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Creative Problem Solving: Create Meaning from Contradictory Ideas

Creative Problem Solving: Create Meaning from Contradictory Ideas

Those who succeed in an unending changing environment are able to do one thing really well:

Create meaning from contradictory ideas.

We can create meaning by determining the factor of the interaction between contradictory ideas. We can do this through what is known as the Dialectic Method. This method was constructed mainly by Karl Marx, yet it heavily built on the ideas of the Hegelian dialectic.

In this article, I will explain to you what exactly the Dialectical Method is and how you can apply it in life to be a more creative problem solver.

Creative problem solving: the Dialectical Method

    Dialectic implies a process of evolution, where dialectical logic is a system identifying the structure of thought and was initially intended to replace the laws of formal logic. Nevertheless, I do not intend to dive into the history of the Dialectical Method.

    My intent here is to propose this method as a way to create meaning and create something new in our contemporary chaotic world by examining the three stages of development within the Dialectical Method:

    1. Thesis
    2. Antithesis
    3. Tension resulting in Synthesis

    All thought is based on pieces of a previous thought:

      Before you start diving into any of the stages, you need to first understand the meaning for each stage.

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      Just like anything else, you must understand what each stage is before an understanding of the topic is reached.

      Stage #1: Thesis

      First, you have your thesis, known also as a proposition. This is the starting point or the status-quo giving rise to the reaction (antithesis).

      Stage #2: Antithesis

      Second, the antithesis is the reaction or the contradiction. This is the counter-proposition.

      Stage #3: Synthesis

      Third, the tension between the thesis and antithesis is resolved by synthesis.

      In other words, this is where meaning is created and where the new thesis comes to be.

      What’s important to understand here is the meaning of synthesis and how it differs from analysis:

      • Analysis is an examination of the elements of something (think of breaking something apart or analyzing each individual piece of a puzzle).
      • Synthesis is the combination of ideas to form something new (think of putting the pieces of a puzzle back together, yet you see something completely new).

        Want to know the best part of the Dialectical Method?

        This process is unending. Your synthesis is your new thesis, for which it too will possess a counter-proposition (antithesis).

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          Watch the following video for a deeper understanding of the Dialectical Method:

          Destructive deduction and creative induction

            According to John Boyd, famous Air Force Colonel, we are constantly breaking apart old paradigms and putting the pieces back together creating a new perspective better matching our current reality. Essentially, we orient our self to a rapidly changing environment. This ultimately led to Boyd’s creation of the OODA Loop.

            Check out this article to find out more on the OODA Loop: A Fighter Pilot’s Secret to Surviving Wars: Making Right Decisions Fast

            Boyd described this through a thought experiment in a presentation called Strategic Game of ? and ?. Through the process of Destructive Deduction (analyze and pull apart mental concepts into discrete parts) and Creative Induction (using these elements to form new mental concepts) we can create a new mental model that more closely aligns with reality.

            Moreover, Boyd illustrated this thought experiment in an interesting way. Let’s see if you can figure it out.

            Part 1 of his question:

            “Imagine that you are on a ski slope with other skiers…that you are in Florida riding in an outboard motorboat, maybe even towing water-skiers. Imagine that you are riding a bicycle on a nice spring day. Imagine that you are a parent taking your son to a department store and that you notice he is fascinated by the toy tractors or tanks with rubber caterpillar treads.”

            Part 2:

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            “Now imagine that you pull the skis off but you are still on the ski slope. Imagine also that you remove the outboard motor from the motorboat, and you are no longer in Florida. And from the bicycle you remove the handle-bar and discard the rest of the bike. Finally, you take off the rubber treads from the toy tractor or tanks. This leaves only the following separate pieces: skis, outboard motor, handlebars and rubber treads.”

            Sounds crazy right?

            Yet, what do you imagine would be created from these parts?

            The answer:

            a Snowmobile!

            How to apply the Dialectical Method (Step-by-step guide)

            Step #1. Identify your thesis

            Your Thesis is your starting point or status-quo. This is where your thinking exists today.

            Step #2. Identify the antithesis

            The Antithesis is the mechanism for change. This is the opposing group or ideas that do not support the status-quo (your Thesis).

            In order for things to change, we must have some form of opposition. These ideas bring about change by clashing with the Thesis.

            Step #3. Synthesis (new thesis)

            When a Thesis and Antithesis clash, we get progress. This is a meeting of two groups bringing about a new and better process. However, this process never ends.

            Let’s examine two examples of this method:

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              Example #1

              • Thesis: Being
              • Antithesis: Nothing
              • Synthesis (New Thesis): Becoming

              Example #2

              • Thesis: People need to go to the bank to draw cash.
              • Antithesis: It’s not necessary to go to the bank to draw money.
              • Synthesis (New Thesis): Develop ATM to dispense cash at convenient locations.

              The reality behind this method

              The dialectical method becomes a continuous and unending mechanism for building on ideas.

              The truth is:

              The strongest ideas survive through the continuous dialectical process.

              “Truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

              This method shows us why we should never get stuck living in our comfortable lives. We should continue to evolve and adapt; continue to challenge our hidden biases and assumptions.

              After all,

              “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” – Charles Darwin

              Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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              Dr. Jamie Schwandt

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              Last Updated on October 16, 2019

              Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

              Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

              Do you like making mistakes?

              I certainly don’t.

              Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

              Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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              Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

              Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

              • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
              • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
              • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
              • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

              We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

              If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

              Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

              Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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              When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

              Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

              We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

              It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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              Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

              Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

              Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

              1. Point us to something we did not know.
              2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
              3. Deepen our knowledge.
              4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
              5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
              6. Inform us more about our values.
              7. Teach us more about others.
              8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
              9. Show us when someone else has changed.
              10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
              11. Remind us of our humanity.
              12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
              13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
              14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
              15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
              16. Invite us to better choices.
              17. Can teach us how to experiment.
              18. Can reveal a new insight.
              19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
              20. Can serve as a warning.
              21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
              22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
              23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
              24. Remind us how we are like others.
              25. Make us more humble.
              26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
              27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
              28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
              29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
              30. Expose our true feelings.
              31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
              32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
              33. Point us in a more creative direction.
              34. Show us when we are not listening.
              35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
              36. Can create distance with someone else.
              37. Slow us down when we need to.
              38. Can hasten change.
              39. Reveal our blind spots.
              40. Are the invisible made visible.

              Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

              The secret to handling mistakes is to:

              • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
              • Have an experimental mindset.
              • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

              When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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              When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

              It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

              When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

              Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

              Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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              Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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