Friday, June 09, 2006


Finding What You're NOT Looking For

Whenever we attempt something and fail, we end up doing something else. As simplisitc as this statement may seem, it is the first principle of creative accident. We may ask ourselves why we failed to do what we inteneded--- and this is the reasonable, expected thing to do--- but the creative accident provokes a different question: What have we done?

Answering that question in a novel, unexpected way is an essential creative act. It isn't t luck, but creative insight of the highest order. Alexander Fleming was not the first physician to notice the mold that formed on an exposed culture while studying deadly bacteria. A less gifted physician would have trashed this seemingly irrelevant event, but Fleming noted it as "interesting" and wondered if it had potential. This "interesting" observation led to penicillin, which saved millions of lives.

Thomas Edison, while pondering how to make a carbon filament, was mindlessly toying with piece of putty, turning and twisting it in his fingers, when he looked down at his hands and the asnwer hit him between the eyes: Twist the carbon like rope.

B.F. Skinner emphasized a first principle of scientific methodologies: When you find something interesting, drop everything else and study it. Too many fail to answer opportunities knock at the door because they have to finish some preconcieved plan. Creative Consutlants do not wait for gifts of chance; instead, they actively seek the accidental. discovery.

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