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Breakthrough Thinking: Einstein, Picasso, Mozart and Janus

Dr. Albert Rothenberg is known for a pioneering investigation into the essence of creativity.  He studied the milestone contributions of 58 famous scientists and artists, including Einstein, Picasso and Mozart.

The recipe for breakthroughs

He found that they shared a common pattern: ALL breakthroughs occurred when “two or more opposites were conceived simultaneously, existing side by side – as equally valid, operative and true …in an apparent defiance of logic or physical possibility, the creative person consciously embraced antithetical elements and developed these into integrated entities and creations.”

Dr. Rothenberg termed this process “Janusian Thinking” after Janus, the Roman god of gates and  doors, bridges, openings and  closings, beginnings and endings, past and  future. Janus is always represented by an image of two heads, each looking in opposite  directions.

Rothenberg concluded that creative  people who actively formulate antithetical ideas and then resolve them, produce  remarkable results.

How to think like Janus

The way to use Janusian Thinking is to ask “What is the opposite of  this?” and then try to imagine both opposites existing at the same time.

Janusian Thinking is seeing both sides of an idea, both positive and negative. When you understand why an idea doesn’t work, you can  then focus on how to make it work.

Source:  The Emerging Goddess: the Creative Process in Art, Science and other Fields,  Albert Rothenberg, M.D.


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Lou Solomon

Lou Solomon is the founder of Interact. She is a TEDx speaker and a member of the adjunct faculty at the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte. Her articles have appeared in Harvard Business Review,,, and Fast Company.