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Sparks of Genius

Posted by Donna Tate on 8/27/2015 to Training Research
Book: Sparks of GeniusSparks of Genius, (by Robert & Michele Root - Bernstein) has long been a favorite read among the creative.  However, the connection to emotional intelligence adds even greater reason to keep it on the top shelf of the leadership library and facilitative resources. 
Consider the solid, yet less than concrete, "gut feeling".  How many times have we heard the advice from among the most successful, "Go with your gut!"  What is that, if not emotional intelligence?  Sparks of Genius says it succinctly, "This feeling of knowing without being able to say how one knows is common.  The French philosopher amd mathematician Blaise Pascal is famous for his aphorism - 'The heart has it's reasons that reason cannot know.'"  The book further quotes Claude Bernard, the founder of modern physiology concerning everything purposeful in scientific thinking, and how it begins with a feeling, "Feeling alone, guides the mind.Sparks of Genius offers these questions for consideration:
  • "Where do sudden illuminations or insights come from? 
  • How can we know things that we cannot yet say, draw, or write?
  • How do gut feelings and intuitions function in imaginative thinking?
  • How do we translate from feeling to word, emotion to number?
  • Lastly, can we understand this creative imagination and, understanding it, can we exercise, train, and educate it?"
  • (Yes - more in the book)
"Intuition or mathematics? "  asks inventor and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke.  "Do we use models to help us find the truth?  Or do we know the truth first, and then develop the mathematics to explain it?"  There is no doubt about the answer:  gut feelings and intuitions, an "essential feature in productive thought," as Einstein put it, "occur well before their meaning can be expressed in words or numbers."  In his own work, mathematics and formal logic were secondary steps: "Conventional words or other signs... have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the associative play already referred to is sufficiently established and can be reproduced at will."  (excerpt, page 5)
 
Which brings us to "associative play".  Sounds a whole like what many refer to as experiential games and activities / a part of emotional intelligence.  The book has an entire chapter (13) simply entitled, "Playing".  It highlights Alexander Fleming, the medical researcher who discovered "an odd mold called Penicillium,".  Fleming had a reputation for play, before, during or after work, always a game with him.  "I play with microbes," he said whenever anyone asked what he did.  "There are of course, many rules to this play...but when you have acquired knowledge and experience it is very pleasant to break the rules and to be able to find something nobody had thought of."

Sparks of Genius highlight another big truth about "play" and experiential learning:  "There's no doubt about it.  ....games, (play), ...and almost any other intellectual amusement imaginable all develop some skill, knowledge, or concept that can be turned to good account...   What we do for fun rewards us many times over in unexpected ways when we apply it to some real-world problem or use it as an analogy for some mysterious phenomenon."  The difficulty with playing  - is being able to remain enough of a child to do it.  (read that last sentence once more for emphasis, and then again)  Play returns us to the pre-symbolic drives of gut feelings, emotions, intuition, and fun from which creative insights stem, thereby making us inventors. When rule-bound work does not yield the insights or results we want to achieve, when conventional thought, behavior, and disciplinary knowledge become barriers to our goals, play provides a fun and risk-free means of seeing things from a fresh perspective, learning without constraint, exploring without fear.  Play transforms knowledge and builds understanding as we create our own worlds, personas, games, rules, toys, and puzzles - and through them, new sciences and new arts."  (Excerpt - Ch. 13)

Sparks of Genius is full of great research and ideas to help us not only return to reliance on "gut feelings", but to help us to embrace emotional intelligence, and experiential games, without fear.  To not only come around to the idea that it really is "Okay to play" - even at work, but to run toward it, in expectation of problem solving and greater productivity.

 "Play on!" has been the cry of experiential educators for more that a quarter of a century.  When you play - be proud of it!  If the thought of letting the creative, playful child (in you!) run free - is not quite a place of comfort, let Facilitator Express and others show you the way.  Add Sparks of Genius to your professional library, in the meantime.


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