Day 3 of my 30 day Brainsparker Creativity Kickstart. Associational Thinking.
I have always been a fan of connecting unconnected things, I just didn’t know there was a name for it.
It’s called Associational Thinking, and apparently using it puts me in league with some amazingly innovative people, like entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, and the like. They too, like to connect unconnected things, but they also do something that is out of my comfort zone – they disrupt. I find disrupting very uncomfortable. I try very hard not to break things. I dislike conflict. I color within the lines – so much so that when I color, I make another dark line with the crayon just inside the printed line, to make it even harder to go outside of the lines. This is something I’m working on.
But do you want to know someone who knew quite a bit about disrupting, and did it well? Karl Marx. Marx believed that capitalism produced internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system – constantly. In short, he professed that systems of government would always become outdated and unstable and must continually be broken in order to create new ones.
So if Karl Marx knew about disrupting, therefore he also must have known something about creativity – right? Sure, I do understand the irony in looking to Karl Marx for creativity thinking. This is about as strange as looking for tips on meditation in Mein Kampf. But isn’t that what associational thinking is all about, connecting seemingly unconnected things?
Whether or not you agree with his thinking on politics or society, Marx was undoubtedly successful in his writing, he was a prolific creative. He likely didn’t wait to create until the bills were paid, or until after dinner, or until it was quiet (warm/light/comfortable) enough. He wrote, and thought and wrote and thought through and maybe because of the chaos.
When I think about creativity, I think about the importance of balance, of cultivating peaceful focus. My whole theory comes undone in light of the many chaotic creatives whose lives likely look more like Marx’s than mine. None of this means balance and calm aren’t nice ways to live, but you have to strike while the iron is hot, or write when then ironing needs to be done, or break an old habit and make a new practice by connecting the pieces to something outrageous.
So here is my takeaway: Take things apart. Create new things from the pieces. If you want be creative, disrupt.