Reading broadly is a great tool for creative problem solving.
Are you a fountain of great ideas? When issues inevitably arise in your life, are you able to resolve them effectively? Are you known as someone who applies creative solutions to pesky problems?
In his 1926 book The Art of Thought, Graham Wallas, the English political scientist and psychologist, adopted and expanded Hermann von Helmholtz’s process to idea development. Wallas describes a four-stage creativity process for generating great ideas — preparation, incubation, illumination and implementation. The preparation stage is the one where you gather data, whether it is interviewing people, reading books, reviewing what’s been done before. It’s the input section – you take in information.
In James Webb Young’s A Technique for Producing Ideas, in the preparation section, where you gather information, he added an activity to data collection step, which is a process you continue for your entire life – gathering general information. Whenever you come across useful information, you record it so you can access it easily. Reading broadly allows you to discover lots of interesting information, and over a lifetime you build an immense body of knowledge, which is at your fingertips during problem solving.
In computer programming, they have a concept called Garbage In, Garbage Out. The concept is appropriate for reading as well. What you read (your input), will impact the quality of your ideas and solutions (output). And when you read, never do it in a vacuum. Connect the new information with what you already know. Innovation occurs when an old idea intersects with a new one.
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