Chaos, creativity and data: a clear connection?

Bernie Divall | This post was originally published February 28, 2012

Last week, I wrote an entry which appeared to continue my theme of messy research, a pet subject of mine.  As I’ve said before, I’m quite drawn to the idea of keeping some essence of mess intact throughout the process, and even making it explicit in the final write-up.  It feels sort of honest, and I’m a tiny bit obsessed with being honest about the research process.  Mostly because I find it frustrating to read things that make the research process sound linear and uncomplicated – having chatted to so many people doing qualitative research, it clearly NEVER IS like that!  (That picture represents the inside of my head, not my office!)

book-mess-chaosbernieAnyway, my friend and fellow Rex bod, Santi, wrote something on Twitter about my blog post, using the word ‘chaos’, and it reminded me of something I read right back at the beginning of this journey, which concerned chaos and creativity.  So I dug around, and have just found this quote:

“It is impossible to think unpredictably by looking harder and longer in the same direction.  When your attention is focused on a subject, a few patterns are highly activated in your brain and dominate your thinking… If, however, you change your focus and think about something that is not related, different and unusual patterns are activated” (Michael Michalko in his book, ‘Cracking Creativity: the secrets of creative genius’).

This really made me think about the problems I’ve had all the way through this research process.  Much of my difficulty has been related to a sense of being stifled in some way – you know, the thing about ‘This is how you write a thesis.  These are the chapters, and this is the order in which they appear’.  I’ve never been a fan of doing things a certain way just because that’s how it’s always been done (I was a very challenging student, both at music college, and later in midwifery *blushes furiously*), but equally I’m not arrogant enough to think that my way will be better than anyone else’s.  I just like to have the opportunity to look at things from a different angle and see where it takes me.

And I think that’s what I need to do just now.  I’ve been told to write my data chapters as intact pieces, and save the theoretical linkage for the discussion chapter.  But I don’t feel inclined to do this, so I’m going to go with the ‘stories within stories’ approach and try to see it differently.

I wonder where this will lead?  Maybe at the end of it I’ll just revert to convention and write in the easily recognisable chapter format, but I don’t think I’ll mind that, as long as I’ve had the chance to at least try something different along the way.  So here goes, I’m going to write the story of midwifery leadership…

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/ JordanHill School DT & T Dept

2 thoughts on “Chaos, creativity and data: a clear connection?

  1. The idea that data are a ‘thing’, distinct from the processes that generated them, or the processes of interpretation of them, not only obscures important aspects of research, but also important characteristics of the data and of their interpretation.

    Assumptions and biases can creep in under the guise of ‘facts’ or ‘perspectives’ because they remain unexamined, because they’re ‘normal’. Getting a ‘fresh’ perspective on your own work can be challenging, but also illuminating.

    Data doesn’t exist in a vacuum, context is an important part of data – and of interpretation. Contextualising data can enlighten not only the interpretation of the data itself, but an understanding of how the data came to be; sometimes that tells a story as important as the data per se.

  2. Creative people tend to be a bit messier and chaotic, as per many researches. Doing research can also be termed as creative as the person doing it has to put in thoughts and ways to come with convincing points in the conclusion. While I was pursuing my research work, I wanted to come with different and innovative ways of research and data collection so that I can get the best results for the conclusion. I was working in my way, and I was going right but I realized that by doing so I am ignoring the most important thing, i.e., time. I was all hopeless and sad that I won’t be able to finish my work within the deadline since I wasted so much my time. Then a friend of mine made me talk to about what all is going wrong and what are my research objectives and I was quite satisfied with the conversation. The very next day I handed over my work to them.

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