Systematic creativity: sections and subjects of speedwriting and research masterclasses

Sometimes I struggle with naming what I do. Speedwriting and research masterclasses are examples of my bad branding, and I hope to rebrand them in near future. While I might be unhappy with the course names, I am definitely excited about their content. So I tell you what. I will describe the content of the courses here and you will suggest better names [email protected]. If the name suggested by you is chosen, I will provide the course for free. Otherwise, I will simply provide a good discount coupon. A hint:  both courses deal with creativity.

The course that deals with analysis, research and creativity are a bit tougher than my other courses. I try to explain some math intuitively, provide tools for systematic creativity, and more… One of the hottest subjects in this course is logical markers – which are basically a different form of mathematical notation. Other cool issues are “generating your own luck”, “systematic creativity”, diffusing propaganda, and cognitive bias.

  1. From comprehension to analysis. My other courses deal more with comprehension and retention.  It is assumed that people who read something know how to analyze it. This might be true for someone with PhD but is rarely so for most humans. In fact, there is a large area of things we can do with what we learn rather than just memorizing them. I demonstrate this idea using Bloom’s taxonomy as a model.
  2. Declarative bs procedural. What we read in books is declarative knowledge. It is abstract and not really relevant until we reinterpret this knowledge using examples and exercises. When we actually use our knowledge, it becomes procedural and we can apply it in a wide range of scenarios.
  3. Simulate and emulate. Real experiments may be slow and costly. Instead, it makes sense to simulate everything using mental experiments, computer-aided tools, cheaper and safer environment emulating the actual conditions.
  4. Logical and statistical results. Formal reasoning often relies either on boolean logic or on statistical inference. These subjects are easy enough to be covered by mathematical theory. Unfortunately, mathematical formalisms makes them sound complex to someone without the relevant degree.
  5. Analysis by synthesis. While “ideally” we might like to solve issues by rigorous top-down analysis, quite often we lack the required experience and perspective. We can address the issues by simulation, or we may try to build our own system to perform similar tasks. Once our system starts to fail, we understand better the design principles of the system we are trying to analyze. Consider birds vs planes. We would not understand why birds fly without constructing planes. And then when we observe heavy bumblebees, we modify our understanding of avionics.
  6. Make your own luck. To which extent luck is statistical? Can it be induced? Clearly, if I decide to write about it, there are multiple mechanisms to improve luck beyond simple statistics. And yet very few people know and understand the relevant strategies.
  7. Imagination and curiosity. This course deals with creativity. Imagination and curiosity help. Fortunately, both qualities can be easily trained.
  8. Mental math and logic. Mental math is a dedicated skill that today is largely ignored. The idea is to distill only the most important numbers and focus on them while replacing complex operations with simple approximations. We do not need an accurate result without a computer – just a basic understanding of decision-supporting numbers.
  9. Logical markers. Logical markers help generate and memorize knowledge distilled from what we learn.  They are very simple to generate and memorable. I use them all the time.
  10. TRIZ. Triz is a systematic inventive methodology created by Soviet engineers. It works very well in electromechanical settings, and with some adaptations can be applied to programming and business challenges. While TRIZ sounds magically effective, it is probably too complex for implementation by someone who is not an expert, but its principles help understand pretty much everything.
  11. Futurism. Applying trends to understand the future is relatively easy. What to do with this information is more complex, as we may totally fail to estimate time and effort or miss something critical.
  12. Frameworks of knowledge. Scientific paradigms and religious beliefs have many common features, due to psychological limitations shared by humans. It is interesting to analyze how political and limited our knowledge actually is.
  13. Intentional propaganda. Inspired by the war in Ukraine. How can we detect and deal with someone’s attempts to mislead us, and some of the most common propaganda techniques..
  14. Filter bubble and coded bias. Deeper dealing with cognitive biases and what generates them. Very important for critical analysis of what we read and our knowledge.

Speedwriting is a skillset that enables massive reading and memorization without spaced repetition. Since I hate space repetition as a very tedious process, I use speedwriting all the time, probably 40 hours per week. It is the skill that I use more than any other skill. Speedwriting masterclass is one of my best masterclasses. It is extremely useful and describes the way I live from taking research notes to publishing articles. I do not really go into the details of scientific, technical, or creative writing,  since there are dedicated books and experts for each. Instead, I focus on the productivity of writing itself, and the interconnection of writing with memory and speedreading.

  1. Healthy Expectations. Stress is the greatest enemy of creativity. While we can easily read very fast, writing very fast is hard. We are limited by our ability to type, but this limitation is weaker than our ability to formulate meaningful thoughts. Moreover,  research is more effort-intensive than writing. Editing might often be bypassed or outsourced. Proper editing is significantly more laborious than research and writing. In any case, it is reasonable to write 20 pages of A4 text per day. Moreover, the most prolific authors historically succeed to write about that much, and their work is valued and admired.

  2. Research Diary. There are several types of research diaries. In speedreading I mention that I usually summarize ideas by lines of 5-9 keywords with a link to the article. This is only one of the possible diary formats, that I use when I am not sure what I will do with the information and the information is readily available online.  Otherwise, I may use one of the other formats I explain here.

  3. Outline. Every author has a fear of an empty white list of paper. To deal with it, we can use an iterative writing process starting with a short primer: a paragraph or an outline of the idea we want to describe.  Usually, a primer is supported by several resources or recently read articles, unless it relies on more distant memories or personal experience. Alternatively, we can use one of the standard templates or a mindmap (mental city layout) we create for the subject.
  4. Editing. While line editing is a hard task that might be outsourced, there are editing steps that should not be outsourced, like providing visuals to support the main claim or creating metaphors to make these claims more memorable. Quite often simply rereading the draft is sufficient to generate further ideas and follow-up research or writing.  A timeout might be required between writing and reading to make sure that what we write makes sense and not take things for granted.
  5. New ideas. Writing is often a form of brainstorming process that may start from looking for new ideas. Providing new ideas upon cue is hard. Instead it is easier to record the ideas we get spontaneously from reading, writing, or recording. These ideas when they arrive often appear in large clusters and can be worked on whenever we choose. To allow new ideas to appear spontaneously we need to be open and prepared and ask some good questions. This is a relatively easy form of creativity training.
  6. Writer’s block. There is no such thing as writer’s block. Simply we might prefer to work on some other subject rather than the subject we prioritize. If the prioritization is flexible, we are likely to return to the original subject eventually or forfeit the work as not very interesting. Alternatively, we may try to change some of our habits to “unstuck” our focus.
  7. Archetypes. Almost everything we make is derivative in one way or another. The focus is not on reinventing the wheel but on incremental innovation and usefulness. While scientists use sort of readily available templates, creative writers use archetypes that can be traced to ancient Greece and beyond.
  8. Author’s Creativity. While writing often starts from simple outlines or archetypes, authors often create new metaphors and occasionally entire universes. All of this starts with a twist, a “what if” idea, or a focus most people fail to consider.  Authors have their own agendas, and questioning the agenda of other people is one of the ways to come up with creative ideas.
  9. Scripts and filming. Today videoblogs are very popular. My courses nowadays comprise  3000 individual videos. There are specific aspects to creating video scripts that are not discussed elsewhere. So here I share my insights.
  10. Monetization. After speedwriting for a while it is only reasonable to have a large volume of partially edited texts that can be later monetized. Monetization itself is not trivial. It requires knowledge, grit, and luck in various proportions. Each case is different. I share my own recipe.
  11. Art and music.  The concepts of speedwriting can be applied elsewhere, for example by using sketching techniques and separating the composition process from the process of sketching the parts.
  12. Messaging. While speedreading and speedwriting do not naturally apply to social media and messaging, there are some shared ideas that can be reused.
  13. State machines [in writing]. Quite often our ideas are not linear. In this case, they may be best described by state machines. Moreover, UML and similar tools are great for deriving and applying logical markers, Do not ask me more until I finish writing. I plan to release this as a part of the course and as a standalone minicourse.

As you notice, in my course I never address finding the right words or ability to communicate one’s thoughts. This part is given. I focus on creativity in its raw divergent form. There is a different kind of creativity, convergent that is better described as critical thinking, analysis, decision-making, and so on. I deal with it in my analysis and creativity course.

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