Thomas Edison is one of the most prolific inventors in history, with over one thousand patents to his name. Nothing got in the way of his creativity. Even as his lab was burning to the ground in a horrific accidental fire, Edison was excitedly sketching up plans for a new lab, even bigger and better than before. How could Edison be so phenomenally creative? The answer, as you’ll see, relates to his unusual tricks for shifting his mode of thinking.
Shifting between the focused and diffuse modes
For most people, shifting from focused to diffuse mode happens naturally if you distract yourself and then allow a little time to pass. You can go for a walk, take a nap, or go to the gym. Or you can work on something that occupies other parts of your brain: listening to music, conjugating Spanish verbs, or cleaning your gerbil cage The key is to do something else until your brain is consciously free of any thought of the problem. Unless other tricks are brought into play, this generally takes several hours. You may say – I don’t have that kind of time. You do, however, if you simply switch your focus to other things you need to do, and mix in a little relaxing break time.
Creativity expert Howard Gruber has suggested that one of the three "B’s" usually seems to do the trick: the bed, the bath, or the bus One remarkably inventive chemist of the mid-1800s, Alexander Williamson, observed that a solitary walk was worth a week in the laboratory in helping him progress in his work.(Lucky for him there were no smartphones then.) Walking spurs creativity in many fields; a number of famous writers, for example, including Jane Austen, Carl Sandburg, and Charles Dickens, found inspiration during their frequent long walks.
Once you are distracted from the problem at hand, the diffuse mode has access and can begin pinging about in its big-picture way to settle on a solution. After your break, when you return to the problem at hand, you will often be surprised at how easily the solution pops into place. Even if the solution doesn’t appear, you will often be further along in your understanding. It can take a lot of hard, focused mode work beforehand, but the sudden, unexpected solution that emerges from the diffuse mode can make it feel almost like the "Ah-hah!" mode.
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”A Mind for Numbers
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is a splendid resource for how to approach mathematics learning and in fact learning in any area. Barbara Oakley’s authoritative guide is based on the latest research in the cognitive sciences, and provides a clear, concise, and entertaining roadmap for how to get the most out of learning. This is a must-read for anyone who has struggled with mathematics and anyone interested in enhancing their learning experience.”—David C. Geary, Curators’ Professor of Psychological Sciences and Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, University o
“For students afraid of math and science and for those who love the subjects, this engaging book provides guidance in establishing study habits that take advantage of how the brain works.”—Deborah Schifter, Principal Research Scientist, Science and Mathematics Programs, Education Development Center, Inc.“A Mind for Numbers
explains the process of learning in a fascinating and utterly memorable way. This book is a classic, not only for learners of all ages, but for teachers of all kinds.”—Frances R. Spielhagen, Ph.D., Director, Center for Adolescent Research and Development, Mount Saint Mary College