Concept Exchange Society


Wednesday, March 11, 1998 at 6:30 pm

At Glenn Johnston's House.

Presentation: Douglas Ovaitt

Creative Thinking

Pre-Meeting Notice prepared by Douglas.

Douglas Ovaitt will give a presentation on Creative Thinking. There are many books on the subject, so he has chosen one that illustrates most of the principles of creative thinking (and acting).

The chosen book is titled "LIVING YOUR LIFE OUT LOUD", by Salli Rasberry and Padi Selwyn, 1995. The book is subtitled, "How to Unlock Your Creativity and Unleash Your Joy". At the bottom of this page is a bibliography of other books on creative thinking.

The presentation will focus on the first two chapters. A synopsis of the presentation follows.

Chapter 1: The Twelve Traits of Highly Creative People

  1. Flexibility
  2. Emotional sensitivity
  3. Receptivity to new ideas
  4. Tolerance of ambiguity
  5. Fluency of ideas
  6. Preference for disorder
  7. Intuitiveness
  8. Originality
  9. Perserverance
  10. Openness to risk
  11. Curiosity
  12. Playfulness

Chapter 2: Quantum Creativity (The Four Steps of the Creative Process)

  1. Preparation
  2. Incubation
  3. Illumination
  4. Verification

If time permits, we will do a couple of group exercises in creative thinking.


There are hundreds of books on the subject of creativity and creative thinking. Here are just a few that the presenter has read:

The books by von Oech are quite entertaining. The book by Rasberry is an easy read. The others are a bit slower reading, but very good.


Present were Douglas, Don, Curtis, Rachel, Meredyth, Roberto, Glenn and Marvin.

Rasberry and Selwyn in their book, "Living Your Life Out Loud" offer their list of Traits of Highly Creative People. Douglas took us through all of them one by one.

Have the authors actually researched the attributes of recognized creative people? Picasso, Bach, Newton, Kant etc. Douglas assures us that they have not.

Are these the traits of highly creative people? I doubt it.

Consider the certified giants of creativity. Mathematicians, artists, musicians, writers... What traits did they have in common? Evidently originality is one because that is the essential substance of creativity: to bring something original into the world. And since their work acheived public recognition they must also have had perseverance. But the rest of the list is flawed.

All my professional life has been spent in association with creative people. Originality was a minimum requisite for their job. Most were intolerant of ambiguity, especially when it came from ignorance. Many were inflexible because they were self assured and confident in their opinions. New ideas had to surmount the intellectual barrier erected by people who think a lot. Perhaps that's a counter trait of creative people.

They had a preference for order, not disorder. Their emotional sensitivity was mostly confined to themselves, rarely to others. Most lacked compassion. In short, except for their very appealing professional creativity they spanned the gamut of personality traits.

The book purports to offer us a creativity kit. Creativity by the numbers. I cannot believe that you can become creative by imitating the behavior of creative people. Imitation is the antithesis of originality. As for training originality you might as well train brown eyes to be blue by looking at the sky.

The truth is that creative people operate from passion. They cannot help their condition. They are expressing a devotion. To dance, to sew, to paint, to understand, to help, to be of service to other people, or to God. Or to inflict pain on others! Unfortunately that, too, can be done creatively.

What the book really offers are some traits for nice people - traits I like to encounter. The virtues the authors preach are gentle ones. I am grateful that they don't advocate hate, the benefits of military discipline, adherence to words called God's, and a host of other plagues which can be visited upon us in a most creative way. Who possesses some of the listed traits will be a reasonable citizen and a pleasant person. I am thankful to have such people among us. People who are flexible, compassionate, receptive and tolerant are the ones I want as friends.

The book is not a work of scholarship. Nor does it have redeeming literary merit. One can say of it that it is a harmless work.

Douglas' presentation was generous, stimulating and amusing. And it was received with just the tolerant compassion that the authors hold as virtues.

End of Report

Upon reading this report David Burch wrote:
An area where my observation is different from yours, Marvin, is the one having to do with compassion in the creative person. This may depend somewhat on the subject, but it seems to me that the best writers I have known are generally more concerned with and sypathetic to human conditions than is evident in the general population, (even among Democrats.) I suspect that compassion is a necessary trait for the writing of good fiction and poetry, and may be also advantageous for good technique.

Marvin Answers:
The creative people about whom I was thinking are all scientists. I have asked quite a few of my colleagues over the years whether they have been accused of lacking compassion. To a man they have all said yes. Of course they thought the accusation false!

March 1998
Marvin Chester

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© m chester 1998 Occidental CA