Teach Your Brain To Be More Creative

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The goal is not to think more but to think better. Creativity is just about that: how to think better. Being more creative, that is, thinking better, will become a competitive advantage for you  in the world of business and individuals. Let’s find how you can do it!

There are two kind of people: those who think that creativity is a gift that you receive at birth, or those who believe that creativity is a skill that you can develop. I am in the second group. And my proof will be you! You can become a more creative person, just by applying some methodology and internalizing it, like the one described here.

In this post, we are going to concentrate in how to generate new and innovative/creative ideas.  But why it is in the first place difficult to generate good fresh new ideas? There are two main reasons:

  1. The old ideas and ways of thinking prevent us from generating new different ones. This is known as the einsteillung problem. Our brain is too biased towards what we already know.
  2. We tend to judge a new idea as it appears, interrupting the flow of ideas. That is a bad habit that prevents the generation of fresh ideas.

The Brainstorming Technique

The best way to have good ideas is to have a lot of ideas, and then discard the bad ones

Linus Pauling

In order to generate good ideas, you have to create a flow of ideas. The flow of ideas consists of a continuous generation of ideas about the problem we want to solve. For that purpose, you must set aside a fixed amount of time for ideas generation, and then start generating them, writing the ideas down on a paper.

For a good flow of ideas, you must take into account the following criteria:

  • Criticism is forbidden. You should not judge the ideas you are generating while generating them. Just let them get out of your head and write them down. If you start judging your ideas you will interrupt the flow and prevent new fresh ideas to appear. Judgement of them will come later.
  • Uncontrolled ideas are welcome. The more strange the idea the better.
  • We are looking here for quantity of ideas. The greater the number of ideas the better, and greater the chances to have a good one.
  • You can generate new ideas by combining or modifying previous ideas already written. Sometimes new ideas are just a combination of other ideas that were not as good. Explore those possibilities when trying to generate your flow of ideas.

Prevent the blocking of the flow of ideas

The main goal in a brain storming session is to generate as many ideas as possible. By generating a continuous flow of ideas your brain will move from three different stages:

  1. First stage: your brain will generate typical ideas. Those are the ideas that anyone would also have thought. Those are the ideas that are in the surface of our consciousness. They are not new ideas at all.
  2. Second stage: these are expanded ideas. This means, the everybody known ideas are increased in small aspects or combination of aspects. They are still very common ideas.
  3. Third stage: if you reach that stage, here is where the original ideas will appear.  Those are ideas generated by unexpected connections in the brain. Some of the will be very bad but in any case all of them will be original. That is what we are looking for, and judgement about good/bad should be prevented in this phase in order to not stop the flow.

By achieving the flow of ideas, you will get out of your brain the first typical and classical ideas, providing space for new and fresh ones. That is how you will be able to reach the third stage, that is where the really good and creative ideas reside.

Bad brainstorming sessions almost instantly qualify an idea as good or bad. They do not allow the chance to may be. By performing this judgement while in the generation stage, you prevent your brain from moving to the next stages, and hence, never reaching the third stage. Hence, you must force yourself to generate a large quantity of ideas. Quality will arrive.

It may happen that during your brainstorming you find a very good idea. Given that situation, most people would stop there and use that idea. If you really want to have creative ideas, you must refrain from doing that and keep generating more ideas (may be new ones, or may be combinations of that very good one). You must make the effort to refrain yourself from accepting the first good one it pops up in your mind and keep generating new ideas.

Crazy hill of San Francisco

The Workout

Perform one brainstorming each week day. Each weekday, will have a specific subject about what to do the brainstorming

  • Set your timer for 20 minutes for your brain storming.
  • Make sure you will not be interrupted during this time. Switch off your phone.
  • Each day of the week, select one of the current world problems from the list provided in this link, as the subject for your brainstorming.
  • Do a brainstorming for 20 minutes, writing down ideas to solve those problems.
  • Write down the list of ideas you are generating. Your goal is to generate a flow of ideas, and to learn to avoid the urge to get the first good idea. Do not judge ideas while generating them. Generate as many ideas as possible.
  • After the 20 minutes are done, review your list. Now you can judge them. Discard those that are not good and select the ones that are really good and innovative. How many?

The Extra Workout

This extra workout will help you improve your life and work towards your goals by generating new ideas using your subconscious. Every Saturday, dedicate 45 minutes to perform the following workout.

  • Book 45 minutes of Saturday morning to work on this without interruptions
  • Go to a quiet place in the outside. It may be the beach, some place in the forest, or just a park in the middle of the city.
  • Turn off your phone, and order your favorite hot beverage: coffee, tea, hot chocolate, chai, etc.
  • Bring a pencil, and a paper with you.
  • If you want, you can wear your headphones with easy listening music. Only music without singer. Only peaceful music. If you don’t like that kind of music, then do not listen any.  Pop, jazz, rock, heavy, etc, are completely forbidden.
  • Then decide the problem/goal/plan you are going to brainstorm. It has to be a very defined problem/goal/plan. Make a conscious decision that you are going to brainstorm on that subject.
  • After having decided to work on your future, move that thought out of your mind, and just concentrate on enjoying the music and the beverage.
  • Let you mind wander around. But return to the beverage and music whenever you can.
  • As your mind disconnects the conscious part, your subconscious will start generating thoughts and ideas. Take notes of them on your paper. Do not criticize them. Just write them down.
  • Allow for a flow of ideas to go. Do not start thinking about the ideas you already wrote. Just let the brain generate more, by returning to your coffee and music.
  • When the time is up, you can review your ideas and decide whether they are good or bad ideas. Then go and implement them.

Conclusion

All of us can be creative. It is not an inborn skill. The first step to be creative is to develop the skill to generate new ideas. And for that you need practice, practice, practice.

Start doing the workouts described here and then apply this methodology in every problem you have to solve in your live. You will be amazed to find how the solution was just there and you were not able to find it. But now you are…

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photo credit: Andrea Costa Creative via photopin cc

photo credit: Håkan Dahlström via photopin cc

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