Men and women both have babies.
That's a fact of life – because I just said so. If we make the assumption that both sexes are physically capable of giving birth and brainstorm for creative childcare options, do you think we would come up with some new ideas?
I actually get out a camera during my classes when we talk about this subject. If you look around the room, you'll see that the women are vigorously nodding their heads, and the men are looking at me like I'm completely nuts. But really, you have not hurt anything by assuming that men and women both have babies. You've just earned a totally new perspective.
Now, what if I told you that the magnetic North and South Poles were going to flip? Is that ellogical? Not at all; in fact, it's already happening.
On average, the magnetic poles flip every 70,000 years and it's been about 120,000 years. We can prove this by looking at ancient pottery. When the clay was spun on the spinning wheel, the iron particles in the clay acted as compass needles and point north. Once ancient civilizations cured the clay, they created a permanent record of where North was. Ancient pottery reveals that theoles have flipped.
Whether men can have babies or the North and South poles really flip does not matter. What's important is the fact that there's no harm in assuming they can to break up the logic and look at things differently.
It's all about allowing ambiguity ambiguity. One of the largest hindrances to creativity is the fact that people do not allow ambiguity. Things must be clear-cut; right or wrong. We want specificity from life and from each other.
Engineers hate ambiguity. When I'm speaking to a group of them, someone will always stop me and say, "Ok, hold on. You've got to clear things up a bit."
"No, I'm being ambiguous on purpose."
"Well, I'm not allowing my team to go through this without further clarification."
We avoid ambiguity because of communication problems. People want to know that they're on the same page, but in a brainstorming session, it's OK to be ambiguous. It's OK to think about other ways an idea can be interpreted.
People also get too hung up on logic. Obviously, logic is part of the creative process, but logic can be restrictive to the brainstorming session. My restrictions on logic really get under engineers skin, too. When I tell a room of engineers that absolutely, positively no logic is allowed for one hour, their anger is palpable. I hear everything from, "you're wasting time," and "if we're being ilogical then we do not have the budget for this," and "this is stupid." They actually get mad.
What the engineers do not understand is that we need that one hour to be altogether illogical and ambiguous. You can be logical for the other 23 hours of the day if you need to, but for one hour, withhold judgment and let the creative juices flow.
Judgment kills creativity. When the boss opens their mouth and says, "That will not work," the creative process dies and no more ideas get thrown out.
Ambiguity is really about interpreting things differently, letting go of logic, and escaping from the fear of judgment. To encourage ambiguity, I tell students to listen to their dreams. Dreams are some of the most ambiguous experiences we encounter in life. Do you ever wake up in the morning and think about your dreams? Are you able to apply that crazy dream to what you were working on before you went to sleep?
Of course, when I tell people to listen to their dreams I'm not encouraging them to try to steal Brad Pitt from Angelina Jolie or quit their day job to become a rock star. I want students to listen to their dreams in a more literal sense. Pay attention to what your illogical right brain is saying.
If you have not already concluded that I'm a little bit different, you're going to think so now. I'm to the point that I can connect my crazy wild dreams to what I was thinking about in my logical left brain about 50% of the time. As long as I do not roll out of bed and fully wake up, I can usually make the connection between my crazy dreams of flying around in a pink tuxedo and a problem that I've been pondering.
Asking ambiguity in the creative process gives me a major advantage in business. It gives you freedom to find new answers.
Freedom is actually a bigger game than power.