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Tag: Donald MacKinnon



In these notes, I’ve been puzzling on Creativity – what it is, why it is, and how we invoke and use it.  Economist Harry Dent Jr. tells us, “At its basic level the creative process is simply the solving of problems that stand in the way of attaining a dream.


Psychologist Donald MacKinnon, in his book, IN SEARCH OF HUMAN EFFECTIVENESS:  Identifying and Developing Creativity, agrees.  He wrote, “The creative process starts always with the seeing or sensing of a problem.  The roots of creativeness lie in one’s becoming aware that something is wrong, or lacking, or mysterious….”  Basically the guy is saying that if we don’t see any sort of problem in the world around us, then we wouldn’t need to be creative.

This makes sense, actually.  If you cannot see a problem there is no way you are going to make the effort to gear up and go searching for some answer.  Quests start for a reason…usually the end-of-everything-as-we-know-it.  The quester sorts either want to stop the end from happening or they want to bring it on.

(This sort of makes me wonder whether all the creative types in the world are not just a bunch of troublemakers…but that’s probably another story.)

The deal is, though, when you’re an Artful Dodger it’s a given that you’re probably going to be a noticing sort.  What you notice will depend on your particular sensitivity of perception.


Most people have the same ways of sensing things, more or less.  Some people are more adept at using a particular sense than others.  In order to figure out what’s what in the world, you take in sensory information (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, or smell or any combination thereof) and give meaning to that information in your head.

You may notice and remember a taste or a smell or the feel of some texture or other.  You may respond to the sound and feel of words or musical notes.  You may be sensitive to the way your body moves in the world.  You may be keenly aware of human behavior or emotional byplays or other human phenomena.

Most people have one or more areas of perception that are really, really strong and a whole bunch of other ones that are sort of “meh.”  Each of us sees the world in our own peculiar way since we all have varying degrees of sensitivity to all the stimulating whatevers out there that keep happening all the time in the world.

Guys who study this stuff pretty much tell you that whatever you perceive or sense keenly is the arena within which you will be most likely drawn to play.  (Your perceptions build your stadiums, it seems.)  Within this arena you are most likely to find things that are a puzzlement to you, things that need to be resolved in your own mind.

Because you can pinpoint these things using your own ways of sensing, because you notice them and are likely to be bothered by anything that’s “off” in that arena, you are particularly equipped to effect changes or resolve issues in them if you choose.  And that’s why creativity starts with perception, with being aware of some problem or other.

So, according to scientific, philosophic and all the other ‘-ic’s, it is the problems you perceive and the things that confuse you which actually are the impetus for getting off your tush and looking for some kind of answer that makes sense to you.


Paul Souriau, a 19th-century French philosopher who studied human inventiveness and formulated theories about aesthetics, pointed out, “It is said that a question well-posed is half-answered.  If so, then true invention consists in the posing of questions.

Souriau goes on to say, “There is something mechanical, as it were, in the art of finding solutions.  The truly original mind is that which finds problems.


Here’s a poem….


It’s the inchworm problem

All over again:


What do you measure

When you’re trying to prove

The efficacy, the “success”

Of your latest move?


What do you parse?

What words do you use?

What is the definition

Of “win,” of “lose.”


Look at that worm…

There he goes,

And where he stops

Not even he knows.


The little guy’s humping up

And now he’s schlumping down,

Measuring the marigolds

Little eyebrows furrowed in a frown.


Measuring stem and petal

And all the other bits

As the flower slowly dwindles

And its fleeting beauty flits.


All that striving,

Undoubtedly duly noted

In some report or other

Likely to be quoted.


All of that effort,

The job is intense,

But those numbers mean little

‘Cause the problem’s still immense.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  “Measuring Tape” by Sean MacEntee via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

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