© 2011 John Casimir O'Keefe

What is half of 11?

A very simple question, right? It is straightforward, and easy to answer. Given that question, what would say is half of 11?

Most, if not all, reading this would answer, “5.5 is half of 11.” After all, we all learned that in school. We have all been taught that to get half of anything you divide it by 2. So, we would take the 11 and divide it by 2 and get 5.5 – all is good and our parents are happy that we learned something in school, and our math teachers would tell us, “See, math is important in the real world.”

But some, knowing this article is about creativity, might start to think a little different and think the question was a trick. You might read more into the question then is really there. Well, you would be partly right. You see, half of 11 is 5.5, that is a reality. But, there are many other answers as well.

A Reproductive Reality
You see, if you are looking at the possible answer in a reproductive (logical) reality, 5.5 is the only answer. But now you wonder “What is a ‘reproductive reality’?” A reproductive reality is using what we learned in the past to solve problems facing us in the future. Simply put, when we view the world in a reproductive reality we solve problems based on how we solved problems before. We go back in our minds to similar questions and seek similar answers. We strive to find how we “got it right” before. In this case, we would go back in time to when we were in elementary school and our math teacher graded us on our answers. If we were asked, “What is half of 4?” and we gave an answer “3” we would have been told we were wrong, and we would go back until we got the “correct” answer. Eventually we would get the idea and come up with the “correct answer” of “2.” The teacher would be happy, and we would have received a “good grade” meaning that we learned. A reproductive reality allows us to only come to one conclusion, one possible answer. Our past would have made an impact on us and we would have learned how to use that same principle in the future. So, if in the future someone asked “What is half of 6?” we could know the answer was “3” because of our reproductive reality. So, when I ask “What is half of 11” you go back to your school days and answer the question with the “correct answer.” But, is 5.5 the only possible answer? Could there be other ways of answering the question? What if we looked at the possible solution in a generative way?

In a reproductive reality:  half of 11 is 5.5

A Generative Reality
Viewing things in a generative (creative) way means you are looking at the question from many different angles. You are not looking at the question only from the way the question was answered in the past; you are looking at the possible answers from many different points. Here are a few different ways of answering the question, “What is half of 11?” Keep in mind, this is not all of them, just a select few – I am certain you can think of others.

In a generative reality:  half of 11 is…. just a few examples
11:  1 and 1
XI:  X and I
XI:  VI and VI
Eleven:  Ele and ven
1011 (binary):  10 and 11
1011 (binary):   505.5

So, you ask, “How does this affect the church or my walk in faith?” The answer is simple. You see, because we are taught to use our reproductive reality to answer the questions facing us as a community of faith we are constantly answering the questions with answers that worked in the past. We seek canned programs designed in a reproductive reality to answer our questions and solve our issues, only to find they do not work. So, we simply replace one nonfunctioning program with another nonfunctioning program. We look at all our problems in the same way. Some even believe that if they take a reproductive program and “tweak it” they are being generative. But in reality, they are not. Because all canned programs simply see half of 11 as 5.5. For some reason we think what works in a church in a small town in Idaho will work in Las Vegas, or New York City. We need to keep in mind that what is generative in one community of faith is simply reproductive in another community of faith.

Creativity Beyond Art and Music
When many in the church think in terms of being a “Creative Church” most in the church think in terms of art and music. But a generative reality means we go beyond just hanging cool pictures, listening to different music, showing movie clip, developing a catchy sermon series or having a play in church. It means we see things in a different way. It says that we are willing to deconstruct everything around us and answer the questions without going to our past for answers. The central idea behind developing a generative reality is to start looking at things in a different way. To be honest, there is no program to help in this, because all programs are reproductive. What you need to do is start looking at things from different angles, some angles so different that you would think them “silly.” It is not “brainstorming” because what I have found is that even when we brainstorm a question, and share some generative ideas, we usually only accept the answers that are reproductive.
What is half of 11?

other articles in the synchroblog:


  1. Posted 2011/02/08 at 5:28 pm | #

    Read Phillip Slated – The Chrysalis Effect.

  2. Posted 2011/02/09 at 2:57 pm | #

    Very creative. You got me thinking. You are definitely right that we need generative reality solutions to solve some of the issues we face today.

    Your post made me think of a brain teaser I read this morning. It is this:

    You have been abducted by aliens, and they want to see how smart you are. So they forced you to drink a vial of poison, and then gave you two more vials. One of them contains more poison and the other contains the antidote. On one vial it says, “The words on the other vial are true. This vial is poison.” The second vial says, “The words on the other vial are true. This vial is the antidote.” Which vial should you drink?

    The answer? Drink them both! That way, no matter what, you get the antidote.

    Anyway…thanks for participating in the synchroblog! I enjoyed your post.

  3. Posted 2011/02/09 at 10:24 pm | #

    Very cool John, funny how many different ways there are to to think about the same question. I was going to answer, “That question is just a distraction God placed here to test us, like dinosaur bones and carbon dating.”

    Keep up the good work,

  4. Posted 2011/02/21 at 10:14 am | #

    John – very cool!!

    This is why I think it is such a travesty that the Christian church has alienated themselves from artists. Artists seem to often be naturals at seeing things differently and therefore solving problems in unique ways. Of course I guess that is what also makes the church uncomfortable with artists. Hopefully that is changing.

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