We start the New Year with two contrasting pieces on creativity. The first piece argues against the sort of process driven structured work that folks like us at Marcellus have to do on a daily basis: “Much of the time, work is the process of actualizing whatever has already been constructed in the mind. We take in information from the world around us, convert the interesting bits to mental bricks, and put them all together to create a concrete vision of what we want to create next.
Our ability to do this is yet another testament to the power of human thought. The fact that we can invest the present moment to actualize a future vision is an astounding feature that drives the creative spirit. Because our minds are always a few steps ahead of our hands, there will never be a shortage of ideas that we are forever building toward.
However, this beloved feature of ours is also a bug.
The problem with developing visions is that it creates expectations. The moment we conjure a result in our minds, we tie ourselves to that result, and become attached to that idealized blueprint. We start thinking linearly, as we already know where we want this project to end up. The cost of certainty is usually curiosity, and that is one of the first things to go once an end goal is chased.”
According to Lawrence Yeo, the author of this piece, we have to learn “how to balance the rigidity of focus with the fluidity of exploration.” He then elaborates upon what he means by ‘fluid thought’, the polar opposite of what market professionals like us are supposed to focus on: “Fluid Thought…has no end state in mind. It’s thinking for the sake of thinking. There is no practical value to extract, no expectation to fulfill. It’s like being in a rowboat in a vast ocean without any particular place to go. All you must do is row aimlessly, and take in all the observations you make along your little journey.
Fluid Thought is about emptying any desire to be productive or useful, and instead becoming a blank canvas for whatever your curiosity comes into contact with. An idea is no longer interesting because of what you can do with it; it’s interesting simply because it’s interesting. You don’t need to store it as knowledge to regurgitate later, as coming into contact with it is all that matters.”
Some people might say that this sounds almost like daydreaming. Therefore, Mr Yeo extols the value and the virtues of fluid thought: “By giving yourself the space to explore without expectation, you give your mind the freedom to play with whatever idea it comes into contact with. There is nothing that idea has to become; there is nothing you need to store to use for later. All that matters is that you’re wandering about, spending time in a playground that will disappear shortly afterward….
Perhaps the greatest thing about Fluid Thought is that it reintroduces the beginner’s mind, or what the Zen Buddhists call shoshin. When you have no expectations, you drop all the defense mechanisms you’ve developed in your pursuit of mastery, and reset your curiosity back to its baseline levels. This allows you to experiment with all kinds of novel ideas, as you have nothing to lose by doing so.
The same thing applies in the realm of learning. So much of what we learn is done for the purposes of what we can teach. But with Fluid Thought, we can read a book simply to enjoy it, without expecting any knowledge or wisdom in return for our attention…”
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