When I see things, I see a range, a spectrum, not just a single thing.  When I hear a word, I hear a range meanings as well as the sounds and their rhymes and puns.  Most people focus and see only one.  Not me.

It seems like we learn to put gates between meanings and for most of us these gates are closed most of the time, but I have leaky gates.  The gates can be critical to focusing on ideas and our train of thought.

Today, a woman was talking about Madame Curie examining stones to see which stone had the most radiation.  My brain, and then my mouth, responded: Mick Jagger was the Stone who radiated the most.  Why did this come out?  Because the word stone has an array of meanings that all came to me with the sound – thanks to my leaky gates.

The word stone represents not just the rock, but the rock and roll, so the Rolling Stones.  But there were many other meanings that come immediately to mind as well – associated with Curie being Polish and a Nobel winner.  No bell?

Most of our education process teaches us to develop the discipline to keep the gates closed, to filter these meanings and only focus on the one that is most appropriate to the context in which it is used. That filtering focus takes place with virtually everything you see, read and hear.

Our brains do this in a couple steps.  You notice this in “misheard” remarks; you hear the sounds and then have to place them into the context to make sense of them.  Ever notice when you have a delay in understanding something you didn’t quite hear the first time?

This focusing we learn allows us to build on thoughts while excluding the other meanings that are tangential. If you can’t filter all the noise, you might be labelled as having ADD or the inability to concentrate.

But for me it is the tangential thoughts that create new perceptions that are interesting and novel.  This is critical in the advertising business, or any creative business.  If there is meaningful relevance to those new thoughts, we label it a creative insight.  Often creative insights come from merging dissimilar ideas, different cultures, different expressions – things that don’t normally go together

So if you want to be more creative, open the gates a bit and see the alternative meanings and see where they take you.  There will be variations that might create interesting new meanings.  The revelations are what we call “creativity.”

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