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Civilizations and Creative Genius

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.


It has been argued elsewhere (most recently in a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert) that inordinate stress is placed upon creative genius, and a psychological way to reduce that stress is to place all the blame and credit for their genius-level breakthroughs on some outside higher force. This recourse, however, takes us away from examining the very tangible factors, in our environments, in ourselves and in our brains, which profoundly bear upon and affect how well we function, both at genius level and otherwise. Many of these tangible factors are known, indeed well demonstrated. Deliberate use of these gives us techniques: methods to increase creativity, to ingeniously and creatively solve challenges (problems and opportunities), and—now that brain plasticity is at last a topic for polite discussions—for increasing intelligence.

Hence, I propose a better way to reduce that stress and reduce the barriers to positive success which now burden and hamper the creative geniuses among us.

Not only a way but arguably the best and easiest way to ease the stresses placed on creative genius, is to make creative genius a lot less rare. Bring a lot more people to functioning at a level of creative genius, sharing the load so to speak.

(I will propose later in this briefing, also, that for us to do that—enabling a lot more people to be such geniuses—will also serve to much reduce the burdens on the rest of us, including those who choose to remain non-geniuses.)

One key to this for me is from my early—and professionally very-well-received—involvement with civilization theory. Though I've published formal theory there, I think an informal proposition says it best. Of perhaps forty identified high civilizations in history, all but a couple died of self-inflicted wounds, only one of natural causes. Conquest from outside wasn't a real factor; but, at best, the barbarians were sucked into Rome's concentrated-and-undefended wealth and thus into a meat grinder; Cortez was a triggering and very fortunate factor in an Aztec empire and Mexic civilization which was already on the point of exploding, etc.

There are dozens of reasonably plausible theories as to why so many civilizations essentially committed suicide. One description sounds terribly naive but fits all cases:

In every instance, people at all levels everywhere let problems pile up faster than they were solving them, until the burden of these became too great and everything came crashing.

Plenty of support for that naive-sounding proposition can be found in the details of the various accounts of how each civilization crashed. My own well-received theory was essentially a structural argument in a general systems context, pointing to structural reasons why advanced civilizations tend to lose their ability to solve their problems — Systems Theory. If I republish formally in that field, I will add a lot more from what I've found out this past half century about factors affecting creativity.

Point of all that, though, is this:

If there is truth in that naive-sounding proposition, then our own prognosis is profoundly affected by how many people are able and willing to solve the problems they find around them.
That brings me back to my first proposition above, that we need to bring a lot more people to functioning at a level of creative genius, sharing the load, so to speak. I've been seeking to address this in two stages:

  1. enable and incline more people to more effectively solve problems.

  2. enable and incline more people to become generally more capable, intelligent and creative.
Alex Osborn began the first task nearly sixty years ago, but the world-wide creativity movement has not realized its potential. Most of the creativity-related organizations and professionals, when it comes to having to deal with their own problems, rarely do so with their own or any formal method, which suggests some sort of belief protection is at work. Another strong hindrance has been a tendency to treat differing programs as commercial rivals rather than as potential allies and as a source for mutual learning.

Attempts to address #2 got underway, from various sources, a little later, but the very idea was quite inadmissible until the dawn of the 21st century, when neural or brain plasticity became too well demonstrated in too many formal scientific studies to any longer be ignored. A Google search today on brain plasticity yields quite a remarkable eyeful.

In pursuit of #1 just above, one thing I've done is to put up a kind of roadmap on this website, a kind of "portal page" providing easy directions to find each of a number of different creative problem-solving methods and types of such methods.

Each of those methods, in turn, is provided via step-by-specific-step easy instructions, and each of the methods I've chosen for this applies effectively to just about every type of problem, be that economic, work-related, professional, personal, interpersonal, artistic, technical, scientific, etc.

Anyone on the planet—if they know about this resource and have the gumption to try it—can click directly to this roadmap at Solving Problems, a directory of methods, find the method they are most comfortable with using, and use that method to resolve just about whatever matter they are concerned with.

That abundance of methods does not preclude one from encouraging other people to offer their own ideas and assistance. I hope to get at least some of the other creative problem-solving programs and technologies to join me in creating a larger open roadmap, pointing to open processes encompassing the entire creativity field and not just to the chunks of it which I've interacted with over the past half century.

Also and meanwhile, I would very much appreciate ideas and help in getting the word persuasively out to more people that this resource exists for them now, without "strings" (not even any "registration" involved), and that with such tools li'l ol' THEY can also be more than a match for whatever challenges they may be facing, including what's preoccupying them at this very moment. Hence this briefing here.

Please take your own look at Solving problems, a directory of methods, determine to your own satisfaction whether this approach is worthy and compatible with your own goals and, if you find that it is, please write me with your suggestions and relevant explorations.

An example of possible help:  Ways to inform as many people and as wide a range of people as possible, of the following message:
 

Help yourself!
Now of all times is the time. How to solve your own challenges, be they economic, work-related, personal or inter-personal. Free—no strings, no identification needed. Like kitchen recipes: easy step-by-specific-step practical instructions now are waiting for your ready use. Find them at:
Solving Problems, a directory of methods

Improvements in such a notice, help in placing such notices on bulletin boards, ideas for different strategies for empowering and enabling people to cope successfully and solve some of the challenges around them, much of what you can readily do can be of high value. Please reply by email.

With much appreciation,
....Win Wenger


Postnote:  Elsewhere, I've argued that the basic human nutrition is appropriate feedback upon one's own activities, actions, interests, lines of inquiry, etc. Here I will remark that a major and perhaps the major source of stress upon the exceptionally gifted is their exceptionality — it is far harder for them, especially as children, to find people around them who can provide them that appropriate feedback, so that of all human populations, the exceptionally gifted are the ones most starved of that basic human nutrition. The proposed solution is the same one with which we opened this briefing: allow a lot more people to be and function as gifted.

We are living in times now where even our experts are at a loss as to what's coming next and what to do. Wouldn't it be more reassuring if we had some more truly gifted people around? More of them who could see through to the essentials and act from there?

Add to that consideration the proposition, defended elsewhere, that nearly every one of us was born with that level of giftedness, and that our seeming inability to understand and act upon the great situations around us is a learned behavior, an artificial artifact of the culture we live in. We can do better.

Comments to
Win Wenger

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