First, it struck me as very odd that researchers have acronyms for creativity-related concepts – SMI ‘sudden mental insight’ and FR for ‘frame of reference’.  I don’t know why this feels so inappropriate to me, but the thought of trying to break creativity down into discrete, measurable parts just seems.. very bizarre.  Like trying to break down ‘love’ into WFF (warm fuzzy feeling) and SAT (serenade at balcony).

Anyways – what I really want to talk about it the role that the subconscious plays in creativity.  I noticed that this was not mentioned at all in relation to creativity, perhaps because it’s so hard (impossible?) to measure.  In my personal experience, I find that if I’m stuck on a thorny problem I need to just walk away for a bit.  I clean the dishes, I talk a walk, I go get some coffee, and at some point a solution will pop into my conscious mind.  The way that I understand this is that I’m getting my conscious mind out of the way of my subconscious.  Then the problem rolls around in my subconscious for a bit and *pop* I have a solution.  The ‘creative leaps’ they talk about in this section seem to apply both to conscious breakthroughs and subconscious breakthroughs.

The researchers suggest that:

a SMI occures when a subject perceives their own fixation within a standard FR, and simultaneously perceives a new FR.  The new FR also has to include procedures for generating a solution to the problem.

does this “perception of their own fixation” have to be a conscious process?  I honestly don’t think that I could describe how I come up with solutions to design problems.  It’s not an A to B to C to D to E process, it’s usually just A to E.  I play with various ideas for a while and arrive at a solution (so maybe it’s more like A to F to B to D to Z), or like I talked about before, if I’m really stuck I’ll just walk away from the problem for a while.  What about your guys?  What is your own experience with ‘sudden mental insights’?  What do they feel like to you?