Creativity is a mystery. As we tend to spontaneously reproduce our conditions of existence we are fundamentally conservative, even those who call themselves "leftists." How is it then that we may yet evolve?
In any business, in any institution, conservative forces are struggling to ensure the sustainability of the organization and, as we well know, the leaders never understand anything new. The economic reasoning is not enough to explain why so many innovations happen: for an enterprise embarks on a new project it is not enough that innovation seems profitable, the potential profitability must also have been understood or at least glimpsed. How leaders "who never understand anything new" can nevertheless understand finally the value of an innovation?
These two mysteries are similar to the one the evolution of species confront us. If parents pass their genes to their children, how is it that one species can evolve, that forms life takes can diversify? The answer, as we know, lies in the mutations: genes are not transmitted all the same.
Mutations are random, most of them are harmful and their carriers disappear. Some, however, are so positive that they will benefit their holders in the competition for reproduction: hence evolution.
Does not happen in our minds, in our institutions, a phenomenon similar to this one that would explain the creative thinking in the individual and the innovation in the enterprise?
* *We believe that the mind resides entirely in concepts and in the logical relationships between concepts, that it is entirely explicit. “Ce qui se conçoit bien s'énonce clairement”, said Boileau, "What is well conceived is stated clearly.” But this is wrong or rather incomplete. Before thinking explicits itself in concepts, before it goes into shape, it gropes in the dark.
The association of ideas, which explicit thought should banish, is driving this phase of preconceptual thought. It is like manure that we do not eat of course, but that nourishes plants that feed us and is indispensable to their growth. In moments of relaxation or reverie before or after sleep, or when we indulge in our bathroom, ideas, images, impulses succeed in our mind. The cerebral gland that produces them spontaneously, as well as endocrine glands secrete hormones. The association of ideas does not follow a logical order. Awakened by the assonance of words, by the similarity of images, it follows random paths with respect to the order of things: it is like a plow that plows and plows again the ground, like a hand that beats a card game.
Among the ideas and images that scroll in our mind, most have no interest: they would be as harmful as are most of the genetic mutations. A few are potentially fruitful: the association of ideas has compared things it would be useful to bring together, suggested ingenious approach that we would never have thought of.
But to identify potentially fruitful ideas in the flow of those that the cerebral gland produces spontaneously we must also know how to sort them: it is the role of what I call creative intelligence, which assumes a sensitivity of a very peculiar type and also the intervention of memory.
* *Some people perceive relief among the ideas: they will see the ingenious idea emerge as a peak, as a summit whose appearance arouses in them a strong emotion. Some have described the glare, the dizziness that the idea whose intuition anticipates the fertility gives rise to. This emotion engraves the idea in memory: it will henceforth guide the effort and the action.
But not everyone is sensitive to the relief of ideas: some people, puting on the same level all the suggestions that their brain secretes in relaxation, are equally indifferent to all of them. In their minds, Everest itself would not seem to emerge from the sea level and their associations of ideas, not eliciting any emotion, remain without consequence.
Others perceive relief but it is misplaced, as on a map that would be established by a misinformed geographer. They will then fall in love with sterile ideas selected by a caprice: they try but nothing will come of it.
* *The excitement at the fruitful idea is similar to aesthetic emotion: the person who appreciates the beauty and harmony of a work of art or an artifact sees this work, this, object, to detach and shine on the background of undifferentiated perception. Those who are deprived of this sensitivity can not even catch a glimpse of what it is.
We can simulate the association of ideas on the computer: it can randomly jump from a document or an image to another, it can stir files. But could it feel a relief, anticipate the consequences of a rapprochement and finally select the most promising ideas? This requires, it seems, the sensitivity and anticipatory capacity which only we humans possess - or at least some of us.