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this is spiral thinking

Forget lateral thinking.

Forget vertical thinking- whatever that was.

The new way to get the best out of your tired old brain is spiral thinking.

The spiral, as only a microsecond of reflection will reveal, is the basic unit of the dynamic and ever changing multi-verse (hell, why stick with one?). Two dimensional static strength is provided by a triangle (no I am not getting weird here this is interesting) , 3-D strength is the tetrahedron, but if you keep adding tetrahedrons together (do it with one of those ball bearing and stick magnet kits) the lowest energy structure is…a spiral. What that proves I don’t know but if you make one it’s darned interesting to see it evolve from the tetrahedrons…all right I’m getting right back to spiral thinking very soon having established as swiftly as I can (DNA, snail and sea shells, plughole water flow) that spirals are key to our existence.

So what is spiral thinking? Well you do it anyway- well some do, spiraling is how we approach any subject when we are relaxed. When we aren’t relaxed we circle it if we’re lucky and stare at it without a clue if we aren’t. But circling without feedback and improvement is not much good.

Spiraling is circling and feeding back off a subject, adjusting to it.

Above all it is keeping moving.

Lateral thinking was great but it always felt like you had to half know the solution already. With spiral thinking the emphasis is less on the RESULT and more on the process.

Think of software- it gets kicked out and it’s full of bugs but over time it gets better and better. Spiral thinking is all about getting into a PROCESS of thinking that will deliver the results you need down the line.

Brain storming and lateral thinking are too direct- they want you to get to the solution ASAP. But I have found that when the problem is starkly and fully defined the solution is more obvious than a third breast on the voluptuous figure of Angelina Jolie.

Mostly we don’t live in a world of problems that are unsolved, we live in a world of pseudo-problems and poorly defined problemettes and vaguely hinted at real problems. Or even problems that can only be stated in terms that the majority object to.

The joy of Spiral Thinking is that you are not trying to solve the problem at hand- oh no- way to crass!

You are simply trying to keep your distance from the problem while moving around it in a spiral. Eventually you will spiral right into the problem you will be that close to it and then you can spiral out until the problem looks insignificant.

But you aren’t just scaling in and out like that marvelous film of a person being bitten on the hand by a mosquito while rowing and then the camera pulls back and then zooms in- from outer space down to the microscopic- as well as pulling back, keeping your distance, you are turning the object in your hand or going around it.

Or you are spiraling all over it.

But the process is generating not new solutions but new ways of looking at the problem.

A list of selves of differing detachment and energy. Look at it through different eyes. Look at it with your artist persona on and then your business head.

Draw the problem and mark the differing positions you can look at it from. What does it look like from underneath? From the middle? From right out left?

Spiral in from different positions and ‘selves’.

Never stop- the spiral is dynamic.

At this point I should say that spiral thinking is very different from Spiral Dynamics which is a whole program of self-actualisation. Spiral thinking is very humble in its ambitions: one of several tools in your creative thinking toolkit.

What’s the main barrier to true as opposed to forced creativity?




You become so fixated on the result that you forget to play.

Play is what produces the best ideas. Bar none. But as we get older, greyer, more stressed, less childlike, play, becomes more difficult without the power assistance of a few drinks and a new, special exotic location. Also play can be silly, unproductive, it all depends on the people you get to play with.

What spiral thinking does is SIMULATE the conditions of play anytime anyplace.

It does this first by liberating you from the end result. You don’t have to achieve anything , solve anything. All you have to do is spiral the subject unpacking it to its full, de-implicating it (if that makes sense), noting of course any ideas that occur – points on the spiral- and then continuing to weave this spiral encasement of THE SUBJECT- getting closer and closer to it from every angle.

You can use the spiral to jump start ideas: imagine the shape of the thing and being opposite it looking from another perspective. Or spiraling around it like a spaceship in orbit, or spiraling into its core like a probe landing on Mars- all these images can liberate your thinking.

Play is continuous. Watch kids playing. It stops when it stops. Mostly it keeps going, seguing from one play situation to another. Play is dynamic. Which means it is always in balance. Imagine walking one step, stopping, walking another step, stopping. Balance is constantly wobbly- and this is very hard to achieve- any ballerina will tell you stopping and starting and then stopping is the hard thing- just as landing on the spot is the hard part of a gym routine- balance- as we know from riding a bicycle- is all about maintaining momentum AT ANY COST.

Spiral thinking allows you to maintain thinking momentum because there is always something to unpack, some new perspective you can take on a problem, some new self whose eyes you can view it through. You only stop when you are tired- not when you are JAMMED.

The net has given us a whole lot of new metaphors. Think of those bots, crawling through the information world, picking up hints, twisting and turning, always moving. Spiral thinking is like setting a think-bot free over the problem. It’s picking stuff up, anything that registers, going here and there, weaving a web, a spiral web all over the subject.

Think of spiraling as a way of generating perspectives.

You see the big SECRET of problem solving is we do it naturally anyway. You’re already a genius except you don’t know it. What you have to do is REMOVE all the stuff that has accreted that STOPS your natural problem solving ability. Mankind has survived many millennia. It did so through being a great problem solver. There was no Brainstorming in ancient Greece or Bronze age Tartary but they managed just as well without it.

Spiral thinking aims to remove the barriers to your natural problem solving ability. Ever wondered why when you are relaxed and couldn’t care a damn you have your best ideas? Because nothing is in the way. So Spiral Thinking sets up that situation so your own problem solving abilities can work- without any conscious forcing. It’s the forcing that makes for bad ideas.

Spiralling a subject you are simply BREAKING all the set ideas you have about it and seeing it as nakedly as you can.



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