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Happy New “Creative Leap” Year

[ by Charles Cameron — wondering whether a von Kármán vortex street might be a good place to take a Paul Lévy walk one of these days — when I’m out and about, foraging for new ideas ]

"Named after French mathematician Paul Lévy, a Lévy walk is characterized by many small moves combined with a few longer trajectories."


M’friend Bill Benzon of the New Savanna blog posted two paras out of an NYT blog piece, Navigating Our World Like Birds and Bees, today:

What they have found is that when moving with a purpose such as foraging for food, many creatures follow a particular and shared pattern. They walk (or wing or lope) for a short time in one direction, scouring the ground for edibles, then turn and start moving in another direction for a short while, before turning and strolling or flying in another direction yet again. This is a useful strategy for finding tubers and such, but if maintained indefinitely brings creatures back to the same starting point over and over; they essentially move in circles.

So most foragers and predators occasionally throw in a longer-distance walk (or flight), which researchers refer to as a “long step,” bringing them into new territory, where they then return to short walks and frequent turns as they explore the new place.

I can’t help but think that this may give us a closer approximation to the way minds can think than our usual terms, linear and lateral, or on a wider scale, disciplinary and interdisciplinary thinking, with the short walks involving thoughts that require investigation but not analogy, and the long steps being leaps by analogy into new territory — the familiar hop, skip and jumps we also call creative leaps.

From my POV, seeing both linear and leaping thoughts this way allows for the fact that what we’ve been calling linear thoughts aren’t so much linear as local, while analogical thoughts by their very nature take us from one thought domain to another — via parallelism or opposition — leaping conceptual distances.

Which is why I can wish you a Happy New “Creative Leap” Year! — even though 2014 isn’t divisible by 4 and there will still only be 28 days this February.

7 Responses to “Happy New “Creative Leap” Year”

  1. Charles Cameron Says:

    My friend Daniel Bassill tweeted in response to my announcement of this post:

    I tend to work with networks of thoughts (as Hermann Hesse does in his book on the Glass Bead Game) — but as Daniel reminds us, there are also networks of people (Hesse used this idea when “playing” the glass bead gamer by himself in his garden) — and networks of people are networks of clusters of thoughts, so things get even more nested and interesting!
    Happy New Year, Daniel, and the very best with all your projects.
    Friends in the Chicago area — please contact Daniel to help with his many fine Tutor/Mentor programs.

  2. zen Says:

    I think you are on to something Charles, especially for conscious cognition and dot-connection segways that comprise a majority of our creativity, the tweaking, tinkering, experimenting kind that maps on MRi scans as involving activating multiple regions of the brain.
    The bolt out of the blue insights that are seemingly unrelated to anything in particular in the immediate sense of context or associated concepts that go beyond a creative leap and materialize as a sudden, alinear flash of understanding are associated primarily with the cingulate cortex. A break in conscious activity is often a precursor, a hop off the circular pattern into a position of mental “rest” or at least distraction from the problem at hand

  3. Piercello Says:

    There’s a “Cingularity” joke in there somewhere…

  4. zen Says:


  5. Dan Bassill Says:

    Hi Charles,
    Thinks for bringing our Twitter conversation over to your blog.  In the late 1990s I was introduced to TRIZ, the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, which you can read about at http://www.mazur.net/triz/
    The founders of TRIZ begin collecting a library of innovation ideas after WWII and built a computer modeling system where people could find prompts for their own innovations. While this primarily was focused on engineering and technology I saw the potential of building a library of information related to poverty, philanthropy, youth development, etc. that anyone could draw ideas from in efforts to build and sustain systems of support that would help inner city youth move from birth to work with consistent support of volunteers and people from beyond poverty.
    A map of my library can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/TMI-library
    One section, http://tinyurl.com/TMI-ProcessImp-Collaboration , which includes a link to the TRIZ site, focuses on process improvement, innovation, creativity, collaboration, etc. which are building blocks for inventive problem solving in any setting.
    I had been aggregating a library of information about tutoring, mentoring, poverty, etc. on a formal basis since 1993. It wasn’t until I heard a guy named Stan Davis talk about  Knowledge Management that I realize that was what I was doing. It wasn’t until I heard the TRIZ presentation that I was able to see the benefit of the knowledge I was collecting to others who were focused on the same goals. For the past couple of years I’ve been following cMOOCs, seeing them as a potential for gathering more people around the information we’re aggregating.
    I think anyone could be more effective in solving their own problems if they were inspired by seeing how others solved similar problems, or applied innovative thinking to solve different problems.
    One of the challenges is that too few people actually spend time looking at this information. The on-line conversations you and I have had for almost 8 years have always prompted others who were following our discussion to follow the links we provided to build their own understanding of what we were talking about.
    One of the innovations I’m looking for is finding ways to engage more people in this process, and more people who focus on the well-being of youth and the workforce, in this process so that many more people would be going into the library of information and using it to support their own actions. 
    cMOOCs offer a potential for attracting people together for in-depth and on-going learning. I hope in 2014 to find some people in my field who will help organize these.

  6. zen Says:

    Hey Dan
    Very interesting links – it will take some time for me to wend my way through them
    You have a tech issue with your library  smallboxes – data and server errors on some links – just FYI
    I’m wondering if the iLab model of connection between students and outside mentors/facilities is what you are looking for in a MOOC? A friend of mine, Dr. Mark Vondracek working with Evanston high school physics students and Northwestern U. has a “lighthouse” example running  that is catching international attention with South Korea sending observers and press to his classroom:

  7. Dan Bassill Says:

    Hi Zen,
    Thanks for taking a look and posting the info about Dr. Vondracek.  I’ve depended on volunteers to help me keep the links current in the sites and it’s an on-going process. There’s a “broken link” feature on the main library site that people can click to tell me a link is not working, and I can fix it or delete it.
    Interesting article from South Korea. I’ve had interns from South Korea, India and China working with me since the early 2000s.  This forum is one place where I coach an ongoing visualization project where interns look at ideas I originate as blog articles or PDFs then reinterpret them with their own projects. http://tutormentorconnection.ning.com/group/cktmc
    This project gets students thinking of strategies needed to solve problems, and learning to visualize and communicate those ideas in a variety of ways.  They learn new technologies in the process.  It’s something that youth from many places could take part in, leading to idea sharing on forums like this, with students taking active roles.
    I’m still connected to many past students and volunteers from the tutor/mentor program I’ve led since 1975 and who have been part of internships. My goal is that they use the Internet, and their shared experiences, to connect and support each other in local and global problem solving.
    If you or others can introduce me to people who have are interested in connecting, please do.

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