Unbeknownst to our protagonist, an oracle stood in front of elders at the high council, pronouncing that their years of civil unrest and war would soon end because their future king was arriving soon by ox cart!
As these type of fortuitous events seem to only happen in folklore, the townspeople immediately proclaimed an incredulous Gordias their new king as he rode into city. In gratitude, the world’s newest royal dedicated his ox cart as a symbol of his gratitude to Zeus, the supreme God in Greek mythology.
As you do, the city built a large shrine at its acropolis, and Gordias tied his wagon to the temple using an exceptionally complex Turkish knot. As years and decades and eons passed, it become an enticing legend throughout the Mediterranean that whoever could untie the knot would become leader of all Asia.
One might assume the Gordian knot – today, a synonym for any intractable, unsolvable problem – would have a similar ending to the story of Camelot. A naive nave would saunter along and easily wench the sword … er, I mean, untie the knot and be declared king.
But in this story, our famous character was none other than Alexander the Great, who came across the knot during his conquests of Asia Minor. He took one look at the gnarly and intricate braid and without hesitation used a dashing bit of brilliant creativity to solve the problem. He lifted his sword and hacked the knot to pieces, producing the required ends of the rope.
OK, maybe he didn’t honour the spirit of the puzzle. Then again, Alexander wasn’t known for his contemplative patience any more than he was known for a lack of ambition. Regardless, his action was a masterstroke of creative thought. He used a striking solution (excuse the pun) to solve an exceedingly complex problem.
This notion of the problem is the cornerstone of creative thought. In fact, creativity really is nothing more than problem solving. But, without knowing what the problem is, what caused the problem, or why the problem exists, brainstorming ideas can be a futile affair. If the idea doesn’t solve a problem, then it’s not a good idea. Problem definition is literally one-half of the creative process, demonstrated so beautifully by Albert Einstein’s famous quote “A problem well-defined is half-solved.”
Next up: defining the problem – more specifically, the problem with problems if often the word “problem.”