One of the key points we learn in information theory is always looking for innovation. It does not matter if we are trying to build a search engine or to send a rocket to the moon: we predict what will happen, and if we are sufficiently surprised by what actually happens we take a notice.
In my old book I summarized this under “highlighting” technique for convergent creativity:
Highlighting is a straightforward and vigorous technique, which can be put into place with little training and capable of capturing attention and participation. Ideas are screened, the best of which are short-listed triggering discussion. There are noticeable similarities to other techniques with the use of clustering. However, there is an important difference in that clusters are only created from items that are felt to be interesting or intriguing, so that the clusters identify ‘hotspots’ – groups of related ideas that have ‘connected’ with someone’s imagination. Other clustering techniques tend to emphasise logical categorisation rather than strength of ‘association’.
Starting from a large list of ideas (e.g. from BrainStorming)
- Draw out ideas that seem intriguing or interesting (regardless of viability)
- Sort into clusters of related ideas, each cluster being a ‘hotspot’.
- Recognise the ‘hotspots’ that mean something to you, does it have any ‘associations’, perhaps it has unusual consequences or implications?
- The final solution is the ‘hotspot’, or combination of several ‘hotspots’, that best suit your needs.
Applying the same methods to texts was natural for me. I was very surprised when I found out that instead of looking for hotspots of new thoughts within the text, most of my students are looking for recurring ideas, and are content when they see these same ideas over and over before them.
It is well known that a good author repeats each idea at least six time, but each time the idea appears under a different perspective. The new perspectives complement each other shedding a different light onto the basic ideas. You can look at the ideas from different angles and see different details on the relevant markers (medium level visualization).
Try this very simple exercise. Read a small text and write down everything you remember. Now read again, and fill in gaps and correct errors from the memory. Repeat the process until you remember each word of the text properly. It takes 10% of effort to get 90% retention, but a lot of effort to get the extra 10%. By focusing on innovation we can cross the gap faster.