Friday, July 22

Seven Faithful Serving Men

Even those of us not benefitting from a proper education will mostly know the Rudyard Kipling verse:
I had six faithful serving men
Who taught me all I knew
Their names were What and Where and When
And Why and How and Who

His suggestion is that we should question, question, question if we're really to understand the world, and best contribute to it.

As you might expect, I love that sentiment, but I grew-up with rather a narrow view of it.  I supposed that my incessant questions should be specific and rational.

Now I'm a proponent of general and irrational questions.   Let's cover the general ones first:

This is fairly straightforward.  Ask open questions if you don't want to close down the field.  Asking Henry Ford "Why does it have to be black?" is rather less powerful than asking "Could it be blue?"  But better still to ask "What other colours could it be?"

So far, so good.  We've invented spray paint for cars.

If we really want to work creatively though, we can start asking seemingly irrational questions too ...

"Can the paint be two colours at once?"
"Could the paint be added before the metal is moulded?"
"Does the car have to be painted at all?"
"Could the car change colour every week?"

This time we've tried our best to be borderline silly.  By doing so, we may have invented iridescent paint, pour-in metal dye, fibreglass bodywork and car fascias (Nokia's last stand, perhaps?)

When you're involved in creative thinking activity, alone or in groups, always try to ask silly questions as well as sensible ones.  If anyone laughs, they're probably laughing with you, not at you.

Formulating one of these irrational questions is only slightly harder than it sounds. Aim for totally unachievable superlatives and radical transformations of the normal associations with your chosen topic.  Think like a child if you can, and expect to marvel at the outcome.

I had seven faithful serving men
Who taught me all I knew
Their names were What, Where, When and Why
And How and Po and Who

1 comment:

  1. Asking "Why does it have to be black?" is far more likely to get you a detailed answer giving you insight and detail as to why something must be so and thereby giving a greater understanding of how it might be changed.

    Asking "Could it be blue?" is more likely to get you a short "No" and only manages to equal the first question if followed up by the second question "Why?".

    Surely the far more powerful question is the first.