May 03, 2008

The Combinations Rule: underlines creative thought

The_combinations_rule Stan's right: this is the number one rule for any creative venture, including some of the best teaching that I ever received (and that I've seen practiced through the profession's lens). The best teachers always seemed to know a lot about stuff that had nothing to do with the 'subject' in hand. They always knew the names of plants, birds, trees, obscure books and films.

It reminds me of something I read, maybe in The Art of Looking Sideways, that to be interesting you have to be interested. In everything.


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It was also one of Paul Arden's big points too.

Why technology is so important is that with the explosion in knowledge we need each other more to make those unique combinations. Our networks and personal ability to collaborate effectively have become vital.

What better partner than one that is interested.

I agree completely, Ewan. Certainly in the world of teaching, it's would be difficult to come up with useful analogies if you knew only your own subject.

The problem is, the term 'combining' is too vague. It doesn't actually tell you what it is that you;re trying to do.

That's why, for example, you will rarely see the verb 'combine' used in a recipe. You will instead see 'mix', 'stir in', 'sift with', 'add gradually', and even 'put on top', 'coat', 'place beside' and 'garnish'.

Also implicit in this advice is the manner of selecting what to combine. Mostly, simply attaching things willy-nilly serves no useful purpose. Combining a photo from one domain with text from another domain (by 'combine' I mean 'placing the photo on the same page as the text', and not 'mixing them together') is useful if the photo illustrates a pattern implicit in the text - but there needs to actually be such a pattern for the combination to be meaningful.

"'mix', 'stir in', 'sift with', 'add gradually', and even 'put on top', 'coat', 'place beside' and 'garnish'."

Time for a "design patterns" for creative thinking?

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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