***Malcolm Gladwell relates a very telling story of two
types of surgeons. The one type, when asked if they ever make
mistakes, readily says that mistakes happen all the time. They
see things that go wrong and they take time to reflect, experiment,
practice, and so on until they find a way to make improvements.
The second type, when asked if they make mistakes might admit to having
some bad outcomes, but not to making mistakes. The second group
tends to be the ones that end up with malpractice problems.
Mistakes and accidents have been very productive for minds that are well prepared, but remain open to discovery. ****Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver, while working at 3M, invented Post-It notes using an adhesive that had been an apparent failure. If we do an Internet search of serendipity, we find that many innovations in science have been the result of accidents and mistakes by those who had the knowledge and openness to see the possibilities of a discovery.
In the arts it is common to work with expressive abandon during the development of an idea. Many writers allow a free flow of thoughts, knowing that they can refine the ideas later while editing. Aspiring artists and writers need to refrain from erasing mistakes too soon. Don't nix it, until after you fix it.
Work - WAIT - Expect
Our brains know a lot more than we can think of in any particular work session. Our brain takes on assignments and works behind the scenes. Creative people often tell about getting ideas, answers, or insights when they least expected them. Generally, these answers and ideas come to us after we have been trying, but failing to find a solution. While doing something totally different, in the middle of the night, or some at other unexpected time a totally new idea emerges.
*****Randy Buckner of Harvard describes his work with animals and people that show the hippocampus system in the brain automatically becoming active during sleep and in periods of doing nothing. During these times of apparent inactivity the brain is reviewing future scenarios and making predictions.
---------------------------------- references --------------------
*Bronson, Po. and Merryman, Ashley. "Forget Brainstorming." Newsweek, July 19, 2010, page 50. http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/12/forget-brainstorming.html
**Gladwell, Malchom. "In the Air, Annals of innovation." The New Yorker, May 12, 2008. http://www.gladwell.com/2008/2008_05_12_a_air.html
Genius - What do Wayne Gretzky, Yo-Yo Ma, and a brain surgeon have
in common?" The New Yorker, August 2, 1999
****"Fascinating facts about the invention of Post-It Notes by Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver in 1974" The Great Idea Finder (retrieved 8-15-2010) http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/postit.htm
*****Buckner, Randy L. "The role of the hippocampus in prediction and imagination." Annual Review of Psychology, 2010L61:27-48 (an abstract is published by U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Health. (retrieved 2-2-2010) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19958178?