Graphic Design

Creatives, Are You Waffles or Spaghetti?


Joel Eckert

on 11/28/2016

“Are you waffles or spaghetti?” It’s a fun question that always spawns confused looks and leads to great conversation. My first introduction to this concept was from a book called Men Are Like Waffles – Women Are Like Spaghetti. However, we think this simile is less about men vs. women and is more relevant to creative thinking approaches. There are plenty of women who act more like waffles and men who relate more to spaghetti.

So take a look at the descriptions below and diagnose yourself as a waffle or spaghetti….

Are You Waffles?

  • You can compartmentalize tasks very well.
  • You find breaking a task up into small pieces is more efficient in working out larger issues.
  • You prefer organization and structure.
  • You are good at focusing all your attention to one task at a time.
  • You have people tell you to look at the big picture.

Are You Spaghetti?

  • Spaghetti minded people tend to think of many things at the same time.
  • They are good at being able to successfully multi-task.
  • Your work is always intertwined.
  • You can make connections others may miss.
  • You are a good big-picture thinker.
  • You may have a tendency to overthink tasks.

So how exactly does this relate to creative problem solving?!

The discussion started at spaghetti and waffles and evolved to the causes of mental roadblocks and the psychology of how the brain operates. When a problem arises, typically we all have a de facto approach to solution finding. As creatives we can pretty much rely on this so naturally we don’t think about it. However, in those circumstances where our go-to problem-solving mode is not effective, it may be is best to try a different approach. If you’re spaghetti, try being a waffle!

We’re talking about counter-thought.

Ultimately, we related this to doing counter-poses in Yoga. In Yoga, you switch poses to rest a strained muscle while focusing on another. Recovery allows the rested muscle to have more strength when used again. Perhaps if you relax that part of your brain you can come back to it fresh it to will be more effective after a rest. This is an effective way to think about creative problem solving. If your brain is in an endless loop on one thought, you may actually save time by putting it down and move to another thought for a while, something that requires a very different set of thinking.

For example, when Pat is painting and gets frustrated or stuck, he’ll go iron clothes. This is interesting because it physically uses different muscles and mentally is about the subtraction of wrinkles as opposed to the addition of paint. He said this always effectively helps him when he does feel ready to get back to painting.

What we learned…

  • If you’re a waffle you may need step back and see the big picture of how things are fitting together to get a better quality finished product.
  • If you are spaghetti, sometimes you may need to limit your scope and focus on one small piece of something to make progress again.
  • Interestingly enough, when I get really stressed I recognize that it smashes my waffledom into a pile of mushy spaghetti. Making me less effective, so I have to work hard to reduce stress. In contrast, Kelly said that when she gets stressed she molds her spaghetti into waffles in order to push through. It’s seems to be a pretty interesting thing to note that stress changes our default problem solving approaches.
  • Whether you’re searching for your best working style or comfortable in your routine, changing up the work process and trying something new can lead you to a better finished product.
  • Comparing the ways we work with others and reviewing the unique strengths of each person is a great group exercise. Learning how others solve problems can be a good thing to know when you are seeking a fresh opinion.
  • If you’re looking for other ways to fight through intellectual discomfort, take a look at this article from 99u.

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