Opening up to the depth of ideas and creativity

Too many people these days are shallow in their adoption of deep ideas. They adopt a deep idea but they don’t understand it deeply. This is a problem because it gets misused and other shallow people are introduced to the shallowness of a truly deep idea and reject the depth they never saw. This comes about because they are not playing with ideas long enough.

Playing with ideas

There is an interesting proverb that goes like this, ‘a proverb in the mouth of a fool is like a thorny branch brandished by a drunk‘.

First comes misunderstanding and then comes misapplication. Both are destructive.

Caveat: It’s not necessary that you understand every idea deeply, but at least try to understand some deep ideas in their complexity and in their simplicity so you can pay respect to their greatness.

What I find to be a good measure of understanding is when you have grappled with an idea until you can see that idea playing itself out in the world. When you can see how that idea is ‘true’ and ‘helpful’ in your everyday experience.

You’ve grappled with an idea until you’ve understood it well enough to apply it to lots of different situations. These are ideas that you understand and can use as models to guide you through life.


Scientists play with ideas

Scientists use this type of thinking all the time when they are first developing their theories.

Einstein’s theories of relativity didn’t pop out at him because of his mathematical ability, instead, he first developed his theories using his intuitive imagination. He imagined that he was a photon moving at the speed of light and imagined how a second photon may perceive him.

This and other examples of scientists using similar methods are outlined by Barbara Oakley in her book A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra).


Openness and the exploration of ideas

Openness is one of the Big 5 personality traits where individuals score high to low on each particular trait.

High in openness can mean that you have an active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness towards your feelings, preference for variety, and possess high levels of intellectual curiosity.

The ideas facet of openness is related to the need for cognition and this motivates highly open people to explore ideas deeply.

The fantasy, aesthetic, and feeling facets of openness are associated with a psychological construct called absorption. Absorption is when someone is locked in a psychological zone where they are paying complete attention and the representational resources of their mind are fully engaged.

This basically means that people high in openness are able to pay closer attention to ideas as they are emersed in their experiences.

Basically, you want to increase your openness as much as you can (a smaller amount of people are naturally high in openness).

There are known genetic components to openness and personality traits are traditionally viewed as fixed. But there is a study that indicates that mental training can boost openness in older people.

There is also a study that uncovers a link between regions in the brain (particularly higher grey matter in the right posterior middle temporal gyrus)  and the trait openness and trait creativity.

It’s unsure whether these regions in the brain cause openness or if openness causes the brain to change. It is suggested that exposing children and adolescents to being open to experiences and cultivating the personality facets of openness could lead to an increase in creative thinking.


How do you play with your own ideas?

I’m sure that most people who read my blog are higher in openness. But it’s important to always be questioning our own knowledge and actions. We want to make sure we go beyond the superficial adoption of ideas.

When people over-simplify ideas they become patronising and unhelpful. They usually create a dual dichotomy and are blind to the multitude of answers or perspectives in between.

This over simplification can be due to the tendency that people have to fear or not want to deal with complexity.

You might think it’s just okay to leave these people alone, to let them be simple. The problem is they are not just simple, they are dangerous.

When large portions of a population are fully grown simple minded adults, making childish decisions, with adult-like consequences, you have a big problem.

But I don’t like to serve up a problem without a solution (Side tip: always present someone with a solution or two when you need to notify them of a problem, it’ll help you).

My solution is simple, try to be as open as you genetically can and play with ideas until you can see them in the world. As individuals, we can make a difference by being open to new ideas and developing and deepening our understanding.


Playing with ideas

Some idea-based fields that I’ve explored deeper and played with over the years include:

  • Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Science
  • Business
  • History
  • Education
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Creativity and arts
  • Political ideologies
  • Religions and traditions
  • Personal development

Question: What are some of the ideas you have played with? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.