In his foreword for my book Too Fast To Think, Sir Ken Robinson, the eminent educational thinker, pointed out something quite radical. He said that whether or not humans use their creativity will prove just how intelligent we humans really are.
The intelligence problems start early with our embracing of the Western Reductionist Model. We analyse. We break things down, then we analyse again. Then we measure and codify the success in this area with the allocation of educational awards like degrees. In 2016, we saw the shortcomings of this approach. We were constantly taken by surprise and shocked by events such as Brexit and Donald Trump. Even in 2009 when HM The Queen asked a leading British economist why no one had foreseen the banking crisis, he responded: "We didn't have the imagination." This illustrates the problem. We have created a world of "drill-down" thinking which is incapable of "looking-across".
Our ability to join the dots is what makes us powerful. Yet we do not teach this and if it happens at all, it's quite by accident.
Our ability to join the dots is what makes us powerful. Yet we do not teach this and if it happens at all, it's quite by accident. In my research, I asked leaders from all walks of life—
the clergy, commerce, politics, the military, science, film and the arts—where their best ideas came from. Their response was strikingly similar. They all identified three common traits. They were never at work. They were always on their own. Even more strangely, they were never trying. In short, they were not in the Western Reductionist Model.
If ideas come when we are doing nothing, then we have to accept that this is evidence of the sub-conscious mind working away in the background to solve problems. We can even break down the way it works into clear stages of Induction, Incubation, Inspiration and Ignition. Normally the ratio here is 40/30/20/10. This suggests that the majority of the creative process is unconscious. It's only at the Inspiration phase when it becomes visible.
There is no doubt that teaching people how to analyse is important. It's especially the case for the logics of science and math. We must accept, though, that with the rise of AI and machine-based learning that Western Reductionism will eventually be supplanted by computer-based algorithms. We then will have to work out what it is that we humans can contribute and that's clear. No machine can yet (nor is it expected to be able to) interpret metaphor across multiple media. Being able to see a pattern or to join the dots across art, music, commerce, religion and culture is a uniquely human talent. If we do not harness this capacity, then we can expect an ever-more volatile and frightening world where everything we know is constantly disrupted, the very definition of which suggests the unforeseen.
If we want to safely navigate the rest of the 21st century, human beings must never forget these innate intuitive gifts. As thinker Iain McGilchrist said: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant, but has forgotten the gift."
The time for a new model is now.
Why Need Intuition More Than Analysis To Build A Better World