A few years ago Arthur Obermayer found an essay Isaac Asimov wrote in 1959 on how to foster creativity within a group setting. This essay titled “On Creativity” was published in MIT Technology Review in 2014 and can be accessed via this link.
- The process of creativity appears to be universal and is often not obvious to the creative individual during the act of creation.
- A person needs to have a strong background in a particular field and be capable of making connections between two items that are not obviously connected.
- The process of making and testing these connections requires a person with “daring” and “considerable self-assurance” working in a supportive environment where there is freedom to fail frequently and try again.
“For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.”
- During idea formation, a person must be willing “to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense.”
- Once a good idea has been generated and tested, it will seem reasonable, obvious, and inevitable in retrospect.
“Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)”
- When trying to foster creativity in a group of people:
- They should each be informed of the problem and then first allowed to work in isolation before participating in a group discussion.
- There should be about 5 people or less and they should be selected to have complementing/non-overlapping expertise.
“There must be ease, relaxation, and a general sense of permissiveness. The world in general disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad. If a single individual present is unsympathetic to the foolishness that would be bound to go on at such a session, the others would freeze. The unsympathetic individual may be a gold mine of information, but the harm he does will more than compensate for that. It seems necessary to me, then, that all people at a session be willing to sound foolish and listen to others sound foolish.”
- The ideal setting would be over dinner at a home or a restaurant in order to foster a “feeling of informality” and “joviality.”
- In order to avoid a sense of responsibility, the group should be brought together for a two-three day workshop and write a white paper about summarizing their findings about a topic. During this time, there would be several opportunities for meals.
- The conversation should be guided by a carefully selected “session-arbiter” who “will have to sit there, stirring up the animals, asking the shrewd question, making the necessary comment, bringing them gently back to the point.
“Since the arbiter will not know which question is shrewd, which comment necessary, and what the point is, his will not be an easy job.”