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Quantum Intuition - boosting creativity and reducing stress

Quantum Intuition - boosting creativity and reducing stress

For many years now western culture has been dominated by an engineering approach to the world based on the concept of logical thought. We are awash with problem solving methods that go along the lines - gather information - formulate options - evaluate options - decide. While logical thinking has its place, there are other, far more important, ways of thinking that have become submerged. In a world where innovation is key, however, it will be these other forms of thinking that start to dominate. And as a bonus, the techniques that support these forms of thinking also combat the scourge of western society, stress. Stress costs businesses huge amounts through lost time, staff turnover and, more recently, legal actions, without even mentioning the loss of creativity.

The easiest place to start is with a couple of thinking exercises. Imagine three light bulbs that have standard connections to three light switches. The bulbs are in one room and the switches in another. One switch connects directly to one bulb. There is no direct line of sight from one room to the other. When you arrive all the switches are down and all the lights are off. You are allowed to enter the switch room once and then the bulb room once. You are not allowed to retrace your tracks. Your task is to identify which switch controls which bulb. How do you do it? You do not need smoke or mirrors or to cut any wires. There is a simple answer. Pause to consider this. The answer is in the next paragraph.

There is one simple realisation that unlocks this puzzle - light bulbs produce heat as well as light. The answer then is - turn on two switches - after one minute, turn one off again - go to the bulb room, one is on, one is off but hot, the other is off and cold - simple. When you made the heat realisation or when you read it you will have experienced one of those Homer Simpson 'doh' moments. It was not the culmination of a long logical thought process. It just hit you. You then used logical thinking to fill in the rest.

Now look at the picture. It is possible to see two distinct images in this drawing, one of an elegant young woman and one of an old woman. (in case you are struggling the old woman's eye is the young woman's ear and the young woman's necklace is the old woman's mouth). Notice how it is not possible to see both at once. Our perception snaps from one to the other. Again we do not seem to be observing a computer like logical analysis of the image. Indeed it is now being suggested that thought is a quantum field process. Fields interact across the mind and jump from quantum state to quantum state.

Consciously we seem to have little control over this process. The way we talk about ideas gives us a clue. People are 'struck' by them. They come 'out of the blue'. You have probably had the experience of trying unsuccessfully to remember some fact, a name, whatever. When you stopped trying, it suddenly 'came to you'. Our experience and even our language indicate that these ideas come from outside conscious control. Indeed our use of language gives us many clues about how the mind works and we will return to that later.

I challenge anyone to name a creative idea they came to by just sitting and thinking logically through it. My approach to problem solving in business follows a method along the lines of - gather lots of information - talk to a few people about it - think about it in the bath - suddenly know the answer ('doh') - go back and construct the logical case in order to convince the others. Logical thinking is vital for filling in the detail but seems to have limited input to innovation itself.

In fact what is happening is not so much a process as an interaction that allows our intuition to act for us. And what really rankles the engineers is that the important bit is outside our direct conscious control. Quantum Intuition is a model for thinking that allows us to explore creativity and develop tools that will help us feed our intuition and recognise its output when it is working. Basically we are helping our unconscious minds help us. Not only that but the model applies with interesting implications to groups and organisations as well as individuals.

Before exploring the model in more detail we need first to describe briefly some underpinning theory on the way the mind works. We emerge from the womb capable of very little. It is fascinating watching children grow and learn new capabilities. The concentration required to grab a finger never ceases to amaze me. Through a process of trial and error, however, we learn all sorts of capabilities. Soon we can walk and talk, both at the same time, and most of the hard work has disappeared into our unconscious.

As we grow and our activities become more sophisticated it is not just motor skills but also mental, language and perceptual skills that disappear into the unconscious. Take the humble door. They come in all shapes and sizes, some pull, some push, some have handles, some round, some levers etc etc. Yet we all know how to get into and out of a room with virtually no conscious thought. We are building models of reality in our minds that allow us to interpret the outside world rapidly. A very useful skill if you need to know the difference between a sabre toothed tiger and a bush quickly.

However, as we all build these models by trail error, they are all different. You will have noticed on many occasions how two people can interpret the same event in completely different ways. This has major implications in the most effective ways to collect and understand information and engage our unconscious creativity. With this theory in mind let us start explore quantum intuition.

Collecting is all about gathering information. This happens through many channels, we read about things, we observe things, we talking about things, we do things etc. All of these provide us with information which duly gets stored somewhere in our unconscious. If we wish this collection to be effective we have to be acutely aware of the impact our own and other people's unconscious models. I once wasted a whole evening on a high pressure project moderating a heated argument in my team that, in the end, boiled down simply to attaching different meanings to the expression 'system test'. Likewise, if someone is collecting information from us we have to be careful that the understanding they take away is what we intended. If the information they are collecting is about your product or even your desire to live with them forever in a state of wedded bliss it is pretty important you have a common understanding.

Reflecting is a more contemplative review of information. During reflection we suspend our natural tendency to rush to judgment and closure and examine what we know from different perspectives. It is particularly powerful when we start not just to contemplate information received but also recognise the impact our own models are having on the interpretation. Unfortunately in the western world reflecting is something of a lost skill. A person sat at their desk lost in contemplation is thought not to be working. We have to be seen to be doing things so we have to reflect when we can. You probably have a friend who claims to have their best ideas when running, ironing, or whatever.

Knowing is what happens after we have collected information and integrated it into our models of the world. Unfortunately we only ever access a minute amount of this incredible resource. People get depressed, lack confidence etc simply because they are accessing only those parts of their knowing that support that. By changing the way we access our knowledge we can have a huge impact on our capabilities.

Integration is handled by the unconscious. This is where the quantum shifts that change what we know occur. We have little direct conscious control but by understanding and practising the other three effectively we can allow this vast imaginative resource to serve us well.

To be effective we have to keep a balance between them all. Problems occur when one dominates or another is largely absent. The most common western complaint is dominance of collecting. We see people with strong political or religious views, say, for whom collecting is simply filtering out information that does not support their view. What they know simply becomes more and more fixed. There is no scope for reflecting and hence no hope of finding a creative solution to their problems.

Action can be an important way of collecting information but if there is no scope for feedback and reflecting on this feedback no real learning can take place.

Unfortunately the pressures in society have grown to make us feel that if we are not doing something we must be wasting time. Without time for reflection, however, it is very difficult to integrate learning and allow our intuition to be creative. Many of us have to relearn the techniques of reflection, of which there are many. Learning from people like Einstein disciplines like Neuro Linguistic Programming have identified many ways of looking at problems in new ways, ways that can easily be taught to others. While other physicists were thinking in their boxes Einstein was in his mind riding on a beam of light.

Furthermore techniques have emerged that allow us to encourage the unconscious integration. Disciplines like Yoga and meditation quiet the conscious mind and give this integration a chance. By understanding and practicing these we can increase the quantity and quality of our 'doh' moments. Furthermore these techniques have been shown scientifically to reduce stress. Deepak Chopra quotes a study that calculated people's biological age though a series of tests and compared this to their chronological age. Long term meditators came out biologically between five and twelve years younger.

This model also has implications for group interactions and organisations.

Group collecting relates to training and communications. Group knowing relates to culture, the way we do things around here. Group reflecting requires people to discuss issues in a way that suspends judgement and searches for meaning.

To achieve significant change in a group we need all three components to operate for integrated learning. Again reflecting is the component that has been largely lost in western society and this explains why so many change initiatives fail. There is lots of communication and training but little opportunity for group reflection and without this integrated learning will not happen. On a larger scale, say the Middle East, groups polarise, collect information only to support their view and engage in no real dialogue. Creative solutions just do not happen.

While reflecting as an individual requires us to let the mind wander and explore things from different perspectives, so with a group we have to be prepared to discuss without agendas and really listen to the other perspectives. Most of what we call listening in most discussions is more like reloading. People are simply waiting to push their point of view further. We have to relearn these skills.

In the early days of my business life we used to have numerous social and training events where people would get together and just talk about issues with no pressure to solve them or produce an action plan. Many good ideas would routinely emerge and a strong sense of community and commitment to each other and the organisation developed. Unfortunately most organisations have decided that such events do not produce directly measurable benefits and have stopped them. Taking a proper break for lunch with friends is now seen as a lack of commitment.

Many people's only commitment now is to themselves. This is bad for the organisation and leads to a feeling of isolation and hence stress. Encouraging reflective dialogue in an organisation dramatically reduces this isolation that many feel and hence dramatically reduces the stress.

It is only with balance that we will capture the creativity and commitment that only comes from integrated learning and is so essential to success. And we reduce stress and have more fun into the bargain.

Author: Bob Walder

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