Creative Leadership 4

Old Lady-Young Woman Illusion, creative leadership, seeing, frames of reference, inattentional blindness

Joyce Wycoff defined creativity as the act of “seeing things that everyone around us sees while making connections that no one else has made.” This involves seeing the problem or challenge from different perspectives. Goethe said that “the hardest thing to do is to see what is right in front of your eyes.” This is the reason why creative leaders have primed minds and open eyes. They find ways of staying mindful of the problems or challenges that confront them while staying open to the unexpected.

It’s amazing how easy it is for us to miss the obvious solution that is in front of us because our focus is on something else. This is the reason why it is essential to look at our problems with fresh eyes and perspectives. We all intuitively assume that we “see” everything in front of us but this is not always the case.  This is a mistaken intuition. Arien Mack, a psychologist at the New School in New York, defines this as ‘inattentional blindness’. This is the inability see things that are in plain view because we are not attentive to them. Humans have limited capacity for attention which limits the amount of information we can process.

Creativity is shackled by self-imposed constraints. Our internal frames of references can be psychological blind spots which prevent us from seeing creative solutions to our problems. Human perceptions and seeing are guided by habitual frames of reference, hence it is important to test your assumptions and internal frames of reference. It is sometimes difficult to solve a problem because we make incorrect assumptions that prevent us from seeing the solution. Our assumptions distort our perception of both the problem and the solution.

You need to have fresh eyes to be creative. Seeing the world from the same perspective limits you to the same solutions. If you keep solving problems the same way you have always done, then you will keep getting the same results you have always got. Therefore the key to freeing our minds lies in developing an ability to identify such constraints and deliberately removing them. How a problem is defined can determine the solutions that we get hence the creative solution to any problem starts with asking the right questions. Leaders need to train their eyes to spot opportunities and their hands to seize it.

Do you see one or two women in the picture above? Can you see both the young lady and the old woman?

Watch this short interesting video (1:42 mins) by Daniel Simons, Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois, which illustrates the points described in this post. I would love to hear your thoughts about this post and the video.

6 Comments

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6 Responses to Creative Leadership 4

  1. 🙂 Very nice article.
    Thank you

  2. Osaretin

    the picture of both women is really amazing…at first, I could only see the young woman but once I looked closer, it looked like the old woman’s face popped out of the page! I actually had to lower my perspective of my view of the picture (Don’t ask me to explain that last sentence as it is the only way I could put it in writing).

  3. Ogechi

    Oh wow! Ya, I saw the two women, but i wonder if it’s because you mentioned there’d be two. It’s true that we often miss what we’re not necessarily looking for.
    This piece is packed with good stuff, each paragraph could be individual articles.

    If a problem is defined by its solution, does that mean solutions are not as definite as we’d like to think? I like the statement that seeing things from the same perspective limits the experience.

    Again, what I’m drawing from this piece is that leaders are expected to be innovative and maintain 20/20 vision for their followers’ sake. I saw the gorrilla, but I didn’t notice the player leave… thank goodness for opportunites to continually develope.

    PS: Which University of Illinois is this from? My alma mater is UIUC, so I’m gonna say GO ILLINI!

  4. Pingback: Creative Leadership 5 «

  5. Tamara Ng'ambi

    Food for thought. Still pondering on this one.

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