How to Think Like a Genius
Nine approaches to creative
1. Rethink! Look at problems in many different ways.
2. Visualize! Utilize diagrams and imagery to analyze
3. Produce! Genius is productive.
4. Combine! Make novel combinations...
5. Form! Form relationships.
6. Opposite! Think in opposites.
7. Metaphor/simile! Think metaphorically.
8. Failure! Learning from your mistakes is one
example of using failure.
9. Patience! Don't confuse inspiration with ideas.
"Even if you're not a genius, you can use the
same strategies as Aristotle and Einstein to
harness the power of your creative mind
and better manage your future."
1. Look at problems in many different
ways. Find new perspectives that no one
else has taken (or no one else has
Leonardo da Vinci believed that, to gain
knowledge about the form of a problem,
you begin by learning how to restructure
it in many different ways.
He felt that the first way he looked at a
problem was too biased.
Often, the problem itself is reconstructed
and becomes a new one.
When Einstein thought through a
problem, he always found it necessary to
formulate his subject in as many different
ways as possible, including using diagrams.
He visualized solutions, and believed that
words and numbers as such did not play a
significant role in his thinking process.
Produce! A distinguishing
characteristic of genius is productivity.
Thomas Edison held 1,093 patents. He
guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his
assistants idea quotas.
In a study of 2,036 scientists throughout history,
Dean Keith Simonton of the University of
California at Davis found that the most
respected scientists produced not only great
works, but also many "bad" ones.
They weren't afraid to fail, or to produce
mediocre in order to arrive at excellence.
Make novel combinations.
Combine, and recombine, ideas,
images, and thoughts into
different combinations no matter
how incongruent or unusual.
The Austrian monk Grego Mendel
combined mathematics and biology
to create a new science of heredity. The
modern science of genetics is based upon
Make connections between
Da Vinci forced a relationship between
the sound of a bell and a stone hitting
water. This enabled him to make the
connection that sound travels in waves.
Samuel Morse invented relay stations for
telegraphic signals when observing relay
stations for horses.
Think in opposites.
Physicist Niels Bohr believed that if you
held opposites together, then you suspend
your thought, and your mind moves to a
new level. His ability to imagine light as
both a particle and a wave led to his
conception of the principle of
Suspending thought (logic) may allow your
mind to create a new form.
Aristotle considered metaphor a sign of
genius, and believed that the individual
who had the capacity to perceive
resemblances between two separate
areas of existence and link them together
was a person of special gifts.
Prepare yourself for chance.
Whenever we attempt to do something
and fail, we end up doing something else.
That is the first principle of creative
accident. (Roast a better turkey!!!)
Failure can be productive only if we do
not focus on it as an unproductive result.
Instead: analyze the process, its
components, and how you can change
them, to arrive at other results.
Do not ask the question "Why have I
failed?", but rather "What have I done?"
Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906) is recognized as one of
the 19th century's greatest painters, and is often
called the father of modern art, an avant garde bridge
between the impressionists and the cubists.
During his life he only had a few exhibitions though
his influence on subsequent artists was great as an
innovator with shape and form. His genius, however,
was not evident until late in life. He was refused
admission to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts at age 22 and
his first solo exhibition was at age 56.
His genius was the product of many years' practice
and experimental innovation.
Problem solving: creative
The following strategies encourage you to
think productively, rather than
reproductively, in order to arrive at
solutions to problems.
"These strategies are common to the
thinking styles of creative geniuses in
science, art, and industry throughout
Look at problems in many different ways.
Find new perspectives that no one else has
Solutions example: Finding a job or internship:
Ask friends or colleagues for potential leads
Send samples of your work or portfolio to
anyone that might respond.
Check local resources like Craigslist or your
school's job search
Broaden your target audience.
What other fields could you specialize in?
Utilize diagrams and imagery to analyze
your dilemma. How can you use pictures,
images, graphs, etc. in your studies?
Write out one example of how you can
use imagery, then print and post it in your
Genius is productive. Perhaps originality is not
the key, but rather constant application of
thought and tools to arrive a solutions.
Geniuses are the luckiest of mortals because what
they must do is the same as what they most want
W. H. Auden (1907–1973) Anglo-American poet
Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience.
George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707–1788)
Make novel combinations...
Combine and recombine ideas, images,
and thoughts into different combinations
no matter how incongruent or unusual.
Form relationships. Make connections
between dissimilar subjects. This doesn't
always apply to objects: form relationships
with people and ask them questions!
Get to know people in your field that can
help you excel to the best of your ability.
Write down one person that you could
get in contact with, why you think this
person can help, and print/post it for
Think in opposites. Don't always stick
with the obvious solutions.
Get outside of your comfort zone.
“Opposites” bring two approaches to a
situation but they do share a basic
Example: “right” and “left” are both
directions, but which is the right choice?
The Sesame Street Muppet Elmo teaches
small children the concept of opposites!
Think metaphorically. Metaphors are
connections that are unusual or not an
ordinary way of thinking:
A sea of troubles; the heart of a lion; raining
cats and dogs.
• Similes use "like" or "as" to illustrate
The boy was as agile as a monkey.
The miner's face was like coal.
The task was as easy as ABC.
Dry like a raisin in the sun.
Learning from your mistakes is one example of
using failure. As strange as it seems the human
brain is failure machine: it generates models of
reality, acts on them, and adjusts or creates new,
successful models based on failures.
From Daniel Coyle’s the Talent Code on Adam
Bryant’s weekly interview: “every single CEO
shares the same nugget of wisdom: the crucial
importance of mistakes, failures, and setbacks…
mistakes create unique conditions of high-
velocity learning that cannot be matched by
more stable, “successful” situations.”
Don't confuse inspiration with ideas.
Apply your ideas with patience for the
reward they may deserve.