Tag Archives: Creativity

Time of Day Affects Problem Solving Abilities

People differ in their circadian rhythms, which determine times of greatest mental alertness, reflected in body temperature differences.

James A Horne

James A Horne

Morningness” describes people who awaken easily and are most alert early in the morning, whereas “eveningness” refers to “night owls” who awaken later and feel most alert late in the day, according to Loughborough University’s James A. Horne and colleague O. Östberg, who developed a self-report questionnaire to distinguish these these temporal preferences.

Mareike Wieth

Mareike Wieth

Creative problem solving is more effective at “non-optimal” times of day for both “morning people” and “night people,” according to Albion College’s Mareike B. Wieth and Rose T. Zacks of Michigan State University.

Rose Zacks

Rose Zacks

They studied volunteers who solved insight problems and analytic problems at their optimal or non-optimal time of day and found consistently better performance on insight problem-solving during non-optimal times, but no consistent effect for analytic problem solving.

During non-optimal times, people may be more distractible, less focused and more able to consider diverse information, alternatives, and interpretations.
These conditions can enable innovative thinking and creativity.

William Hrushesky

William Hrushesky

William Hrushesky, formerly of University of South Carolina, argued that “timing is everything” in medical treatment, and Wieth and Zacks’ findings suggest suggests that working at “off-peak” times is effective for tasks that require creative thinking rather than analytic rigor.

-*How do you sequence your work tasks to enhance performance during “non-optimal” and “peak” times of day?

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Evidence-Based Stress Management – Mindful Attention – Part 2 of 5

Workplace stress reduces employees’ ability to concentrate and pay attention to work, but mindfulness training can enhance these skills while reducing stress.

Matthew Killingsworth

Matthew Killingsworth

Inattentiveness and distraction are both frequent and unpleasant, according to Harvard’s Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert.
They surveyed more than 2,000 adults, who reported that 47 percent of the time, their focus was not on their current activities.
In addition, these volunteers reported being less happy when distracted.

Lee Ann Cardaciotto

Lee Ann Cardaciotto

Another way to measure distraction and attentiveness is The Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale, developed by La Salle University’s Lee Ann Cardaciotto and James Herbert, Evan Forman, Ethan Moitra, and Victoria Farrow of Drexel University.
This tool provides a baseline measure of potential need for stress management and mindfulness training, and can demonstrate impact of training.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Current approaches to stress management training are typically based on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which trains participants to focus on breathing, which slows respiration and heart rate, and triggers the “relaxation response.”

Wendy Hasenkamp

Wendy Hasenkamp

Using these frameworks, Emory’s Wendy Hasenkamp, Christine Wilson-Mendenhall, Erica Duncan, and Lawrence Barsalou investigated the neurological activity during distraction and mind-wandering experiences using fMRI scans of 14 meditators.

Participants focused on breathing and pressed a button when they realized their minds were wandering, then returned focus to the breathing.
Scans pinpointed active brain regions before, during, or after the button press.

Erica Duncan

Erica Duncan

Hasenkamp and team proposed four intervals in a cognitive cycle, based on button-pressing patterns:

  • Mind wandering (default mode activity), controlled by the medial prefrontal cortex, leading to  self-focused thoughts
  • Awareness of mind wandering (attentional subnetworks)
  • Shifting of attention (executive subnetworks)
  • Sustained attention (executive subnetworks).
Lawrence Barsalou

Lawrence Barsalou

These experienced meditators disengaged attention and deactivated medial prefrontal cortex more quickly after identifying mind-wandering, suggesting that their mindfulness practice helped them voluntarily shift from perseverative, ruminating thoughts.
They demonstrated increased connectivity between default mode and attention brain regions, enabling less default mode activity while meditating.

Britta Hölzel

Britta Hölzel

Besides reducing stress, mindfulness meditation trains attention, improves working memory, fluid intelligence, introspection, and standardized test scores, according to Britta Hölzel team at Harvard and Justus Liebig Universität Giessen.
In addition, mindfulness meditation has shown beneficial results in comprehensive treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction.

Fadel Zeidan

Fadel Zeidan

Hölzel’s group conducted anatomical magnetic resonance (MR) images for 16 volunteers with no previous mindfulness meditation experience before and after they participated in the 8-week training program.
Gray matter concentration increased in the meditators’ left hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, temporo-parietal junction, and cerebellum, areas responsible for learning and memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.

Further support for mindfulness meditation’s value in reducing perceived stress and anxiety comes from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Fadel Zeidan.
His study identified brain areas activated and deactivated during meditation and participants reported that anxiety decreased by 39 percent during practice.

Norman Farb

Norman Farb

Mindfulness meditation training modifies the way people experience themselves over time and in the present moment, according to University of Toronto’s Norman Farb and six collaborators.
The team used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine monitoring of two self-reference processes:  Focus on enduring traits (’narrative’ focus) or momentary experience (’experiential’ focus).

They compared participants with no previous meditation experience, and volunteers who completed an 8-week mindfulness meditation training to increase attention on the present.

Herbert Benson

Herbert Benson

Brain scans of inexperienced and experienced meditators differed significantly in tasks that required these two forms of self-awareness: the self across time and in the present moment.
These two experiences are usually integrated but can be dissociated through mindfulness attention training.
Results suggest that mindfulness training enables people to focus on the present moment without the distraction of intrusive, ruminative thoughts which can increase stress.

Manoj Bhasin

Manoj Bhasin

Mindfulness-based stress management has significant long term effects by modifying gene expression.
Harvard’s Herbert Benson, who led research on “the relaxation response” almost four decades ago, along with colleagues including Harvard’s Manoj Bhasin and Abbott Northwestern Hospital Jeffery Dusek and four others, assert that meditation evokes “a specific genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress.”

Jeffrey Dusek

Jeffrey Dusek

Genes associated with inflammation and stress are less active and those involved in energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance are activated.

Bhasin, Dusek and team measured peripheral blood transcriptome in experienced and inexperienced meditators before and after they listened to a relaxation response-inducing tape or a health education message.

Both short-term and long-term practitioners showed significant temporal gene expression changes with a greater effect among the experienced meditators.

This and other research evidence supports the effectiveness of mindfulness attention training as a stress management practice.
Mindful attention training enables people to voluntarily control body processes like respiration and heart rate, which reduces perceived stress.
The practice can induce calm thoughts that reciprocally reduce the physical expressions of stress.

Jonathan Smallwood

Jonathan Smallwood

Like other stress management techniques, this practice requires willingness and commitment to take full advantage of benefits demonstrated in lab studies.

If efforts to cultivate mindfulness falter, mind-wandering or “self-generated thoughts” can be channeled away from self-referential worries to enable creativity problem-solving and planning.

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Jessica Andrews-Hanna

Max Planck Institute’s Jonathan Smallwood and Jessica Andrews-Hanna of University of Colorado argue that “a wandering mind helps project past and future selves.”

Thomas Suddendorf

Thomas Suddendorf

Similarly, University of Queensland’s Thomas Suddendorf and Michael Corballis of University of Auckland posit that this hindsight and foresight enables experience and memory integration into a sense of self through this “mental time travel.” 

Michael Corballis

Michael Corballis

University of California, Santa Barbara’s Benjamin Baird collaborated with Jonathan Smallwood and four colleagues to evaluate the impact of mind-wandering on a creativity task during a demanding task, rest, or an undemanding task.

Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird

They found that engaging in an undemanding task during an incubation period led to substantial performance improvements, suggesting the value of mind-wandering to develop creative solutions.

Although mindfulness training has been reliably associated with effective stress management, even moments of mind-wandering can be channeled to productive ends in creative problem-solving.

-*How applicable are mindfulness attention training practice for workplace stress?

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Motivation to Manage Stress

Mindful Attention (Part 2)

Social Support (Part 3)

Music (Part 4)

Nature

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Organizational Roles, Practices

Look for related posts on:

  • Vitamins and Probiotcs (Part 1)
  • Social Support (Part 3)
  • Music (Part 4)
  • Physical Exercise (Part 5)

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Working with Ambiguity at Work

Leading during uncertain business conditions” and “tolerating ambiguity” are explicitly-sought skills in Silicon Valley position descriptions.
These competencies are crucial to navigate frequent, sometimes surprising restructurings and layoffs.

Rolf Wank

Rolf Wank

In contrast, employees outside the U.S. enjoy greater job certainty and worker protection in some countries, as outlined in Ruhr-Universität Bochum researcher Rolf Wank’s survey of typical German employment relationships .

He summarized “work-arounds” to Gremany’s current system that might require employees to develop skills in working with more ambiguous employment agreements.

Frank Shipper

Frank Shipper

Tolerance for Ambiguity has been measured in a scale developed by Frank Shipper of Salisbury University, adapted from earlier work by Stanley Budner, then of New York State Psychiatric Institute.
Similarly, David Wilkinson of Oxford drew on his background in UK military and police organizations to propose Modes of Leadership based on varying developmental, perceptual, and cognitive styles of ambiguity tolerance:

  • Mode One – Technical Leaders manage ambiguity by ignoring, denying, or creating premature, inaccurate or false “certainty”
    They tend to be risk averse and are more directive in leading others
  • Mode Two – Cooperative Leaders seek to “disambiguate uncertainty” and build teams to mitigate risk
  • Mode Three – Collaborative Leaders prefer consensual alignment among team values and execution goals through explicit team discussion
  • Mode Four – Generative Leaders use ambiguity to find opportunity by drawing on “emotional resilience” and continuous learning.
David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson

In 2008, Wilkinson began investigating two additional leadership modes for inclusion in this framework.
He also posited an “ambiguity continuum” among risk, ambiguity, vagueness, uncertainty and chaos.

Creative scientists and artists have long understood the importance of the ambiguous “incubation” period when solutions germinate.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein, known for his breakthrough insights in physics, argued for imagining solutions when the present situation is unclear:

°         Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere

°         Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions

°         Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create

Richard Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn

Painter Richard Diebenkorn of UCLA echoed Einstein’s sentiment in several entries in Notes to Myself on Beginning a Painting, in which he coached himself to risk, tolerate uncertainty, and persist in the search for solutions: 

°         Attempt (sic) what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.

°         Do search. But in order to find other than what is searched for.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Rainer Maria Rilke

The spirit of Diebenkorn’s advice to himself was codified decades earlier by poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke in his oft-quoted Letters to a Young Poet.

…Try to love the questions themselves…
Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them….
Someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Both creative artists and business leaders recognize the crucial importance of working with and through ambiguous conditions to produce breakthrough solutions.

°         What approaches help you tolerate ambiguity?
°         How can ambiguity tolerance be increased?

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Innovators’s Personality Characteristics and Shibumi Principles Drive Innovation

Øyvind Martinsen

Øyvind Martinsen

BI Norwegian Business School’s Øyvind Martinsen identified components of creative personalities as key attributes for innovative problem solving in business organizations.

Martinsen’s study of 481 people included two groups of students in creative fields: advertising and performing artists,  and a control group of lecturers and managers.

He found that creative individuals differed from the control groups in several dimensions:

  • Have an active imagination, “associative orientation”, an “experimental attitude”
  • Value originality, are comfortable rebelling against rules, standards, and systems
  • Demonstrate high motivation to succeed
  • Become absorbed in creative work
  • Are ambitious Desire recognition, fame
  • Adapt, reimagine, rebrand, and flex to meet current demands and realities
  • Express anxiety, worry, volatile emotions  
  • Demonstrate less concern, friendliness and sensitivity to others
  • Tend to be more critical of others

Martinsen says that a less creative individuals can increase this capacity when their work environments encourage rule-bending and free thought, so organizations can modify policies and practices to convey acceptance of exploration.

Employees are often urged to take chances by innovating solutions, but sometimes these Ryan Fehr - Workplace Forgiveness Modelincubation efforts may not result in a commercial success — and organizations may not “forgive” the investment of time and money in speculative efforts.

University of Washington’s Ryan Fehr with Michele Gelfand of University of Maryland suggest that organizations should establish the conditions for innovation and for accepting that experimentation may provide “lessons learned” even when efforts cannot be brought to market.

Ryan Fehr

Ryan Fehr

Their research investigated “forgiving organizations” that expand the individual practice of workplace compassion and mindfulness to an institutional level.

Michele Gelfand

Michele Gelfand

Fehr and Gelfand propose a “sensemaking” organizational model based on restorative justice, temperance, and compassion to cultivate the climate of fearless innovation and confident exploration in high-support organizations, which benefit from process and product breakthroughs and related financial rewards.

Matthew May

Matthew May

Matthew May explored a multi-faced exemplar of innovation, Shibumi,   imperfectly defined as “effortless effectiveness”, simply-expressed complexity, flawed perfection.

Baldassarre Castiglione

Baldassarre Castiglione

Shibumi shares some qualities with Baldassare Castiglione’s idea of “sprezzatura,” or making “whatever one does or says seem effortless, and almost unpremeditate,” Shibumi, says May, is typically achieved through an innovation-change management sequence of:

  • Commitment
  • Preparation
  • Struggle
  • Breakthrough
  • Transformation
Trevanian

Trevanian

Film scholar Rodney William Whitaker, who wrote under the pseudonym Trevanian, opined that “Shibumi has to do with great refinement underlying commonplace appearances,” and architect Sarah Susanka observed that “…shibumi evolves out of a process of complexity, though none of this complexity shows in the result…to meet a particular design challenge.”

Sarah Susanka

Sarah Susanka

May illustrated examples of familiar Japanese management principles including Hoshin (goal alignment) and Kaizen (continuous improvement), with less familiar principles:

  • Kata (patterns of effective behavior)
  • Genchi genbutsu (observation)
  • Hansei (reflection).

Matthew May-The Shibumi StrategyInnovation and creative problem-solving in any field can benefit from attention to Shibumi’s seven principles:

  • Austerity – Less is more
    Koko” suggests restraint, sparseness, and intentional omission, and ‘Is/isn’t analysis” provides the focus and clarity to exclude elements beyond a designated scope

    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    Antoine de Saint Exupery captured this principle in his view that “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

In another book, May offered 4 Ss of “elegant”, innovative, and austere solutions:

  • Symmetry” to help solve problems of structure, order, and aesthetics
  • Seduction” for creative engagement
  • Subtraction” for problems of economy
  • Sustainability” for a process or solution that is both repeatable and lasting
  • Simplicity
    Kanso” signals the “enoughness” of streamlined utility, based on prioritization, understatement, and order for the central purpose.
  • Naturalness
    Shizen” points to the paradox of intentional artlessness, or balancing nature’s randomness and patterns with intentional curation.
  • Subtlety
    Yugen” refers to the tension between stagnation of precision in contrast with nature’s growth.
    One example is Steve Jobs building anticipation through restrained information release.
  • Asymmetric Imperfection
    Fukinsei points to the symmetry of nature through its counterpoint:  Asymmetrical and incomplete representations that encourage the viewer’s participation to “complete the incomplete.”Gestalt Art
    Gestalt
    researchers and artists demonstrated increased visual impact when participants co-create and collaborate in the innovation effort.
  • Change Routine Thinking and Actions
    Datsuzoku suggests a break from routine, such as adopting free-spirited Carnival demeanor at the annual masked Fasching in German-speaking countries.Fasching
    Breaking patterns enables breakthrough innovation and creative resourcefulness.
  • Active Stillness, Dynamic Tranquility
    Seijaku is serenity in the midst of activity and provides context of datsuzoku, transcendence of conventional ideas and traditional usage, leading to surprise, astonishment, and freedom to create.
    “Doing nothing” in mindfulness practice can be provide unconscious incubation for eventual creative syntheses to solve complex design issues, and increase self-awareness, focus, and attention.
    Individuals who wish to become more creative even in more confining organizations have reported success by adopting mindfulness meditation based on conscious breathing.
    In addition mindfulness practice can enhance resilience to accept critique in the creative process.

-*How do you establish the individual and organizational conditions for innovations?
-*How do organizations become “forgiving”?

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STEAM-powered Innovation: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics

Ainissa Ramirez

Ainissa Ramirez

“Science evangelist” and former Yale professor Ainissa Ramirez argues that STEM disciplines – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – increase curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking by asking basic questions:

  • How can we succinctly describe this phenomenon?
  • Why does this phenomenon occur?
  • How can we apply insights about this phenomenon to make practical improvements in daily life?
Henri Poincare

Henri Poincare

She advocated combing Arts disciplines with STEM to STEAM-power fresh insights, as mathematician Henri Poincare noted: ‘To create consists of making new combinations. … The most fertile will often be those formed of elements drawn from domains which are far apart.

Ramirez credits her scientific training with allowing her “to stare at an unknown and not run away, because I learned that this melding of uncertainty and curiosity is where innovation and creativity occur…”  

She added the important reminder that in these fields, “…failure is a fact of life.
The whole process of discovery is trial and error.
When you innovate, you fail your way to your answer.
You make a series of choices that don’t work until you find the one that does.
Discoveries are made one failure at a time…We just brand it differently. We call it data.”

Artists understand this trial-and-error process and the challenge of tolerating ambiguity and enduring lack of “success” until persistence enables insightful experimentation that leads to satisfying resolution.

Vi Hart

Vi Hart

STEAM practitioners include Vi Hart, “recreational mathemusician” at Khan Academy, who doodles explanations of fractal fractions aka abacabadabacaba, Fibonacci sequences in plants, Pythagorean Theorem via origami, and binary trees illustrated by Turducken, Mobius strips via the story of Wind, Mr. Ug and the big earthquake

Robert Lang

Robert Lang

Robert Lang, former CalTech physicist, merges mathematics, engineering, computing, and aesthetics to fold complex origami forms by “discovering underlying law” – just as Ainissa Ramirez suggested.

Robert Lang - Origami FishHe is a prolific artist, with paper and metal forms in public and private collections around the world, while advancing origami mathematics, computational origami,and applied origami technology in engineering, industrial design, and technology in general.

Lang advises that “the secret to productivity in so many fields — and in origami — is letting dead people do your work for you.” by building on discoveries in other fields to develop solutions to current problems.

Ron Eglash

Ron Eglash

“Ethnomathematician” Ron Eglash of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, showed that  African design in architecture, art, hair braiding, are based on perfect fractal patterns in which parts looks like the whole via recursive self-similar cycles.

Ron Eglash Fractal African Hair BraidingHe teaches mathematical concepts by drawing on students’ cultural backgrounds to translate mathematical ideas already present in the cultural practices, such as transformational geometry in cornrow hair braiding, spiral arcs in graffiti, least common multiples in percussion rhythms, and analytic geometry in Native American beadwork.

Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler

American detective writer (and former oil executive), Raymond Chandler, summarized the reciprocal contributions of science and art:

There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart.
The first of these is science, and the second is art.
Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other.
Without art science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery.
The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.

 -*How do you combine insights from other fields to shed fresh perspective on challenging dilemmas?

-*How do you persist until new variations on trial solutions succeed in resolving issues?

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“Productive Pause”, Intuition for Better Decisions

Everyday wisdom offers familiar advice to curtail impulsivity through slowing down and reflecting:

  • “Go slow to go fast”
  • “Sleep on it”
  • “Wait before sending an emotional email”
  • “Count to 10, think again”
Frank Partnoy

Frank Partnoy

Former investment banker and lawyer Frank Partnoy’s Wait: The Art and Science of Delay provides empirical evidence on the value of delay to increase the quality of decisions and performance across investment, sports, comedy, and other disciplines.Wait

Creativity experts have demonstrated the importance of an “incubation period” in developing innovative solutions, and Partnoy suggests that similar principles provide and advantage: gathering maximum information in uncertain situations, by executing decisions and performance close to the last opportunity.

University of San Diego’s Partnoy recommends a three step approach to decision-making:

1) Determine the maximum time available to gather information and take the decision
2) Consider, reflect, “incubate” on the information as long as possible
3) Act quickly at the last possible moment

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell

His approach could be summarized by referring to Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking : “Don’t just blink but think.”

Nalini Ambady

Nalini Ambady

Gladwell argues that people with expert experience and insight are often skilled at using ‘adaptive unconscious’ intuition to “thin-slice” subtle cues to filter relevant information from “noise,” a concept based on Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal’s research at Harvard.

Justin Albrechtsen

Justin Albrechtsen

Christian Meissner

Christian Meissner

Research by Justin Albrechtsen, Christian Meissner, and Kyle Susa  of University of Texas at El Paso demonstrated “thin-slicing” when they found that intuitive processing can lead to more accurate judgments of deception when compared with deliberative processing.

Kyle Susa

Kyle Susa

Gladwell and these researchers acknowledge that non-experts, and even experts, can be make erroneous decisions due to bias and prejudice that comes from automatic thinking and habitual cognitive heuristics like the halo effect.

Gerard Hodgkinson

Gerard Hodgkinson

Gerard Hodgkinson of Leeds University found that biased intuitive judgment may be mitigated by “devil’s advocacy” and applying analytical tools like multi-attribute decision analysis and root cause analysis.

He suggests that informed intuition or ‘intelligent-unconscious’ results from subconscious information storage, processing and retrieval, and has conducted several empirical studies to evaluate its mechanisms applied to developing business strategies.

Intuitive judgment was positively correlated with quality and speed of decisions, organizational financial and non-financial performance in at least five studies.

Hodgkinson’s team summarized recent advances in neuroscience, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies to explain complementary intuitive and analytical approaches to decision making  instead of the overly-simplified notion of left brain vs right brain processing  strengths.

He synthesized intuition attributes:

  • Instantaneous insight after incubation period
  • Subjective judgments
  • Based on experience, tacit knowledge, “knowing without knowing
  • Arise through rapid, non-conscious holistic associations
  • Affectively-charged: “feels right”, experienced as ‘‘inklings’’ or ‘‘glimmerings’’
  • Lacking verbalization or conscious awareness of problem solving.

Cognitive neuroscientists have differentiated intuition from instinct and insight using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques.

Instinct refers to hardwired, autonomous reflex actions, whereas insight involves recognizing and articulating a problem’s structure, and may follow from intuition.

Hodgkinson’s research suggests that intuition can be enhanced by increasing:

  • Expertise (“prepared mind” or ‘‘deep smarts’’)
  • Self-awareness (feeling and cognitive style)
  • Reflection
Akio Morita

Akio Morita

His team’s research supports an assertion by Akio Morita, co-founder of Sony and driving force behind its successful Sony Walkman, that ‘‘creativity requires something more than the processing of information. It requires human thought, spontaneous intuition and a lot of courage.’’

-*How have you used pauses or intuition to strengthen decision-making and advance business innovation?

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Pattern Recognition in Entrepreneurship

Steve Blank

Steve Blank

Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur (E.piphany, Zilog, and more) and Stanford consulting associate professor, argues that entrepreneurs need two types of “wisdom” or cognitive processing:

  • Pattern recognition based on a “constrain stream of data processing in the background”
  • Epiphanies that “serendipitously snap together”, outlined in Four Steps to the Epiphany.

He provides examples of pattern recognition in each of the four phases toward “epiphany” in building a business:The Four Steps to the Epiphany

  • Customer Discovery, which assesses market potential and customer preferences
  • Customer Validation, in early sales
  • Customer Creation, including strategy definition, startup launch, and iterative product  experimentation
  • Company Building, which prepares to “Cross the Chasm” in Geoffrey Moore’s model.
    Robert Baron

    Robert Baron

    Crossing the Chasm

Robert Baron of Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute echoed Blanks emphasis on pattern recognition in his Academy of Management Perspectives article,

Opportunity Recognition as Pattern Recognition: How Entrepreneurs “Connect the Dots” to Identify New Business Opportunities” which he said enables entrepreneurs to evaluate:

  • Economic value
  • Newness
  • Desirability

by comparing existing “mental models” or cognitive prototypes and real-world exemplars to new offerings.

Soren Kierkegaard

Soren Kierkegaard

He quoted Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “…I should …wish…for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which. . .sees the possible…”

Venessa Miemis

Venessa Miemis

Venessa Miemis says that pattern recognition is a critical skill for in intelligent decision making, and cites Tor Nørretranders’s The User Illusion-Cutting Consciousness Down to Size to point out that most cognitive processing is outside of normal awareness.

In fact, his research suggests that over 99.99% of the processing in the brain happens at a subconscious level, and is therefore beyond our “control.”

Tor Nørretranders

Tor Nørretranders

She added to Blank’s description of “processing in the background” that synthesizing past
experience, intuition, and common sense and sorting out the “noise” can equip people with relative accurate “best guesses” about future occurrences.

The User Illusion-Cutting Consciousness Down to Size-Tor NørretrandersHowever, if the filter is overzealous, individuals may overlook opportunities because “cognitive dissonance” makes it uncomfortable to integrate information that doesn’t fit with an existing mental model.

Another cognitive bias is overlooking the potential impact of “wild cards” refer to low-probability, high-impact events.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced the related idea of black swans: unforeseen rare, difficult-to-predict, high-impact, rare events – such as financial crises, natural disasters.

He observed that these occurrences are often explained away when hindsight reveals individual and collective “blindness” to uncertainty and its large role in these rare historical events.
His book recent book, Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, posits that randomness  enables strengthening processes under pressure and can catalyze positive change.

AntifragileHe celebrates volatility as a sign that recalibration may be more achievable than after long periods of stability enable risks to accumulate until a catastrophe.

Applied to career choices, he argues that a seemingly “secure” corporate job disguises dependency on a single employer – often an “at-will” employer, though he discounts the value of “economies of scale” in this work arrangement.

As a result, the unlikely possibility of unemployment leads to cataclysmic reduction in income.
In contrast, occupations with variable earnings, like sales or professional services, acclimates the individual to cyclic or unpredicted income reductions, and practice enables mitigation planning.

This perceptual bias impairs people’s accurate anticipation adaptation to changing.

Pattern recognition can be increased by mindful attention to thinking processes, and frequent self-reminders to scan for perceptual bias and unconscious cognitive processing.
However, other people’s unconscious cognitive processing can be an advantage for marketers, according to Douglas Van Praet, who suggests taking advantage of these via six steps to robust marketing in Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) MarketingUnconscious Branding

  1. Interrupt the Recognized Pattern
  2. Create Comfort
  3. Lead the Imagination
  4. Shift the Feeling
  5. Satisfy the Critical Mind
  6. Change the Associations
  7. Take Action.

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