--obtaining solutions from
resources external to the problem-solver:
"Serendipity," an elaborate word for "luck." This factor is far
slighter than the creativity literature suggests. "Many men," said Winston
Churchill while language was still male-bound, "stumble over discoveries.
Most of them pick themselves up and walk away." In truth, everyone is
often in the right place at the right time, but very few have practiced
enough observation to notice it when it happens. Fleming's penicillin
antibiotic response was apologetically shrugged off by at least 27
previous researchers in print (and Fleming himself got around to examining
the odd effect only after 15 years, at the urging of a student who didn't
know any better!). Reportedly, the breakthrough on discovering a plasma
test for effects of Dioxin (Agent Orange) was made by similar "accident"
at the Center for Communicable Diseases in Atlanta, Georgia. Reportedly
one of the research team, who liked to hunt, noticed how clean his bullets
were. Investigating how and why, led to a new method of hyper-cleaning the
parts to a mass spectrometer, using ammunition casing brass and dried corn
cobs. The extra cleanliness, in turn, enabled the mass spectrometer to
operate far more sensitively, a discovery ranging far beyond the Dioxin
Similarly, tens of thousands of researchers, teachers and
students have had the same experience as did Dr. Michael Zaslov in his
1987 discovery of a new antibiotic at the National Institutes of Health,
as reported by A.P. in most major newspapers. His case, too, will no doubt
be cited in the literature as "another instance of Serendipity." But being
observant was the critical variable here, not luck. Millions have
partially dissected frogs, then returned them still living to their highly
septic medium overnight, and gone on with them the next morning, and
thought nothing of the fact that they were still alive and uninfected.
Millions with that experience, and only one Michael Zaslov.
The most potent technique presently known for building
powers of observation is the simple practice of Image Streaming, as taught
earlier in this book.
Expertise. Today this strategy is relatively overinvested, but
can still often be useful, not least of all because the outsider has not
yet learned all the places where s/he should not look, and moreover has
not yet neuronally habituated on the matter in question. Thus, we (I
emphasize the "we" - that includes you) can often solve one another's
problems more easily than we can our own.
1. "Library research," data in the computer or in Internet
and in other records. Information explosion and the information revolution
illustrate both some of the plusses and minusses of this strategy for
solution-finding. Note that it seems natural to try to solve a problem
based upon what we know about it - but if the problem does not solve
fairly readily by that means and most don't, what we know about it becomes
the problem because that "knowledge" obscures our view of the fresh
perceptions needed for that solution.
2. Consultant experts - mostly overinvested, relative to
other ways of finding solutions, but still productive at times.
3. Charisma, "rally the troops" en masse to the task so
that some of them, at least, will manage to solve the
4. Train more people to be effective problem-solvers - the
avowed purpose of our own programs and publications.
Power, external leverage - the effectiveness of this category of
techniques can be argued but is uneven. Strong cases have on occasion been
made for each of the various following approaches--
1. Call on The Boss to do it.
2. Call on the Godfather to do it.
3. Magic - some way to manipulate the territory from the
map, however necessarily the one differs from the other.
4. Call on God to do it - some way to manipulate the Owner
of the territory, commonly called "the power of prayer," but "prayer" in
the sense of telling God what to do instead of "prayer" in the sense of
5. Depend upon Luck, or the passage of time, or for the
problem to somehow solve itself.
Though discussed briefly at the start of this draft taxonomy, Sector Three deserves to
be a major division of problem-solving methods despite its usually
being ignored: Reinvest whatever are your best methods for solving
problems, into the problem of how to create new and BETTER
problem-solving methods! Pursuit of this principle of reinvestment
can build and has built phenomenal methodological capital over
Extending this "Sector Three" into a
Traditionally, each main school or
proponent of creative problem-solving, developed (or borrowed!) one
or a few good techniques and practices, and offered these as The Way
to effectively solve problems.
In a world where problems are
accumulating far more rapidly than solutions, we strongly urge more
people to begin applying this principle of re-investing methods into
better methods, building effective problem-solving into an even
better science than it has recently become.
One way you can start doing this is to
start brainstorming out, sorting out, and "taxonomicizing"
everything that you know about creativity and answer-finding. You
may have a lot more of this than you yet realize.
Hey - the whole universe is yours to draw
upon. The resources available to your mind truly appear to be
without limit, and having read this far, how can you not put at
least some of all this to legitimate test. Having tested these
matters and found something of what truly is at stake, how can any
living human being not go forward with this, without apparent
limits? --And look at all that wonderful scenery you get to take in
along the way!
Indeed, we concur in yet one more regard
with Dr. Jean Houston, who in her recent lectures has been saying
that "for the uses we put our remarkably developed brain to, we are
obscenely over-endowed!" You, for instance, have brains enough to
run a galaxy. What have you been doing with them?