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  • Here's a question.

  • Do you sometimes have difficulty remembering peoples' names.

  • But you're great at remembering their faces?

  • Or maybe you're really good at moving odd-shaped furniture around the corners.

  • Or packing your car full with so much stuff everyone told you it was gonna be impossible.

  • If so, you might just be a visual thinker.

  • How about this?

  • Try and remember an event from your past.

  • What happens?

  • Do you find yourself remembering something fuzzy like the significance or emotion or mood around that event?

  • Or do you remember specific scenes and images?

  • For some people, it turns out that images and spatial relationships seem to dominate their thinking process.

  • Basically, they think in pictures.

  • It's thought that upwards of 60% of people are in this category.

  • And it's a continuum.

  • Not all or none, some people just think this way more than others.

  • For example, for some people, and this might be you, a messy desk isn't a problem at all.

  • You know where everything is.

  • But you know where it is in relation to everything else.

  • So, when someone comes along and cleans that desk up, supposedly helping you organize, you completely feel lost and you can't find anything.

  • The same sort of spatial thinking that helps you navigate a messy desk can be incredibly powerful.

  • The chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer said that he could see all of the pieces on the chess board even when it wasn't in front of him.

  • Which allowed him to practice and play in his head.

  • Nikola Tesla, a pretty amazing inventor, took this one step further and said he was able to build and rebuild complicated machines in his mind.

  • And then run them to see where the moving parts could potentially fail.

  • When he was only 24 years old, the inventor Thomas Edison described his experience this way.

  • "I have innumerable machines in my mind now, which I shall continue to illustrate and describe day by day when I have the spare time".

  • But this kind of thinking, visual thinking, sometimes comes with a price.

  • Namely, it can be hard to communicate, when you're thinking, to other people.

  • Maybe you've had this experience.

  • Where you see something pretty clearly in your head, but you wind up needing to draw it to explain it to someone else.

  • Albert Einstein often said words failed him to describe the images in his head.

  • But it turned out those images were the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe.

  • It was after he envisioned a man riding the wave of light that he was able to construct his theory of relativity.

  • James Clerk Maxwell, the mathematical physicist, had a similar experience.

  • His colleagues urged him to show the relationship between energy entropy and volume using equations.

  • Which is how they best communicated ideas.

  • Instead, he used clay and plaster to show the relationship in the way that he understood it as a physical and visual form of thermodynamics.

  • And that's the power of visual metaphors. They allow people to see complex relationships in new, relatively simple ways.

  • And the history of invention and discoveries filled with those kind of stories.

  • For example, August Kekulé unlocked the new way of thinking about the structure of molecules when he envisioned a snake eating its own tail.

  • In that moment, he realized that the bonds in the molecules benzene formed a ring.

  • And this led to a whole new way of understanding how molecules could be visualized.

  • And that's ultimately the challenge that visual thinkers face.

  • How do you get those images out of your head and into the real world as inventions or discoveries?

  • It's also why right now is such an exciting time for people who think like this.

  • The digital age has brought technology that allows visual thinkers to directly experiment with the forms that they're best at understanding.

  • Visual thinkers can now fold complex proteins on the screen and use 3D printers to build almost any forms that they could imagine.

  • And they can invent and play in virtual reality spaces that just couldn't exist in the real world.

  • It's a good time to be a visual thinker.

  • So next time you forget the names of streets on a route that you can navigate with ease.

  • Don't beat yourself up. You might just be the next genius and inventor of our time.

  • What kind of inventor are you?

Here's a question.

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Are You A Visual Thinker?

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    Sally Hsu posted on 2019/02/11
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