Being creative is important. A student of mine sent me a link to a 2011 Scientific American commentary the other day, and the blogpost it links to shows us exactly how important creative mindsets really are. The post in question suggests we can actually improve our cognitive performance: essentially, improve where why we find ourselves on that supposedly genetically-fixed spectrum of traditionally understood intelligence. The author describes how over a period of three years she was able to raise a child’s IQ score from the early 80s to over 100. The change was permanent.
You can find the blogpost here. It’s quite lengthy, but very readable. I suggest you read it before we continue.
The article is not perfect, of course. It gives into the plague of list-itis afflicting all online media around the globe at the moment. We get five ways we need to pursue if we wish to improve our cognitive abilities. Numbers, of course, are magic on the social web. Such a web has well-learned the lesson from the real-world publishing of yore: get a number in your title and you’ll multiply your sales a hundredfold. Or more.
Here’s the list of “primary principles”, anyhow:
These five primary principles are:
- Seek Novelty
- Challenge Yourself
- Think Creatively
- Do Things The Hard Way
Each principle is then illustrated constructively with clear examples. One of these examples really hit home for me: I have noticed how as I depend more and more on sat-navs my sense of direction has gone to pot. A case of not doing things the hard way – in essence not exercising the mental muscle that is the brain, and as a result losing the edge one used to have.
If a simple gadget like a GPS can do that to us, just imagine what sitting for hours on end in front of a computer and the memory-extension tool that is a decent search engine can do to the mush our brains must surely be turning into.
Yet the arguments given in favour of the final principle – networking – made me think twice about the true nature of social networks and media. Yes. Silos do reproduce themselves in the virtual ether too – but that, ie tribalism, is a natural evolutionary tendency of humanity we will always need to consciously learn to fight. Just because we see it doesn’t mean we must give into the trend. And probably easier to avert it on the web than in rather more formally-constructed organisational environments offline.
Are posting, tweeting and writing more generally drugs? They may indeed be: the highs you get from putting virtual pen to paper are undeniable. But if we care to judge social networking with the degree of objectivity it deserves, perhaps we should not so hastily damn it for taking advantage of an addiction. In a sense, there exists in the Twitter and Facebook zones which now broadly populate our planet the opportunity to actively practise the five principles outlined in the blogpost I’ve been referring to this morning: to actively aim to improve our supposedly fixed intelligences.
And if there was ever a time we needed evidence and viewpoints such as these, then it’s right here and right now: when retrograde ministers, their media hangers-on and the kind of business-people who give quite the worst impressions of latterday commerce all attempt to rule both the airwaves and the ethers out there with the sort of hierarchical nonsense that once stratified in horrible castes a privileged society of the rankly inefficient.