One key to being more creative, says John Cleese, is to avoid interruption. This is very important, yet increasingly difficult. So the question, then, is how to become more creative in a frantic, high-paced world that is filled with interruptions and demands to multitask. Cleese’s idea is that we must create a sort of “tortoise enclosure,” an atmosphere that is safe and free from the threat of interruption. You have to create an oasis in your life in the middle of what is a kind of chaos for most of us. We must create clear boundaries of space and of time. Creating the space to avoid interruptions may be difficult at home and at work (ironically), but it must be done. If you have a nice private office at work or a good home office, it’s easier.
If you do not have one of these luxuries, as Cleese mentions you can always find some other kind of oasis such as the park or a coffee shop or the beach and so on. It’s important to find alone time or uninterrupted time and space for your team in the case of collaboration. Cleese suggests that when we create this “oasis of boundaries” where we will not be interrupted, we must give ourselves a clear starting time and a clear finishing time. A boundary of time as well as space is important in order for play and creativity to flourish. Play happens when there are clear boundaries from ordinary life.
The Presentation Zen website now features an entertaining and informative 10-minute film of Cleese during which he explains why busyness is the enemy of creative thinking. To see it, please click here.
I also highly recommend Monty Python and the Holy Grail as well as a book that John Cleese highly admires, as do I: Guy Claxton’s Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less, published by Ecco Press (1999) and now available in an inexpensive paperbound edition.
This book has created tremendous interest among those who want to gain a better understanding of human intelligence. According to John Cleese, author Guy Claxton provides “The essential guide to creative thinking!” (To see a 10-minute film clip during which Cleese shares his own thoughts about creativity, please click here.) Almost immediately Claxton notes that “Roughly speaking, the mind possesses three different processing speeds. The first is faster than thought….Below this, there is another mental register that proceeds more slowly still. It is often less purposeful and clear-cut, more playful, leisurely or dreamy….[the] third type of intelligence is associated with what we call creativity, or even ‘wisdom’.”
With delicious wit as well as probing insight, Claxton helps us to understand learning by osmosis; the potential value of intuition and creativity to decision-making and problem-solving; why reason and intuition are sometimes antagonists; the phenomenon of perception without consciousness; the “rudiments” of wisdom; and, how to recognize situations in which there is greater need for the tortoise’s “slower ways” than for those of the hare who, in many quests for understanding, either arrives later or not at all.
The book is extremely well researched and original. The author takes gutsy stands. For instance, he considers the “Left brain Right brain” issues as dated pop psychology. According to his thorough research, the mind’s skill set is a lot more fluid than that. Everything the left brain can do, the right brain can do also, and vice versa. His advocates balance of the thinking modes. He concentrates on the two main ones: intellect (d-mode) and intuition (undermind). He believes that optimal cognition is reached through a balance between the two modes of thinking. That said, the key is to use the proper mode of thinking at the proper time. One is not better than the other, one is more appropriate than the other at a given moment. Also, thinking modes can be used in effective sequences.
Claxton suggests that many tough problem solving situations can be tackled through four stages of thinking: first, preparation in D-Mode; second, incubation in intuitive mode; third, illumination in intuitive mode; and fourth, verification in the D-mode. You could say that this book merely defines the three speeds of the brain: reflexive (lightning speed), intellectual (fast), and intuitive (slow). However, that would be the equivalent of summarizing a description of the “Mona Lisa” by describing this masterpiece as 4 feet high by 2.5 feet wide. Thus, there is a lot more to this book than three speeds. Each chapter is rich with information, perspectives, and new angles as well as intuitive ND counterintuitive concepts. If you liked How to Think like Leonardo DaVinci, by Michael Gelb, you will love this book. It is not as quick and easy a read, but it drills down much deeper.
This is a very informative, highly entertaining book.