In life it is frequently the case that problems do not have tidy solutions which can be discovered after careful thought. Quite often there is more than one solution, each with different, unwelcome side-effects. Sometimes there is no solution at all, or none that isn't worse than the original problem. Have you ever observed what happened when you were provoked by a person or situation? Did you react different from what one expected? Often certain things come to the fore which nobody expected. Provocation in creativity tries to realize exactly that, unexpected turns.

A few years ago when I wrote a book about creativity which had two front sides and no back cover. It aimed at two target groups, and although most publishers I sent it to reacted with enthusiasm, none accepted it!. I did not understand why until one publisher, who had thoroughly investigated the book, he liked it very much, explained that he could only reach one of the two target groups. Then I understood, the formula although very creative worked against it. I then stood in front of my bookcase with novels and decided that the solution to my problem was in there. I then only had to find which one, this already limited the area considerably. Then my eye fell on Gulliver's Travels (a Norton critical edition with the 1735 publication), I picked it out and browsed through it, and then the concept of this book slowly emerged.
This is the principle of provocation, open the Yellow Pages and stop on a certain page and decide the answer to your problem is there. Discipline yourself to really find it there and you are provoking yourself. It is the basic principle of the Delphi Oracle. The answer was always ambiguous, but the old Greeks knew that and used it to provoke their normal routines of thinking, it is a way of looking for the second best answer. The first one follows the normal channels of our thinking and probably will be so obvious that it really does not solve anything. The old Chinese used the I Ching (the book of changes). At random a certain reading was found and then the reader started to look for the resemblance with the own situation.

A procedure to create your own oracle could be as follows:
- Formulate a question to focus your thinking.
- Collect information at random. Since we are used to use the same problem-solving techniques, whatever the nature of the problem, we tend to come to the same answers. Random information forces you to look at the problem from a different perspective.
- Interpretate the information as the answer to your question.

For example: I want to improve my effectiveness in teaching and lecturing.
? Question: How can I improve my effectiveness in teaching, while maintaining maximum efficiency?

- I look around in my room and see a poster announcing A David Hockney exhibition in the Tate Gallery from March 24th to May 1986 , called Moving focus prints. The picture shows a garden with a well in the middle viewed from a veranda from different perspectives.

- I open my Webster's dictionary on page 794 and see the word 'netsuke' (a small and often intricately carved toggle (as of wood, ivory or metal) used to fasten a small container to a kimono sash) there is also a drawing.
- On opening the newspaper I see the Stock exchange information.
- Tired of all this provocation I make a cup of coffee and look at the information on the pack.

All this information is an answer to my question. The human brain is very good in patterning, in fact all data is stored in patterns. These patterns may not be the way we want them, but they are made anyway. The point is to associate the different items of information; do this seriously and humorously. Just let go and associate as if your life depends on it. >>>>>

'Moving focus prints' : change my way of looking, zoom in and zoom out, visualize, make things not too obvious at first sight, provoke people to think about it. Hockney is the photographer who cut up his pictures so that people would look longer and not just glimpse. Cutting things up and then present them starting from the overall view. 'netsuke' Why a Japanese word in an American dictionary? The Japanese language uses mainly pictures to make things clear, so visualize. A container to keep things in to carry around, handy and within reach: use a memo-recorder to note down things.
'Stock exchange information': changes every day, however, the order and method is always the same. Develop a systematic approach which is easily recognized and allows quick access. 'Coffee pack': vacuum pack, efficient and label makes very clear what it contains. When sorting my information label carefully: e.g. mind map and keep in handy pack.

To effectively teach it is vital that I regard the teaching process from the learner's point of view (moving focus), visualize as clearly as possible and adapt to reactions. Question students on what they understand and what is unclear. Have teaching aids available and invite students to visualize what they make of it. Record lectures and playback to improve. Always summarize what has been done and store things under clear label.

This is what it meant for me. It made me buy a pocket recorder. It provoked me to go outside my usual routines and all I needed was at home, no expensive seminar or valuable time lost in studying etc. The oracle is my unexplored land. By changing the charts I am sailing by, new routes become available. Columbus discovered the Americas also by mistake, on the wrong map. Another chart may be an outsider or another book. It does matter as long as breaks the pattern.

creativity >> breaking up things can be fun
Albert Einstein and changing focus:Hans Tanner was one of Einstein's Swiss students at Zürich University. Tanner recalls..."lt was Einstein's greatness as a scientist that he was able to approach every problem without being bound by traditional prejudices about it - not because he enjoyed criticism for its own sake, but because he had a deep and personal need to understand everything and to see clearly.”
When Max Brod attended Einstein's classes at the German University of Prague in 1911, what struck him most was the young professor's habit of changing his point of view in mid-discussion, sometimes switching to a diametrically opposed standpoint in order to view the problem from a wholly new perspective. Brod said..."He seemed to take real pleasure in trying out, with indefatigable energy, all the various scientific approaches to any given subject. He never tied himself down to only one point of view. He taught with humor and virtuosity, and he would never detour around an ambiguity or a heterodoxy, yet he was always very sure of himself and retained his creative grasp. What set him apart from most of his colleagues was his willingness to be wrong.”

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