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Education Kills Our Creativity, Here Is How We Can Regain It

Education Kills Our Creativity, Here Is How We Can Regain It

Society stresses the importance of education. Good grades in school propel a kid to a prestigious institution; and getting into a world-renowed college leads to a bright, successful future. And this generation is lucky, we are mostly well-educated.

Ironically, schools mainly stuff information in our brains. Even though we are more educated, somehow our creativity is suppressed.

Yeah right, I’m not in the creative industry, it doesn’t matter.

No, having creativity is key nowadays. Any industry needs innovation, and it’s the most important component for success. When we step into society, problems and roadblocks are everywhere. And soon, we realize we lack creativity to solve them.

Scholars [1] have identified two thinking process: convergent thinking and divergent thinking. Education focuses on convergent thinking — emphasizes on finding definite, absolute answers. But in reality, we actually need divergent thinking more, which is the ability to find more than one way to solve problems, and it is essential to creativity.

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How important is divergent thinking?

In a research conducted by neuroscientist Nancy C. Andreasen[2], she discovered IQ is not the factor to a creative genius, but having divergent thinking is. She writes:

Assuming that creativity is a trait everyone has in varying amounts, those with the highest scores (in the skill of divergent thinking) can be classified as exceptionally creative and selected for further study.

School equips us with knowledge we need, and we have more than enough training in convergent thinking, but to be creative once we leave the education system, divergent thinking is what we need to work on, and here’s how:

Challenge yourself to think of 10 options to solve a problem.

Often when we come across a problem, we only think of 1, or mostly 2-3 options. We then hold on to the possible solutions and deeply analyze the pros and cons. 90% of the time, we reject the option we proposed and get frustrated at ourselves.

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We have all been in this situation: In a meeting, person A suggests a solution and everyone starts to evaluate the option. Then person B proposes another option, the same happens. Afterwards, everyone is banning everyone else’s suggestions, and waiting for the BEST solution to come around.

Can you imagine how unproductive is that?

So I challenge you (or you could challenge yourself too): when you encounter a problem, try to think of AT LEAST 10 OPTIONS. Ignore the feasibility for a minute.

For example, your boss asks you to fix the problem of decreasing views on your company’s website. The usual approach is to make a suggestion and assess the option. But with divergent thinking, we should first come up with many different ideas, like to use Instagram to attract younger viewers, change the layout of the web, fix bugs, develop new features, and more. We then go through the list and weigh the pros and cons.

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But I can’t come up with 10 ideas, what can I do?

British science writer Matt Ridley[3] introduced the concept of “idea sex”, which means combining two ideas to “reproduce” a new idea. It is particularly useful when you run out of ideas. To put it in other words, idea sex is like mixing and matching outfits with a limited amount of clothes.

Still a bit confused? Here is more of Matt Ridley’s TED talk on “idea sex”.

What else should I do if I don’t even have a solid idea?

“Creativity is just connecting things,” Steve Jobs once said. He also thought “most people don’t have enough dots to connect because they haven’t had many diverse experiences.” To be creative or innovative, we need a broad knowledge base.

Ever scrolled through Facebook and paused at an intriguing post, then told youself “nah, I’m not interested” and continued scrolling?

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Sometimes, we are too picky to the knowledge we absorb. Similar to the approach of convergent thinking, we look at something and immediately put it into the “yes” or “no” bin. It doesn’t hurt to expand your knowledge base, you never know when the information you acquired is going to be useful.

Creativity doesn’t equal the number of ideas you generate.

Don’t be mistaken, being creative is not measured by how many ideas you have, it rather requires the ability to turn abstract ideas into practical solutions. Always keep a clear objective in mind when generating ideas, you will later realize it makes divergent thinking easier and smoother, and finally boosts your creativity.

Reference

[1] Harvard Professional Development: Convergent vs. Divergent Thinking
[2] The Atlantic: Secrets of the Creative Brain
[3] The Week: What is ‘idea sex’?

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Frank Yung

Writer. Storyteller. Foodie.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

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        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

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          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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