People hate arguments. Emotions flare up, and relationships get strained, so our lizard brains tell us a simple story: Agreement is good, and disagreement is bad. Yet, this binary thinking spawns the negative connotations around arguments in the first place.
As discussed in The Conversational Octopus, when we view arguments as binary wars, we resign to a dull and dehumanizing fate. We succumb to acting like machines seeking complete agreement (“yes”) or accepting utter defeat (“no”). This binary worldview leaves no room for new ideas.
Edward de Bono introduced the concept of “po” in The Mechanism of the Mind (1969) as a creative alternative to a binary response.
Po stands for “provocative operation” and is poetically buried in several synonyms: hypothesis, supposition, possibility, and, recursively, poetry. Po is a lateral thinking tool evoked by “what if?”
When asked for a simple yes or no to a complex question, po can serve as a polite interjection to reframe the question and open a new conversational thread. While de Bono’s purist recommendation is to say “po,” I suggest an approach that doesn’t require knowledge of the concept:
“I’m not sure I caught that. Could you ask your question in another way?”
Po indicates respect for our conversational partner. We’re not dismissing their idea or mindlessly agreeing but asking to expand the possible outcomes.
What if we could converse without seeking a predetermined outcome?
Po could initiate a simple proposal, even if half-baked, to ignite a conversation where all parties explore the idea together. This lateral thinking requires creativity.
What if two newsletter writers paired up for a creative exercise?
To practice creativity, I partnered with Wing—jewelry artist and writer of FRESH by wing—to perform some creativity exercises. Here’s our workout routine:
Grab a sheet of paper, draw 30 circles, and set a three-minute timer. Before the timer runs out, draw as many unique things as possible using the circles (i.e., clock faces, cookies, coins).
Justin: Hey Wing, want to do a quick creativity workout?
Wing: That sounds interesting; getting my pens and paper together now. Ready to get those creative juices flowing!
Justin: Here are my circles—I may or may not have stuck to the three-minute timer.
Wing: I ended up with this after three minutes—that went by much faster than I expected!
Wing: For extra credit, I gave myself unlimited time to finish the rest of the circles. Here’s the finished result!
Grab a friend and prepare open-ended questions. Take turns asking and answering.
Wing: Alright, let’s do some rapid-fire questions. You start.
Justin: What’s your favorite way to make friends? How do you maintain friendships with people who don’t live nearby?
Wing: My favorite way, hands down, is connecting over common interests! It comes naturally to me, and it helps to have a shared vocabulary, culture, and knowledge.
Maintaining long-distance friendships requires a combination of desire, dedication, and effort. You must want a friendship, or any other kind of relationship with anyone, enough to make you put in the extra effort to sustain it without the face-to-face aspect. When you recognize the value of specific friendships, it becomes instinctive to want to dedicate time and effort to them, regardless of circumstances.
As for the practicalities of doing so, I enjoy utilizing the broad spectrum of multimedia communication available today. Quality connection can be fostered over email, calls, simultaneous streaming, mutual sharing, and online interactions—if both parties are willing to explore beyond the confines of a traditional in-person friendship.
Wing: How do you react under pressure and time constraints when you don’t have the luxury of creating slowly the way you would prefer?
Justin: Time is a luxury, and I believe the best work emerges from constraints. When forced to cut time, I reduce the scope but try to keep the same level of quality. Suppose I planned to build a website in one year, but my timeline dropped to a week. In that case, I’d design a single page for the core experience but ensure I met a high bar for responsiveness, accessibility, and latency. Lower the quantity and deepen the quality.
Justin: If you had a clone, how would you manage her time?
Wing: Funny you should ask this—I’m a self-proclaimed Gemini, and I often feel I’m living the life of twins and a double-self instead of solo, so this question isn’t entirely hypothetical to me! Let’s take my darker, shadow twin as the clone—If she allowed me to manage her time, I’d ensure she gets daily psychological rest from overthinking. I’d give her space to explore her desires yet encourage her to consistently check back in with her inner guidance. There’s no point trying to shape my clone, or anyone else, into something they’re inherently not meant to embody.
Wing: In which part of your life this year are you finding the most change from the year before? How has that change affected you?
Justin: When I started bouldering, I could only climb for an hour before my hands were sore and blistered. After a few weeks, I could scale more challenging routes without hand issues, but my forearms would burn and limit further climbing. After a few months, my shoulders were the limiting factor. In other words, the more I climbed, the more I unlocked higher-quality problems.
In the same vein, I focused on good foundations in 2022. I spent my energy establishing good habits for health, work, relationships, and finance, but I didn’t tie these foundations to specific goals. This year, I’m seeking more purpose and thinking about the bigger picture. Merely creating a good how was enough last year, but I’m craving the why this year.
Like & Wish
Grab a friend and pick a topic you could provide feedback on. Take turns sharing one thing you like and one thing you wish to see.
Justin: Let’s share feedback on each other’s newsletters. I’ll start:
I like your passionate deep dives into culture and the curated ideas by guest writers.
I wish I could learn more about your jewelry-making endeavors. I imagine readers would enjoy your thoughts on the brand, values, and aesthetics of BLING by wing.
Wing: Much appreciated, Justin! Doing a deep dive into the bling side of things has been on my mind for some time already, but I haven’t got around to dedicating the time to explore it fully in an issue. Challenge also accepted for a bling-centric future FRESH issue!
I like the drawn illustrations in each issue of Turtle’s Pace!
I wish there were an entire topic presented with just drawings/comics and minimal text - that could be interesting to see!
Justin: Thank you! I’ve always enjoyed drawing, but I’ve let that skill go dormant for the last decade or so, and this newsletter was a fun way to reinvigorate that interest. Challenge accepted for a drawing-centric newsletter soon 🙂
Now it’s your turn!
I invite you to try these exercises too. Try one of these:
Draw 30 Circles. Email me the photo, and I’ll happily share it in a future edition.
Ask a Speed Dating question. I’ll respond with my honest answer in the comments.
Share a Like & Wish about Turtle’s Pace. I’ll do my best to incorporate your feedback into future editions.
Laugh at these Evil AI Cartoons.
Want more creativity exercises? Check out 10 Exercises to Build Your Creative Confidence from IDEO.
If you liked hearing from Wing, subscribe to FRESH by wing for good energy and tasteful takes on art and culture.
thanks for having me on, this was a very enjoyable and insightful workout!
Great blog ! I’m going to do the first exercise later on. Thank you for sharing once again!👍