Friday, September 28, 2007

The Train Innovation Comes In On –

Anyone whose taken brainstorming training knows you don’t critique ideas as-you-go, you “defer judgment.” This allows for a flow of ideas to emerge. A few years ago Sid Parnes went a step further when giving a talk to a group at the Creative Problem Solving Institute. He said to be more creative, you need to defer judgment -- as a way of life. It made sense to me at the time, I thought, getting into the habit of it would make you a better ideator in times of divergence. I still think this is true, but here’s a new insight:

Deferral of judgment has a deeper impact. It unlocks your mind and allows for more intuitive thought.

This occurred to me while reading “Awakening Intuition” by Frances E. Vaughan. Vaughan is associated with the Institute of Transformational Psychology in Palo Alto, CA*. She discussed that awareness of the choices you make every day, moment to moment, is a good starting point for getting in touch with your intuition. Being more aware of alternative choices, or options, puts us into a sort of alert and open state that gives the mind a chance to suggest something that it “knows.” Stated another way, deferral of judgment opens doors to intuitive thought.

So, if you get more intuitive thoughts, and are aware of them, then you are going to have a greater stream of insights and ideas with which to solve your problems. Ultimately these ideas are what innovation is made of – this is the kind of thinking you need to make breakthroughs. I also believe that this idea stream is going to come from a different source within you; intuition is an inner knowing that is quite different than rational/logical thought, it’s non-linear. And again, non-linear thinking is the train innovations come to the station in. If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s book about intuition, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” you’ll be convinced that while it may be difficult to explain how it happens, it does happen, and the impact can be dramatic on a business.

So people, try this on for size – walk through each day being very conscious of the judgment choices you are making. Make an effort to hold off, to defer, and allow your mind to suggest creative alternatives. Defer about everything! Give it a week and let us know what happened.

* For more about this cutting-edge psychology school, see

1 comment:

Penny van der Lith said...

This is so true! I think it has something to do with the fact that when you defer judgement, you allow your brain to accept more data from a wider range of sources. When we defer judgement we become more tolerant of ambiguity, so we don't shut out potentially useful, but apparently inconsistent information. We also pay attention with all our senses all the time, so we have access to more information.

I have also noticed that people who are comfortable with ambiguous situations seem to think in a "web" pattern instead of a linear, simple cause & effect pattern. "Web thinkers" can quickly grasp the connections between apparently unconnected events or elements, because they can see the whole picture instead of just the next "effect". All these factors work together so that they are able to quickly understand the implications of their choices, identify gaps, come up with more ideas, and seem to have more accurate "gut feelings".

Of course, this theory is completely unscientific and I am not pretending to be an expert. It's just my intuition talking ;-).