Is Original Thinking Orthogonal to Cognitive Speed?

While locked in a hotel room in Delhi I had an interesting email exchange with Chris Yeh and another partner-in-crime who prefers to stay anonymous.

Chris posed the provocative question, “Is processing power / having things come easily detrimental to original thinking?” In other words, is original thinking orthogonal to cognitive speed?

Say there are four kinds of thinking as far as creativity is concerned:

  • Original and swift
  • Original and slow
  • Derivative and swift
  • Derivative and slow

The best is original and swift (but rare!) and worst is derivative and slow. Of the remaining two boxes, which is a higher form of intelligence? Chris tells me he thinks I’m original and slow while he is derivative and fast, and that original/slow is the higher form. I don’t know if I agree!

Our partner noted that in some technical disciplines thinking “fast” helps you think creatively. For example, if you can’t do calculus and algebra in your head really quickly, it will be hard to generate original thinking about physics, and therefore original/slow may not be a workable style. In school, too, derivative/fast gets you much farther than original/slow.

What kind of thinking is more valuable in everyday business? Would you rather be a really fast thinker who refines the inputs of others, or a slower thinker but one who thinks new thoughts? What kinds of professions value original/slow versus derivative/fast?

11 Responses to Is Original Thinking Orthogonal to Cognitive Speed?

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