How to Wield Your
Idea Butterfly Net

by Win Wenger, Ph.D.

Perception and observation

  1. One law of behavior governs nearly all other laws of behavior — the Law of Effect. Feedback, as apparent results of an action or course of action or trait, reinforces the likelihood that that action or course of action or that trait will be repeated. Colloquially put: “You get more of what you reinforce.”

  2. Why we all “obey” the Law of Effect:  a bioevolutionary explanation—what would happen to any organism or species which failed to sense and adapt to how its environment was responding to it and to what it was doing? Through hundreds of millions of generations, we are all descended entirely from those who did so sense and adapt accordingly.

  3. Ever had this experience?—That you started to get an idea, maybe a brilliant idea, but you didn’t do anything with it or about it right away and it disappeared on you? Indeed, maybe the question should be, “How many times a day has that happened to you?” Here is why this question is so serious:

  4. Each time you let that happen, each time you let an idea get away from you that way, you reinforced the idea that your own ideas aren’t worth dealing with. You reinforced your own Un-creativity! Conversely,

  5. Each time you took some specific action in response to having an idea, you reinforced your own high creativity. Exactly how creative you are now, reflects the proportion of your own ideas that you’ve made some specific response to in recent weeks, months and years, in contrast to those to which you didn’t!

  6. An easy way to make some such specific response each time to having an idea is to carry around a pocket notebook or index cards with pen or pencil, or a pocket recorder, so that each time an idea occurs to you, you can make response to it by making a record of it for later possible action. We used to call this pocket note-taker a “portable memory bank”, but because of the evanescent qualities of most ideas until pinned down (is this a quantum phenomenon?), we now call it an Idea Butterfly Net.

  7. The same consideration extends to being observant. How perceptive and observant you are now similarly reflects the proportion of things or situations you’ve noticed which most people are likely not to have, and to which you made some sort of response such as recording your observation. Especially as you extend your ability to notice and process on subtleties in such observations, subtleties and subtle relationships, you develop the physical brain circuitry which lets you handle subtlety more and more readily.

    Thus, the Idea Butterfly Net not only enables you more readily to capture and use ideas and as such is invaluable for problem-solving along with other forms of innovation and creativity; it also extends and builds within you the ability to be aware. The Idea Butterfly Net, simple and ubiquitously available as it is, can be a main tool for extending and building not only your perceptivity but your awareness.

  8. How can you be sure to keep the Idea Butterfly Net with you at all times, convenient for you to respond-to/record your ideas and observations when they occur? Win Wenger twenty years ago posted a $5 bounty for anyone who caught him outdoors, away from his desk or office, without such an Idea Butterfly Net in his pocket or with him. That offer is repeated here.


Holding open a window for such butterflies:

  1. Your breath is your brain’s “pacemaker.” When you are turning attention to something or giving sustained attention to something, you automatically hold your breath. Only by rare special effort does one hold a perception, an observation, a thought, or the meaning of a sentence, through the interruption of awareness-span and attention-span reflexively caused by breathing.
    * Prediction:   an unduly high proportion of students with reading problems or learning disabilities will turn out to have shorter-than-average breathing spans, and are in serious trouble if they cannot comfortably hold their breath for longer than about 35 seconds at a time. These students, because they typically have lower grade-point averages, are usually barred by schools from participating in such “extra”-curricular activities as track and field, brass and wind instruments in the school band, or singing in the school chorus, which could have trained their breath and cured the problem which was the reason for their being barred from those very activities!
  2. Some of the world-class geniuses of the European Renaissance found that if they wrote down several elements of a problem on a sheet of paper and stared at them in search of their possible relationships for a while, this sustained attention often enabled them to figure out an answer to that problem. Sometimes, that wasn’t enough. We have improved on this process with DEAM — Double-Entry A-Ha Method — which in effect enables us to hold open an attention-window through which our idea-butterflies can fly, making it easier to notice these butterflies happening. See instructions for DEAM and its advanced alternative form, Evoked Sidebands.

We thus have several ways to capture our ideas —

  • Regardless of when and where in our lives, with the Idea Butterfly Net.

  • Holding open a window of continued attention, in through which a remarkable number of idea-butterflies and perceived relationships will sooner or later fly.

  • Direct focused ways, such as most CPS Methods, to evoke these ideas and perceptions.

  • Direct visual thinking and perception. Format: Here we ask for “the best way” to do something, or “the best answer” to a given question, where in most CPS methods one asks, in the “brainstorming” tradition, for “some good ways” or as many responses as possible.

    Answers on this visual-thinking, Einsteinian side of CPS are usually in metaphor, since such metaphor is the translator, the key which means the same thing in the language of the part of our brain which does the visual thinking and the language of the part of the brain which does our verbal reasoning and understanding.

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Win Wenger

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