategy--read Bonnie's blog daily to have your brain sufficiently expanded for new ideas to have the room they need to grow.

  4. COOL Bonnie! I feel smarter now- loved your comment on Dan's blog- the Buddha thing and gratitude. You are awesome crazy smart!

  5. wow,
    very impressive!
    jumped here from the way station

  6. Dan: Yes - get out of those old, confining, stifling, limiting boxes! Good advice Dan.

  7. Deborah: I think that would be a great topic for a post. So many of our children remain at home longer - or - return. It links to the topic of rituals of convention - it used to be a norm that children were expected to leave home by 21 or so ... I'm sure you would get a lot of different points of view on that.

  8. Barry: You're too kind. I just recycle material and put it up in hopes in can be of service.

  9. Linda Sue: I loved YOUR comment on Dan's blog about getting 'permission' to love our Buddha belly!

    Not smart - just old. By my age one has met many teachers.


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