“You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head. What are the models? Well, the first rule is that you’ve got to have multiple models — because if you just have one or two that you’re using, the nature of human psychology is such that you’ll torture reality so that it fits your models, or at least you’ll think it does” – Charlie Munger
From birth we are raised to believe that the smartest people get all of the glory and all of the gold.
Good letter grades, pass/fail marks, academic acclaim…all of these are used to praise those who submit to our neuro-centric society.
Still, that doesn’t explain an interesting fact: only 30% of Fortune 500 CEOs have a bachelor’s degree.
Why do people who never went to college have PhD’s and people with elite Masters’ degree distinctions working for them?
That’s because success in life is not about how “smart” you are. Rather, it’s about how you implement creative imagination in order to think effectively.
In this article, I’m going to show you some tools to increase your effective thinking and as a result have more creative imagination in the process.
Are you creative?
It’s no secret our world has many problems. Most of these need thinking in a new way in order to solve them. That’s where creative imagination steps in.
Creative imagination is the ability to take already existing pieces and configure them in a new way to create a new creation. What are some examples?
Airbnb isn’t the first company to offer short term rental services. They are the first company to offer a new thing in an appealing way.
Uber certainly wasn’t the first company to offer public transportation. They did do it in a way that made it incredibly easy, given the widespread use of smartphones.
Lil’ Wayne certainly wasn’t the first rapper to use punchlines and ad libs. Yet his sound is distinctive and unique.
A lot of people feel the pressure to be “better”. This is a relic from our schooling, more often from overzealous parents who want their kid to be the next Daniel Kahneman or Albert Einstein.
“Better” isn’t always….better.
Coming up with something that’s widely acclaimed isn’t a matter of “better”. It’s a matter of “different”.
Creative imagination is how you appeal to the needs of your environment at that point in time.
Not every problem has a ready-made solution. Sometimes, it takes a “latticework” to bring things to a close.
Coming up with something that’s widely acclaimed isn’t a matter of “better”. It’s a matter of “different”.Coming up with something that's widely acclaimed isn't a matter of “better. Click To Tweet
What are your maps?
Everyone knows what a map is. It’s a way to get from A to B in the shortest amount of time.
Did you know you can “shortcut” your thinking as well? You do so by the creation of mental maps, mental models, and mental representations.
A mental map or a mental model is a representation of an action within your mind’s eye.
For example, if I asked you: “how do you drive a car?” your explanation would be filtered through the perception of the mental representation you have of “how to drive a car”.
This is also known as a paradigm or a self-concept in self-image psychology.
So, how does this relate to creative imagination?
Your creative imagination is limited to the degree of the amount, variety, and depth of your mental maps.
Since creativity is the reorganization of already-existing objects into new forms, your knowledge of how those objects functions determine your creativity.
You can only know how those objects function with time and experience. This is part of what deep work seeks to accomplish.
Physically, this manifests in the form of neurological networks connected by a series of interlinking axons.
Overtime, these neurological networks become coated in myelin from repeated use. This is how habits are formed.
Do you have blocks towards your creative imagination?
As I hinted at earlier, everyone is creative in some capacity or another. It’s just whether their brain allows them to formulate creative solutions.
Since we have a mental map, a mental representation, a self-concept, and effectively a paradigm for everything we do, it’s clear that these affect our behavior.
Thought acting on physical tissue creates a level of mind, which then creates actions. Repeat the thought over and over again, then you have a belief/self-concept.
We all have beliefs. Unfortunately, some of our beliefs just aren’t true!
These are known as self-limiting beliefs.
These influence our mental maps, which then influence our creative imagination. This means most of us are operating far below our true capacity.
How to create good mental maps and representations
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”- Plato
First: we need to become aware.
Ignorance is the number one reason why many people lack creative imagination.
Ignorance create fear. Fear stifles creative potential and creates further self-limiting beliefs.
A good way to cure this ignorance is to read books and read a lot of them. Read them on various fields on various subjects. These will be your building blocks.
Conscious awareness is the light that dispels the darkness of ignorance. .
Second: interlace the mental maps
Every time you read or take in a new piece of information, your brain decides whether to discard or to file it away for further use.
This is because you have primed your brain to be cognizant of certain things that will help it achieve its objectives. This is known as “psycho-cybernetics”.
When you identify something as particularly useful, you at that time make a mental representation of it.
When you gather enough mental representations, you start to see that they all link together. Some of them fit perfectly, like adjacent puzzle pieces, others require another piece between them to connect.
Eventually, you’ll find that there are several basic mental models that contribute to creative imagination.
You don’t need to know every little thing about everything in order to be an effective thinker. You just need to know the big ideas that govern success or failure in that area.
For example, a good mental model to always carry around is “compound interest”. In the world of investing, this is valuable.
Knowing that any amount you invest allowed to grow for any number of time will result in exponential gains is a key foundation stone.
In personal development, this concept is known as “the slight edge”.
Third: fire, fire, fire
Since we’ve already established that repeated thoughts create a certain type of functioning in the brain, we understand that our brain can constantly reconfigure itself in response to experience.
Mental maps need several “practice runs” to be solidified until they can be used as a way to become creative.
You can’t just do something one time and expect to get great results.
How does this look in the real world when we’re trying to exercise creative imagination and effective thinking?
For example: you’re trying to study for a test or a quiz. Rout memorization won’t get you there (and if it does, it’s like taking a sledgehammer to a piece of paper).
A better way would be to ascribe mental representations to different concepts. For example, certain topics or concepts bring to mind a certain color, phrase or feeling.
You ascribe those mental representations to those colors, words, phrases, or feelings.
So when I say the word “purple” or “potatoes”, you automatically bring to mind all of those concepts.
The reality is that our world isn’t that simple.
You will get steamrolled by life if you had no paradigms to relate to it with.
Everyone has different mental maps and models to how they explain the world. One isn’t more “right” than the other, but there are some that are more efficient.
Black and white thinking is the reason why most of our world is in disarray and why we need creative imagination.
When a mental model is created right, you can relate to the underlying reality that governs much of our universe and use it to think more effectively.
What do you think about creative imagination and using mental models to help be more creative? Let me know in the comments.