Andrew Finley: Thinking differently

So, I was asked to consider why I enjoyed TEDxTruro so much that I immediately booked for this year when tickets became available. This got me thinking about thinking. It’s a delight and a curse, at the heart of all advances in humankind – every one of them; but also what causes the misery of depression to haunt so much of the population – rumination, spiralling into darkness.

Creative thinking has been at the heart of my professional and sporting career – how do we do this or that better, differently, in a way that gives us an edge? Sir Ken Robinson gave a brilliant TED talk on Creativity and education. Studies on young children where they are given simple objects and asked to suggest how they might be used in ways that are different from their intended function yield wonderful results that confirm the enormous, latent creative capability in all of us. Give them 10 years in education, repeat the test and the results will show dramatically reduced levels of performance.

Why is this? Do we intentionally crush creativity through our structured teaching and learning? Clearly not, so something else is at play.

In the workplace we are driven by norms – the well tested and established rules of our profession or sector and culture of our organisation. Groupthink is an inevitable consequence; it’s safe, just follow the leader, be that your boss or the perceived exemplars in your field – “no one gets fired for buying IBM”. In the digital world, with complex algorithms defining us and our online habits, it is almost impossible not to be surrounded with communities of similar tastes, interests, attitudes and opinions. Inevitably, this results in a narrowing of our perspectives and further constriction of imaginative capability.

The sensational ad produced by Apple after Steve Jobs returned to the company – The Crazy Ones, celebrated those misfits and geniuses that stood alone, challenged norms, were loud and controversial – these, the narrative opined, are the people who change the world, who make things happen. I owe a huge debt to my father for many things but none more than his constant encouragement of me to challenge accepted wisdom, to ask why and to search for new perspectives. This caused me much trouble at school but undoubtedly helped propel my career in the creative world of publishing. And therein lies the nub, it may just be that formal education simply doesn’t have the time to deal with classrooms full of pupils asking why? or why not? I make no criticism here, I understand the reality of life in school with league tables, OFSTED and umpteen measures of “success” by which teaching professionals are judged.

So, it is essential think differently, to recapture those happy days when innocent, uncompromised views of the world around us engaged and excited us. TEDx is one of the sources of such stimulation, here people express themselves in ways that will change, challenge or reaffirm your views of the wider world.

Whatever the case, it is an enriching experience… come and enjoy it.

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