Leader Volume 8, Number 12
Logic Stifle Creativity?
Mr. Grossman is President of Double Dominance, Inc. a creative problem-solving company in Maple Shade, NJ (phone 609-779-0702). He is author of Innovation, Inc. (Wordware Publishing, Plano, TX, 1988).
I always carry my
umbrella when the weatherman says it’s going to rain.
Last night, the weatherman said it was not going to rain. Today,
I’m carrying my umbrella.
Am I being
Most people would
say no. However,
there’s nothing illogical about the above statement.
I never said I didn’t
carry an umbrella on days it wasn’t supposed to rain.
My behavior may be silly and unreasonable; but, based
solely on the information I gave you, it’s not illogical.
If you think this
little exercise was something only a lawyer could love, you’re
not alone. Many
people (including some who are experts in the mechanics of our
thought processes) believe that logic is a limiting system to
finding wonderful creative solutions to complex and difficult
problems. They see
creativity as a magic, inspirational, intuitive process that only
can be stifled by the drab, time-consuming, linear progression of
they’re not being logical.
Most of us fear
what we don’t understand, and logic is no exception.
Far from being a limiting factor, logic can be the catalyst
for actually dislodging the wonderful “Aha?” that lies
imbedded in the recesses of the unconscious mind.
Logic is nothing
more that conditional reasoning.
We start with a set of preconditions that must not be
violated on our path to a solution; just as my carrying the
umbrella on a sunny day did not violate the statement, “I always
carry my umbrella when the weatherman says it’s going to
rain.” The fact
that it is unreasonable of me to carry an umbrella on a sunny day
is irrelevant. “Reasonableness” or “rationality” are value judgments
and only can mislead when applied to logic.
A logical train
of thought must follow three rules:
1. It must
be sequential. When
going from A to Z, you must go from A to B, then B to C, and so
forth. You may not
jump directly from A to C.
step of the process must be correct.
If one of the steps violates the preconditions, the entire
process is wrong.
3. You may
only use problem-relevant
must stay within the boundaries and guidelines given by the
criteria of the system.
inflexible and uncreative, doesn’t it?
Now, let’s look at the creative process.
Although there are many definitions of creativity, we’ll
use the one that’s commonly used by the anti-logic camp: “The
creative process is a problem-solving act that involves a shift in
perception--a sudden inspiration that develops a totally new way
of looking at the problem.”
A paper towel manufacturer wanted to increase sales, so
they asked their designer to come up with a solution that would
make the product more “personal.”
How do you make a mass-produced product, like a paper
towel, deliver a “personal” message to millions of consumers?
spent many sleepless nights working on that problem.
Finally, one morning while she was putting on her makeup,
she realized that her mirror was a perfect example of what she was
looking for. Millions
of people could own the same generic mirror, but each mirror would
impart a unique message to its owner--the reflection of their own
Her first thought
somehow put a mirror on the package, but she discarded this
instantly as impractical. Her
next thought was the answer:
Create 12 patterns, one for each sign of the Zodiac.
People who purchased “their” sign saw the message as
something intensely personal.
Since only 12 designs were needed, the “Astrological
Towel” was a huge success, boosting sales without significantly
increasing production costs.
On the surface,
this creative process would seem the opposite of logic. For example:
1. It was
designer jumped directly from a makeup mirror to astrology.
2. One step
was wrong. She could
not put a mirror on the towel or the packaging because the
technology wasn’t available for her.
created relevance from the irrelevant information--the makeup
mirror had nothing to do with paper towels.
examination, however, shows that the designer could have used pure
logic to reach the same solution.
In fact, the designer did not abandon logic; she simply
redefined the parameters of the problem.
Instead of defining her task as making a paper towel
“personal” to millions of people, she amended the boundary
conditions to include the idea that the product simply should have
the perception of
parameters of the problem then would have included all such items
or events that fit the conditions for “mass
uniqueness”--birthdays, anniversaries, common first names,
ethnic groupings, et cetera.
Because there are
only 12 signs in the Zodiac, it would not have taken long for a
solely logical process to reach the same solution.
How do we know
every result developed by the creative process can be backtracked
using logic! If
it’s not possible to find a logic string that explains a
creative burst, then the creative “solution” can’t possibly
work as predicted.
You may argue
that this is a conceptual non
sequitur because the trick is to “create” the solution,
not to use logic to rationalize it.
You may claim that it was only the mental foray that our
marketing director took into the irrelevant that allowed the
appropriate solution to present itself.
act reverses an underlying assumption that the problem solver has
been making about the problem.
In other words, when there’s no logical answer, the
creative person changes the question.
first rule of logic? We
start with a set of preconditions that must not be violated.
Very often it is the assumptions we make about these
preconditions that constitutes the problem.
By changing the preconditions, the “creative” solution
is inevitably the logical one.
The act of creativity is a confirmation, not a refutation,
of the power of logic.
There are three
unifying principles of creative and logical thinking:
may be unreasonable and irrational.
2. There is
always a logical path to every creative solution.
Reversing the assumptions on which a logical argument is based may
yield quite profound, unforeseen, and wonderful solutions, while
preserving the integrity of the logical argument.
Those who try to
separate logic and creativity are doomed to failure.
Logic is the tool with which we eat the meal. If we don’t like steak, we don’t throw away the fork; we
change our order.