The Six Hats Method of Creative Thinking (part 2 of 5)
"Even a bad idea can prompt a good one. We think by refutation, and an idea we consider wrong is more likely than just about anything else to inspire an idea we consider right. It is not instruction, said Emerson, but provocation, that I can receive from another soul." -Christina Nehring
Thinking is the ultimate human resource. The main difficulty of thinking is confusion. We try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope and creativity all crowd in on us. It is like juggling with too many balls.
The six thinking hats method allow us to conduct our thinking as a conductor might lead an orchestra. Putting on any one of these hats defines a certain type of thinking. Green thinking hat is concerned with new ideas and new ways of looking at things. Green hat thinking is concerned with escaping from the old ideas in order to find better ones.
Creativity involves provocation, exploration and risk taking. Creativity involves "thought experiments." You cannot tell in advance how the experiment is going to turn out. But you want to be able to carry out the experiment.
The Need for Provocation:
A very simple way of getting a provocation is to use a random word. You can think of a page number in a dictionary and then open the dictionary at that page. A second number you had thought of could give the position of the word on the page. For example, you might think of page ninety-two, eighth word down. Nouns are easier to use than verbs or other types of words. A list of common nouns is easier to use than a dictionary.
With logic there should be a reason for saying something before it is said. With a provocation there may not be a reason for saying something until after it is said. The provocation brings about an effect, and it is the value of this effect which justifies the provocation.
To many people it may seem unthinkable that a random word could be of value in solving a problem. The definition of random means that the word has no special relationship. Yet in the logic of an asymmetric patterning system, it is easy to see why a random word works. It provides a different starting point. As we trace our way back from that starting point, we increase the chance of arriving back along a track we would never have taken when thinking about the subject directly.
Just as movement is part of the basic idiom of green hat thinking, so too is provocation. When in France, speak French; when wearing the green hat you use provocation and movement as the grammar of creativity.
Six Thinking Hats
-Edward De Bono
"A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever." -Mark Twain
Sparks of creativity often flow from new knowledge. Frequently it's information about things that are completely new to you. Sometimes, it's new facts about familiar things. And sometimes it's information about things that you didn't know you didn't know. This last category, usually filled with items that are silly and fanciful, can provide a platform for your imagination to jump from.
So here I present the: "Things you didn't know you didn't know" section (or the alternately titled: "Trivia to win bar bets" section).
Why Don't People in Old Photographs Ever Seem to Smile?
The subjects in old photographs weren't all depressed; the slowness of the exposure time was the culprit. In some cases, the exposure time in early daguerreotypes was up to ten minutes. Holding a smile for that length of time can be uncomfortable; that's why you see the same somber look on early portraits.
The stationary of the Photographic Historical Association depicts a head clamp, which, although it looks like an instrument of torture, was used during the early days of photography to prevent a subject's head from moving while being photographed. In order to avoid blurring, still subjects were forced to fix their gaze during the entire session. Iron braces were also utilized to keep the neck and trunks of subjects from moving.
So could we find alternative explanations for the moroseness of early photographic subjects? We sure could. Here are some of the more plausible theories:
1. Photographs were once serious business. Joe Struble, assistant archivist at the George Eastman House, told us that the opportunity to have a photographic portrait was thought of as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
2. Early subjects were imitating the subjects of portrait painters. Daguerre was himself a painter, and early photographers saw themselves as fine artists. Jim Schreier, a military historian, notes that subjects in this era did not smile in paintings.
3. "Technology and social history are intimately interwoven." This comment, by Roy Mcjtinkin, indicates his strong feeling that George Eastman's invention of roll film, and the candid camera (which could be carried under a shirt or in a purse), both before the end of the nineteenth century, eventually forced the dour expressions of early photographic subjects to turn into smiles. The conventions of the early portrait pictures were changed forever once families owned their own cameras.
4. Early photographs were consciously intended for posterity. When asked why people didn't smile in old photographs, Grant Romer responded, "Because they didn't want to." Romer was not being facetious. Photographic sessions were "serious business" not only because of their rarity and expense but because the photographs were meant to create documents to record oneself for posterity. Rather, he emphasizes that until the invention of the candid camera, photographers might have asked subjects to assume a pleasant expression, but the baring of teeth or grinning was not considered the proper way to record one's countenance for future generations.
5. Who wants to bare bad teeth? Romer does not discount the poor dental condition of the citizenry as a solid reason to keep the mouth closed.
6. Historical and psychological explanations. As compelling as all of these theories are, we still feel there are psychological, historical, and sociological implications to the expressions of the subjects in old photographs. In "The Photography of History”, Michael Lesy discusses the severe economic depression that began in 1836 and lasted six years. Photography was brought to the United States in the thick of it. Lesy observes that early American photographers were not seen as craftsmen or artists but as mesmerists and phrenologists (belief in both was rampant):
In other words, this was not a period when photographers enticed subjects to say "cheese”.
By the time George Eastman introduced the roll camera, Victorian morality was waning. People who bought hand cameras, for the most part, were not the generation that suffered through the privations of the Civil War. At the turn of the century, there was a new middle class, eager to buy "cutting edge" technology.
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