Expect the Unexpected

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Synopsis

Creativity cannot flourish if we keep seeing only the things we expect to see. If we want to be creative, we must keep ourselves surprised; we must embrace uncertainty and actively look for the unexpected. But how we can achieve that? Isn’t that an inherent contradiction: how can we expect the unexpected?

My kids love playing Yellow Car on almost every car ride. The game is so simple few grownups see the fun in it: all you have to do is look for, well, yellow (private) cars. And amazingly, when you look for yellow cars, you see them, and there seem to be more yellow cars than one would expect!

Think of the last time you were abroad either on a business trip or a vacation. How many new things have you seen? How many buildings you stopped by to admire? How many faces, expressions, and bits of conversations (even in languages you don’t understand) have you noticed? Now, compare that to a walk in the street in the place you live. When was the last time you saw something unexpected when walking in the street? When was the last time you stopped to look at a building? Do you see the people who share their way to work with you?
 
Let’s try this well-known experiment: watch the video and count how many times the players that are wearing white pass the basketball. Look at the video until the end and compare the result. 

So what seems to be perfect for the Yellow Car game turns into a limitation in the basketball experiment and for our routine walk in the street: our mind is wired to see what we expect to see. And that can be a grave problem. It can be a problem when you are in a difficult discussion, hoping to hear a particular tone from the other side. It can be a problem when you try to analyze some data, expecting to see some specific pattern or be able to draw a predefined conclusion. And it is a real obstacle when you wish to come up with something completely new and creative. 

Creativity cannot flourish if we keep seeing only the things we expect to see. If we want to be creative, we must keep ourselves surprised; we must embrace uncertainty and actively look for the unexpected. But how we can achieve that? Isn’t that an inherent contradiction: how can we expect the unexpected? 

Learn to be Surprised

So, here’s our goal: we need to overcome our natural tendency to see just what we expect to see; we need to train our eyes and mind to be surprised. And to achieve that we are going to use our mind’s limitation and make it the key to turning things around. 

Look for the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Step one in our training is starting to notice non-trivial things everywhere around us. To do that we are going to harness out inherent limitation for our benefit. We are going to trick our mind and practically force it to see the extraordinary stuff, just like my kids are focused on finding yellow cars. 

Let’s try the first step together: take for example the Motion-Less Seed from the seempli collection. 

Memorize the Seed and keep it in mind throughout the day. Wherever you go, look around you. Don’t look for anything specific, just keep thinking about movement in still objects. By doing so, you are “programming” your mind to expect seeing things that match this “definition.” And as we already know, we see what we expect to see. But because this Seed is open-ended, maybe even enigmatic at first look, you can’t really know what it is you will find. It might take a while, but you will find something totally unexpected, probably something which was always there, but you simply didn’t see before, especially not with these glasses. 

This simple and fun practice in creative observation is the first step in using our wired limitation to rewire our mind to look for and expect the unexpected. But we are just getting started.

Let’s try another one. First thing in the morning, take the another enigmatic Seed, even before getting out of bed: Waterless Ocean. Once again, memorize the Seed, and throughout the day look around you while keeping it in mind. Don’t try to interpret it or imagine what you might find. Wire your brain to look for (and eventually find) Waterless Ocean, and you are bound to be surprised. 

Keep doing this daily practice, and gradually your mind will learn to expect the unexpected, and you will see so many new things that were just in front of you for ages. 

Surprise v2.0

Fun as it is, that’s just the first level of unexpectedness. To practice step 2, all you need to do is to capture the unexpected things you find throughout the day. What could be easier than that? Use your smartphone camera and take a picture of each of these little treasures your find. It doesn’t have to be an artistic, well-composed photo. Just a visual aid to help you reflect back on what you found during the day. 
Before wrapping up the day, look at the photographs you’ve taken. Examine them as if you see them for the first time. Try not to think about the Seed that inspired you. Try to find in them things you haven’t noticed before. 

In most cases you’d be surprised to see that although you took these pictures, practically standing in front of the scene, there were things that you didn’t notice before. Surprise! You found something unexpected once again.

If you find it difficult to see something new in the picture you’ve captured, try writing a very short story inspired by the photograph. Don’t describe what’s in the picture. Instead, try to use it as a trigger for an imaginary scene or dialogue. By doing so, you are once again training your mind to look at something familiar in a different way.  

Surprise Party

So now that we are starting to rewire our mind day by day, finding unexpected things and then finding some additional surprises using the pictures we took, it’s time to take it to the next level. Imagine sharing a Seed with your friends or family, and then sharing what you all found, maybe even while walking in the same places. One thing is granted: you are about to be surprised once again. 

By sharing Seeds and then the surprising Insights captured by your friends and family, you are getting to see the world through their eyes. You change your perspective and get a rare glimpse into their mind. It’s an enlightening experience, and an unexpected one. And of course, the people you share this experience with will probably look at the Insights you’ve captured and find new things in them as well. 

The Beginning

Creativity relies on our ability to surprise ourselves. Creativity is derived from the unexpected. So we must regain what was in our nature when we were kids: be genuinely surprised and to see unexpected things. 

With daily training using open-ended Seeds we can rewire our mind to see things differently and be surprised by what we find. By reflecting on the things we found, we can enhance our mind to find yet another layer of surprises in the same things. And when we share our experience and findings we are broadening our mind even further by seeing other perspectives as well.

And that’s just the beginning. The beginning of what, you may ask. Well, I can’t tell you, because whatever it is, it’s really unexpected… 

 

A version of this article was originally published by Lidor Wyssocky at seempli.com

 

Lidor Wyssocky (@LidorWyssocky) is a fine-art photographer and the creator of seempli - a revolutionary game for igniting creativity and learning to see the world differently.

Lidor’s visual artworks, which are focused on the things hundreds and thousands of people pass by in the street every day, led him to create seempli to inspire people to practice creative observation on a daily basis.

Using seempli Lidor works with people, teams, and organizations seeking to develop and enhance their creativity. 

Tags: creativity in action, creativity in visual arts, creativity tips, lidor wyssocky, seempli

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