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One Key: SEE, One Key DO accessing your brain's creative abilities

by Cinse Bonino

Table of Contents | Foreword by Martin Cooper | Introduction| Things to Try


Table of Contents:

Foreword, by Martin Cooper 

Introduction, Can creative ability be improved?  

1 Did you see that? 

2 Leap before you look. 

3 Divide to multiply. 

4 Plug into your inner crock-pot 

5 Find it, don’t force it.

6 You’re done, but are you finished? 

7 Do you rush to procrastinate?  

8 Why should I work with them?  

9 Stand up and out. 

10 Mind your 3 Ps and the Q. 

The Creative Steps  

The See Key Principles 

The Do Key Principles  

Things to try 

Special thanks  

Brief bios 

Foreword by Martin Cooper (inventor of the cellphone):

The theme of the Marconi Symposium in Bologna Italy in October 2013 was “The Science of Creative Thinking” and I was seriously distressed. I was assigned to deliver the keynote at the symposium and yet, to me, its theme was an oxymoron. Everyone knows, I thought, that creativity is amorphous and therefore unscientific. I have always believed that whatever creativity I possessed was an obstacle, an impediment to the clear thinking and structure that is so important to us engineers. I understood that it was useful to come up with an original idea from time to time. But I had great difficulty in reconciling the open-mindedness that is essential in the creative process with the certainty associated with the mathematics and procedures that are the basis of engineering. 

It did not take long for me to be reeducated. In her energetic and persuasive presentation, Cinse Bonino convinced me that my concept of the creative person was simply wrong, that creativity was not the province of an exclusive few, and most importantly, that the ability to be creative can be learned and enhanced. 

I should not have been surprised. After all, Leonardo da Vinci was one of the most creative characters in history and yet he was a superb engineer. But Leonardo was not unique in his ability to be both of these things. Cinse theorized, that day in Italy, that anyone can learn to be creative, and then went on to explain that being creative does not exclude the abilities to be methodical and sensible. 

This was a great relief to me. I no longer had to go through life assuming that because I enjoyed ideas, because I always wanted to do things differently, that I could also not be a competent engineer. So Cinse opened a new vision to me and, at the same time, corrected an inferiority complex. 

Is creativity an important asset in society? Is it even necessary? 

People are better off in the world today than at any time in history. We live longer, are healthier, more productive, and more educated than ever. And yet the world is a mess. Too many of our people live in poverty, there is too much intolerance, we can’t afford our healthcare, and our educational systems are erratic. We are not going to solve these problems by doing the same things that we have done in the past; new approaches, new ways of thinking are an imperative. And what a shame it would be to exclude segments of our population from participating in these new ways because they are not creative. 


Behavioral scientists have, for many years, been developing methods to measure the ability of people to learn and to be creative. Here is my interpretation of some of their fascinating conclusions: 

  • Creativity is not an abstract concept but a concrete and measurable attribute. 

  • There is no correlation between age and either creative ability, or the ability to learn. Einstein in his 80s was as creative as a curious eight-year-old and had comparable learning ability. 

  • People who practice creativity and learning retain and expand these abilities; people who do not, lose them. 


Cinse Bonino expands these powerful ideas into practice. Hers is not a purely theoretical book, nor is it purely formulaic. Cinse explains that the ability to create is inherent in our brains. 

Abstraction is the one thing that our brains do very well and that machines and other animals do very poorly, if at all. She then goes on to define the elements of creativity and provides us with a variety of examples and exercises that mesh with the theoretical understandings. She distinguishes between mere cleverness and genuine impact. 

One Key: SEE, One Key: DO – accessing your brain’s creative abilities is, in itself, a masterpiece of creativity. It removes the mystery and misinformation about creativity and replaces them with under- standing and process. Whether you are learning to be more creative or teaching others, reading this fine book will open doors you never knew existed. 

Martin Cooper 

Del Mar, California 

April 2019


Is it possible to improve creative ability? 


We’ve all encountered someone whose ability to think creatively, amazes us. Many of us wish we could unlock our own creative potential and become more like these dazzling, quick witted, so- called out-of-the-box thinkers. But some of us suspect the genetic lottery determines our level of creativity. We worry our creativity capacity is not only predetermined but also set in stone. This could cause us to doubt our ability to increase our creativity. 


I believe it is possible to learn to think more creatively. For close to 15 years, I taught college students how to be more creative. These students came from various backgrounds. Many of them were in creative courses of study, but many were not. Some of them walked into my classroom convinced they were already more creative than their classmates and their professor. Others practically drooled in anticipation at the mere possibility of becoming more creative. And there were always a few who had little confidence in a college course’s ability to help them increase their level of creativity. These students entered the classroom desperately clutching small sparks of hope. 

What’s astonishing is that they all became more creative. Did they all become superstars? No. Did they all reach the same level of creative ability? Of course not. They all did learn how to be creative on purpose, not just through happy accidents or in mysterious eureka moments. They developed a meta-awareness of what increases creativity for everyone and for them specifically. They learned how to see differently. They learned how to successfully satisfy a specified creative need. They learned to notice what they do that works, and to be able to do it again. They learned to push themselves beyond clever to excellent. They learned to let go of some amount of judgment and fear. They learned to be willing to be ridiculous if it gets them to radiant. They learned to unlock their creative potential and to carry it forward to multiple areas of their lives. 


We all can learn to increase our creativity by developing the skills that comprise the act of thinking creatively. These skills are similar to the ones that help us to make sense of something that is new to us. Practicing and perfecting these skills will help you to think more creatively. Becoming aware of how to use this new skill-set to process information and concepts will enable you to repeat the process whenever you need it. Many people only equate creativity with artistic pursuits or the act of brainstorming, but creative thinking can be an integral part of the analysis, problem solving, and design present throughout much of our daily lives. Or, to put it another way – creative thinking helps us to discover more, to identify the potential of what we have discovered, and to figure out how we can utilize that potential to craft effective solutions in any life situation.

The four steps and the two keys 

This book explains how to combine learning principles, creative methods, and intentional awareness to improve your ability to be creative in useful and productive ways. You will become familiar with each of the four steps of the creative process: notice, explore, connect, and choose. One key to mastering each of these steps is learning new ways to see. The other key is learning what to do with what you see. These two keys can unlock your creative potential and let your inner creative genius loose, if you’re willing to trust the process and yourself.

Unlearning and benefiting from our brain’s natural tendencies 

Our brains use patterns and sorting to help us to recognize concepts and then link them together to make meaning out of what we encounter. We use prior knowledge and experiences to attach new ideas and concepts to our current understanding in concrete ways. This helps us to make sense of them. We use representations such as metaphors to hold onto the meaning of new abstract concepts. These representations are usually based on things that are already familiar to us. Representations with an emotional component work even better to help new ideas and concepts stick with us.

When we create something, we often put pieces of things we’re already familiar with together in new ways. In order to do this, we first need to identify and define the need we are trying to satisfy. Then we must locate the things we will use to create our solution, whatever it may be. We start by noticing as many things as we can that are available for us to use. Then we explore these avail- able things to determine which ones, or which of their parts, seem to have the most potential to help satisfy our current needs. We then choose those things and parts of things we believe can be connected in an inventive manner to effectively fulfill our purpose. 

All of these steps are important, because if we become overly focused on our end product and hurry through the identification of the conceptual components we need, we won’t truly understand what it is we are attempting to create. Without this full conceptual understanding, we might become attracted to things, or parts of these things, that only partially connect to what we need in order to be successful in our creative endeavor. We must learn to refuse to settle for what is falsely enticingly or merely clever; otherwise, we will end up with something flashy but unfinished. But even bad choices sometimes end up being instructive. They can propel us past a solution that only partially fits our needs toward an elegant solution that satisfies our needs in an effective, and perhaps even a unique, manner. 

Sometimes we need to pull back the lens to see farther, to allow ourselves to increase our field of sight in order to notice what else is out there. This can only happen if we are willing to take the time to look beyond our initial discoveries. When we do this, we may find something wonderful we didn’t initially notice or expect to see. Then it’s a matter of sifting through everything we’ve noticed and determining what seems to have the best possibility of fitting our creative pursuit. 

Trusting the process and yourself 

Thinking creatively is about searching for what you need for your creative pursuit and being able to recognize it when you find it. If you attempt to force an idea or a solution, things tighten up and your creative flow gets reduced to a trickle, or stops completely. Forcing also causes you to lose sight of the concepts you want to satisfy. If you forget what you’re trying to do, you may deviate from your actual quest in your rush to get things done. If you stop believing in the value of the creative process you might also lose faith in your ability to be creative. 

Becoming aware of what works for you 

We each need to learn what works best for us – to become intentionally cognizant of our own creative process; to discover what motivates and deters us; to become familiar with our own processing style and communication habits; and to notice our intuitive actions, the ones we want to be able to repeat at will and those we want to will away. Just as a spigot must be open for water to flow freely, we must trust what we’ve come to learn about our own pro- cess and not let stress and pressure tempt us to fall back into old unproductive habits, which can clog our creative flow.

Knowing when you’re finished 

You can stop your creative process too soon and end up settling for something far less fabulous than you had hoped to achieve. You also can keep going long after you should have stopped and overdevelop something into oblivion. Both are equally undesirable. Learning how to know when you are finished is one of the trickiest aspects of being creative. 


Communicating your journey and your creation 

You can be wildly and wonderfully creative and never get your work accepted or funded if you are incapable of clearly explaining what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’re doing it. Someone else’s idea might not be as good as yours, but if they do a better job of explaining it, their idea is likely to be the one chosen to advance to development and possible success. 

Unlocking your creative potential and releasing your inner genius 

A bunch of monkeys playing around with a typewriter might appear to be creative. It has even been humorously suggested that if we gave those monkeys enough time they would eventually type all the works of Shakespeare. Being creative is about being playful, but it’s also about producing something that will satisfy a given set of conceptual needs. This book can help you to awaken a childlike ability to see in new ways. It can also help you to make useful connections and to learn to sift through choices in a faster, more conceptually focused, and purposeful manner. Finally, this book will attempt to guide you toward becoming more aware of your own process so you can benefit from both conscious and subconscious memories, thoughts, and ideas. If you learn to do this, you may begin to feel as if your creativity is suddenly flowing in a magical way. But it won’t be magic making your creativity flow; it will be you. Once you acquire a working set of creative tools, learn to apply them intentionally, and become more cognizant of your own creative process, you will be able to access and ride your creative flow more often and more successfully than you ever have before.

Things to Try:

1  Exercises to help you see more

2  Exercises to help you leap 

3  Exercises to help you generate more ideas

4  Exercises to help you use your back burner

5  Exercises to help you find, not force 

6  Exercises to help you not stop too soon 

7  Exercises to help you figure out what works

8  Suggestions for fostering effective creative teamwork 

9  Exercises to help you stand up and out

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Write The Book podcast interview

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