Interview with John Adair, Author of The Art of Creative Thinking How to be Innovative and Develop Great Ideas
By Vern Burkhardt
See or make connections between ideas that seem far apart, look to nature for models and principles to solve problems, make the familiar strange and the strange familiar, cultivate curiosity, ask lots of questions, observe, be a good listener, and read to generate questions. Reading without reflecting is comparable to eating without digesting. These are but some of the many useful bits of advice that Dr. John Adair offers in The Art of Creative Thinking.
Dr. Adair was kind enough to answer some questions that occurred to me as I read his book.
1. Question: You have written books about time management, teambuilding, strategic leadership, growing leaders, decision making and problem solving, effective leadership and management and many others. What motivated you to write a book about the art of creative thinking?
Two reasons. First, on a personal level I am always looking for ways to enhance my own creativity, so this book is a record of my own journey. Secondly, I believe that creative thinking (having ideas) and innovation (bringing them to market) are vital today for any form of human enterprise.
2. Question: To be a great leader do you have to excel as a creative thinker?
You certainly have to be a clear thinker with a good strategic mind. A great leader, in the qualitative rather than historical sense of 'great', is creative, simply because excellent leadership and creativity are two sides of the same coin. It’s about inspiring and drawing the greatness out of people, releasing creative talents, building teams and - ultimately - making a better world. What could be more creative than that?
I can’t think of anything that could be more creative than making a better world. What would you recommend to young managers who aspire to gain a reputation in their organization as being capable of generating innovative and creative ideas?
Yes, to have a good idea and to make it happen successfully is a sure way to make your name. It depends, of course, on the ethos of the organization. It won't do you much benefit if you work in that organization I won't name whose chief executive said the other day: "Change? That is the last thing we want; things are bad enough already."
4. Question: In your book you advise your readers to practice serendipity, which your readers may be surprised to learn is a term that originates back to the mid 1700’s. How does one practice serendipity?
Serendipity is the happy knack of making discoveries (or having new ideas) when you are least looking for them. Know it can happen and don't be surprised when it does.
5. Question: Do you need to have a “prepared mind” in order to be creative?
It certainly helps. All sorts of ingredients go into the making of a prepared mind. It isn't just a matter of being free to be attentive, vital as that attribute is.
6. Question: Could you please tell me about your concept of the “Depth Mind” and how it relates to creativity?
The "Depth Mind", as I called it, is central to creativity. What it means is that much of our analyzing, synthesizing and valuing goes on at an unconscious level, and in some cases the resulting 'product' is a new idea that rises suddenly or gradually into the surface mind. This process is exceptionally well attested in the biodata on creative people, from the talented to gifted.
Most people are familiar with the Left Brain and Right Brain distinction. More recently brain research has, I believe, confirmed my "Depth Mind" hypothesis by identifying it in the Rear Brain - it is the Front Brain that does all our conscious thinking.
7. Question: You wrote that one way to develop your curiosity is to ask more questions when talking with others and when thinking....
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