Charging that traditional education often inhibits creative thinking, Robert Root-Bernstein, a Michigan State professor, offered NJIT students, faculty and staff yesterday ways to be more productive.
“Things in our society go so fast, we don't take the time to observe them at all,” reported NJIT Special Correspondent Ken Schreihofer from the lecture. “Rather, Bernstein wants to make the arts more visible in education. Some day he even hopes to see them become the fourth traditional “r.” He’d like people to think in terms of reading, writing, arithmetic and art.”
Root-Bernstein co-authored Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People (Houghton-Mifflin, 1999). The talk is the first in the university’s annual forum focusing on advances in technology and society.
Root-Bernstein began by challenging traditional pedagogical notions and charging that today’s educational systems inhibit creativity. Rather, he suggests people follow ideas he laid out in his book. Among his suggestions:
• Think visually. It need not matter that you visualize ideas based on pattern formation and recognition, spatial modeling or dimensional thinking. All can work.
• Don’t limit observation to sight. People must explore all their senses-- touch, smell, taste and hearing.
• Follow fundamental processes for problem solving. “Problems already have a solution out there . . . a solution you can translate to your own context,” he said.
• Analogies expand understanding. Use analogies in any context because they can be invaluable tools for changing peoples’ perceptions.
• Don’t underestimate play. “It can be a complex tool in creative thinking,” he said. Play can develop skills, intuition, knowledge, and understanding.
• Try Synosia. Root-Bernstein invented the term which means “senses” and “knowledge.” Such a capability would allow for understanding in both subjective and objective contexts. “If you can't translate into images, you cannot participate in the next revolution,” he said.
Root-Bernstein is a professor of physiology at Michigan State University, holds bachelor's and doctoral degrees from Princeton University, and was awarded one of the first MacArthur Fellowships while a post-doctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. This allowed him to develop novel theories of auto immunity and molecular evolution as he also investigated the essential elements of scientific creativity. A consultant to major biotechnology, pharmaceutical and chemical companies, Root-Bernstein has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed articles.
Upcoming NJIT lectures will feature Cheng Li, PhD, Brookings Institute Fellow and William R. Kenan, professor of government at Hamilton College, who will discuss China’s future. “A Paradox of Hope and Fear,” can be heard Oct. 10, 2007, at 3 p.m. in the Campus Center Atrium.
David Himmelstein, founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, presents the final offering: “A Prescription for U.S. Healthcare.” The event is set for Nov. 7, 2007, 3 p.m., in the Campus Center Ballroom.
Support from AT&T and Hewlett-Packard have in part made this year’s presentations possible. For more information about the lecture series, please visit: http://tsf.njit.edu.