Thought Experiment – 4 New Creative Techniques
What Is Thought Experiment About?
Wikipedia defines a thought experiment as a hypothetical situation in which a hypothesis, theory, or principle is laid out for the purpose of thinking through its consequences
Idea-Generating Techniques For Thought Experiment
These 4 (four) new thought experiments creative ideas and techniques are methods for an online entrepreneur to solve problems without using conventional logic used by entrepreneurs who have a physical location.
4 New Thought Experiment Techniques
Technique 1: Creative Thinking
“We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.”
A thought experiment is a highly structured creative thinking hypothetical question that employs “What if?” scenarios
During the creative thinking technique, thought experiments are designed to;
- Help us understand the way we think through reflection on the process
- Identify flaws in the way we have been educated
- Help us find the right question. For example, it does not matter what the bird on the roof is singing. The real and proper question is: Why is it beautiful?
- Show how all things are subject to interpretation
- Show how to look at the same thing as everyone else and see something different
- Encourage different ways of thinking
- Encourage flexibility in thought
- Challenge cognitive bias that limits a person to using an object only in the way is traditionally used
- Promote thinking beyond the boundaries of already established fact
The Matchstick Problem Example
Correct the following thought experiment equation by only moving one matchstick:
IV = III – I
Did you get it right? did you struggle before getting it right? Are you struggling to get it right? Head over to the comment section below and give us your feedback
Technique 2: The Challenge facts
How many facts are really facts and how many are just the most reasonable, educated guess based upon the knowledge known at the time?
It is very rare that anything remains an undeniable fact for too long, especially when you consider people’s views, their philosophical thought, and their differently acquired knowledge. We are in a constant state of change. We think differently as we gain knowledge and skills in thinking.
From one generation to the next we have different aims, ambitions and morals. What might be seen as a good thing by one generation could be seen as a bad thing by the next. Political parties change their views, as do their voters. Due to personal circumstances, individuals can change their whole philosophy of life within months.
Technology and other inventions now change the world faster than most entrepreneurs can keep up. What seemed impossible one week can become plausible the next, reality within months and an accepted way of life in a year or two. This is not really surprising when you consider the combined, diverse thought power of billions of people spread across the globe.
How do you know that what you considered to be a fact in the past has now become inappropriate due to changes which have happened since then? Might you now be able to improve your current product because of a change in human values or lifestyles? really, what is thought experiment about?
The way to answer these questions is to challenge the facts. You are not saying that the facts are wrong but you are investigating what might happen if that fact were not true.
It is important not to see this technique as a way of proving someone wrong or inaccurate. Everyone does what they think to be right at the time and based upon the knowledge they have at that time.
If you now have more information or the world has changed in some way, this does not put any blame on the person who had the original idea or on someone who could not solve the problem.
Just as you must be considerate towards the people whose facts you are challenging, you should acknowledge that the world will probably develop a better way of doing what you are doing now. This does not reflect on your ability, it merely reflects the way in which the world develops.
At one time all the available evidence gave rise to the fact that the sun went around the world. If no one had challenged this fact, then we might still believe it.
Even Einstein’s theory of relativity has been modified to take into account effects that were not possible for him to contemplate because technology at the time could not do what it does now.
The Challenge Facts technique asks you to consider what is thought experiment about!, what you think are facts and investigate what differences and advantages it would make if they were not facts.
You could try to imagine what would be the case if the fact were totally wrong. Or you could try to modify the fact and see whether that now fits into the current situation better than the original one. Or is the world likely to change so that the modified fact will fit in better in the future? If so, what new ideas does this future world suggest? If you find that your new consideration blatantly doesn’t fit, then consider what advantages this hypothetical situation might have and how you might be able to incorporate them into your current solution.
You are using the challenge of a fact as a stimulus for new ideas, nothing else.
First list the facts, then write a statement that challenges that fact, then uses that challenge to develop new ideas.
The Challenge Facts Example:
Fact: Companies pay employees for their time.
Challenge of the fact: Employees pay their company for the use of its facilities.
New idea based on challenging the fact:
Your attention, please! Each employee receives a percentage of the profits based on his/her position within the company and the amount of time and contributions spent on its products or services. Out of this amount is taken the amount of money related to that employee’s use of the facilities. In this way, the employee is directly affected by the quality of the product or service and is more motivated to improve it. Also, the employees are directly affected by the amount of money they use in the course of their work. It could also mean that employees are free to live their own life and work the way they want to work.
Technique 3: Brainstorming
Brainstorming is a form of thought experiment: It works by merging someone else’s ideas with your own to create a new one. You are using the ideas of others as a stimulus for your own.
Brainstorming is an excellent way of developing many thought experiment creative solutions to a problem. It works by focusing on a problem and then coming up with very many radical solutions to it. Ideas should deliberately be as broad and odd as possible and should be developed as fast as possible. Brainstorming is a lateral thinking process. It is designed to help new venture startups break out of their thinking patterns into new ways of looking at things.
5 Thought Experiment Rules of Brainstorming
Rule 1: Postpone and withhold your judgment of ideas
Do not pass judgment on ideas until the completion of the brainstorming session. Do not suggest that an idea won’t work or that it has negative side effects. All ideas are potentially good so don’t judge them until afterwards. At this stage, avoid discussing the ideas at all, as this will inevitably involve either criticising or complimenting them.
Thought experiment Ideas should be put forward both as solutions and also as a basis to spark off solutions. Even seemingly foolish ideas can spark off better ones. Therefore do not judge the ideas until after the brainstorming process. Note down all ideas. There is no such thing as a bad idea.
The evaluation of ideas takes up valuable brain power which should be devoted to the creation of ideas. Maximise your brainstorming session by only spending time generating new ideas.
Rule 2: Encourage wild and exaggerated ideas
The ‘wilder’ the idea is, the better for a thought experiment. Shout out bizarre and unworkable ideas to see what they spark off. No idea is too ridiculous. State any outlandish ideas. Exaggerate ideas to the extreme.
Rule 3: Quantity counts at this stage, not quality
Go for quantity of ideas at this point; narrow down the list later. All activities should be geared towards extracting as many ideas as possible in a given period.
The more creative ideas a person or a group has to choose from, the better. If the number of ideas at the end of the session is very large, there is a greater chance of finding a really good idea.
Keep each idea short, do not describe it in detail – just capture its essence. Brief clarifications can be requested. Think fast, then reflect later.
Rule 4: Build on the ideas put forward by others
Build and expand on the ideas of others. Try and add extra thoughts to each idea. Use other people’s ideas as inspiration for your own. Creative people are also good listeners. Combine several of the suggested ideas to explore new possibilities.
It’s just as valuable to be able to adapt and improve other people’s ideas as it is to generate the initial idea that sets off new trains of thought.
Rule 5: Every person and every idea has equal worth
Every person has a valid viewpoint and a unique perspective on the situation and solution. In a brainstorming session, you can always put forward ideas purely to spark off other people and not just as a final solution. Encourage participation from everyone.
Each idea presented belongs to the group, not to the person who said it. It is the group’s responsibility and an indication of its ability to brainstorm if all participants feel able to contribute freely and confidently.
Technique 4: Mind Mapping
There is no such thing as dangerous thought experiments. For the last few hundred years, it has been popularly thought that man’s mind worked in a linear or list-like manner, a falsehood based on speech and print. In a speech, we are restricted by the nature of time and space to communicating one word at a time.
Recent evidence shows the brain to be far more multi-dimensional and pattern making, suggesting that in the speech /print arguments there must be fundamental flaws.
How does the brain which is speaking, and the brain which is receiving the words deal with them internally? Although a single stream of words is being processed, a continuing and enormously complex process of sorting and selecting is taking place in your mind during a conversation, reading a book, or listening to a lecture.
A linear presentation is not necessary for understanding and in many cases is a disadvantage. Your mind is perfectly capable of taking in information that is non-linear.
Therefore, the human brain is very different from a computer. Whereas a computer works in a linear fashion, the brain works associatively as well as linearly – comparing, integrating and synthesising as it goes.
Association plays a dominant role in nearly every mental function, and words themselves are no exception. Every single word and idea has numerous links attaching them to other ideas and concepts.
Mind Maps™, developed by Tony Buzan, are an effective method of note-taking, as they help organise information, and are useful for the generation of ideas by association.
Because of the large amount of association involved, they can be very creative, tending to generate new ideas and associations that have not been thought of before. Every item in a map is in effect, a centre of another map and a thought experiment
The creative potential of a mind map is useful in brainstorming sessions. You only need to start with the basic problem as the centre and generate associations, thought experiments and ideas from it in order to arrive at a large number of different possible approaches. By presenting your thought experiment and perceptions in a spatial manner and by using colour and pictures, a better overview is gained and new connections can be made visible.
Mind maps are a way of representing associated thought experiments with symbols rather than with extraneous words- something like organic chemistry. The mind forms associations almost instantaneously, and “mapping” allows you to write your ideas quicker than expressing them using only words or phrases.
Key features of mind maps are:
- thought experiment
- Visual Memory
- Conscious involvement
Imagine your hobby is reading short stories. You read five a day, and you keep notes so that you will not forget any of them. On each of these cards, you record keywords and phrases. How would you choose the keywords? Image words? Imaginative? Evocative?
Reviewing these notes five years later may be difficult, depending on how the words were chosen. A good keyword or phrase is one that funnels into itself a wide range of special images, and which, when it is triggered, funnels back the same images. It will tend to be a strong noun or verb.
A creative word is one that is particularly evocative and image forming, but far more general than a directed keyword. Words are ‘multi-ordinate’ meaning that each word is like a little centre on which there are many, many little hooks. Each hook can attach to other words.
Keywords are essential for memory recall, forging new associations and recall of other experiences or sensations. Taking notes, thinking of new ideas and summarising information is best done using the association of keywords, and not in a linear, written form.
To make a mind map, one starts in the centre of the page with the main idea, and works outward in all directions, producing a growing and organised structure composed of keywords and key images.
If the brain is to relate to information most efficiently, the information must be structured in such a way as to “slot in” as easily as possible. It follows that if the brain works primarily with key concepts in an interlinked and integrated manner, then so should our notes and word relations be structured in a similar manner.
Rather than starting from the top of a page and working down in sentences or lists, one should start from the centre with the main idea and branch out as dictated by the individual ideas and general form of the theme.
Advantages of Mind Mapping over the linear form of note-taking:
- The centre with the main idea is more clearly defined
- The relative importance of each idea is clearly indicated. More important ideas will be nearer the centre.
- The links between key concepts will be immediately recognised.
- Recall and review will be more effective and more rapid
- The addition of new information is easy
- Each map will look different from other maps, aiding recall
- In the more creative areas of note making, the open-ended nature of the map will enable the brain to make new connections far more readily.
Why Pictures Are Worth More Than A Thousand Words:
Consider the problem of “What are some alternative uses for a paper clip”. If you started to write a list, you would become bored and would probably slow down. Alternatively, a mind map allows building on previous ideas, attributes, or stepping stone ideas.
The reason why pictures are worth a thousand words is that they make use of a massive range of cortical skills: colour, form, line, dimension, texture, visual rhythm and especially imagination – a word taken from the Latin imaginari, literally meaning `to picture mentally’.
Images are therefore often more evocative than words, more precise and potent in triggering a wide range of associations, thereby enhancing creative thinking and memory. This is how the mindset of a new venture startup should be working.
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