Skip to main content

Assumptions, assumptions

Creativity Unleashed Limited - spot the cognitive dissonance
When I'm training businesses in creativity techniques, one of the first things I try to hammer into them is that assumptions kill creativity. We all make assumptions all the time. How we do things. What's allowed (and what's not). What's possible (and what's not). The rules. And so on. And every one of these assumptions gets in the way of being creative. Throw them out and you can solve many more problems. Of course, you might break the law in the process. But this isn't a problem.

Why? Because it is much easier to take a wonderful, attractive, but impractical idea and make it practical than it is to take a dull but practical idea and make it wonderful and attractive. So banish assumptions to begin with when trying to be creative, then re-impose them later as you refine your ideas and make them usable.

Sometimes assumptions can be downright dangerous, as I discovered in my teens. On my way to school I used to walk through the centre of Manchester, a busy city in the North of England. I went the same route every day and I knew which of the streets I crossed were one way streets. So like many apparently streetwise city dwellers I tended to show off my knowledge by only bothering to look down the street in the direction I knew cars would come from. Until the day a car went the wrong way down a one-way street and only just managed to stop with its bumper nestling against my legs.

So if you are with me in a city and feel the urge to snigger when I always look to make sure traffic isn't coming from the wrong direction in a one way street, suppress that urge. I am just making sure that I don't make a deadly assumption.


Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope