September Brainstorm

2007

We're at the time of year traditionally associated with the harvest, and I hope that you're seeing some benefit from the ideas and projects you've been working on this year.

The space between summer and fall is also a good time to take a little break, even just a few hours, to review where you are and where you'd like to be by the end of the year. If a bit of course correction is necessary, maybe the following tips and techniques will help:

1: The real key to 'acting as if'

If you've ever wanted to be more confident (or more anything) you've probably run across a very popular personal development technique called "acting as if." The premise is simple: if you are not confident, you just act as though you are, and eventually the act becomes a reality.

The problem is that it usually doesn't work. It's a bit like telling someone who doesn't speak French to go to Paris and act as if he does.

But there's a way to make it work: do it by degrees . I call it 'the ten percent solution'-if you're not confident, act as if you were just ten percent more confident. That will be at the edge of your comfort zone, but not outside it. (In the case of the Paris analogy, that could entail learning a few phrases initially). When that's comfortable, add another ten percent, and so on, until you reach the desired level.

While it might seem difficult to measure qualities like confidence in percentages, if you ask yourself, "What would I do if I were just ten percent more confident?" you'll probably come up with some good ideas.

ACTION: The ten percent solution can be applied to any quality or characteristic (such as being more motivated, energetic, organized, or assertive). Why not pick one and give this strategy a try?

2: The 100-Calories Approach to Productivity

One of the big hits for Nabisco recently is their 100-Calorie packs of snack foods. When you open a bigger bag of snack food you may have the intention of eating only a little, but we all know it doesn't work that way.

With the 100-Calorie packs, temptation is reduced. That's a win for the customer. The win for Nabisco is that on a per-ounce basis you're paying a lot more than you would for a bigger pack. Anyway, it gave me the idea for a variation of the "chunking down" strategy. Here's how you do it:

  • pick a difficult or unappealing task that you've been avoiding
  • get a small notepad
  • break the task down into small chunks and write each one on a different sheet from the notepad (ideally these would be sub-tasks that take no longer than fifteen minutes each
  • put these sheets in the order in which the little chunks should be done
  • two or three of times a day (for example, once as soon as you start work and again right before lunch and then once more before your afternoon break) take one of these sheets and do the task described on it.

You will feel like you're making progress and the process will be relatively painless.

ACTION: Which task that you've been putting off will you attack-and-conquer this way?

3: Pay Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain!

Here's a quote from designer Tim Shafer, who was speaking at a games developers' conference in Germany. See whether this resonates with you at all:

"I don't know if it's because creative people are more sensitive, they somehow confuse being sensitive with being weak. Creative people need to be more fighters, take a more aggressive stance… The enemy is not that big and scary, it's just about realizing the power of the creators. We are the unholy terrible giants of the gaming industry."

That doesn't apply only to the gaming industry but to all creative fields. Without our contributions, the 'giants' of publishing, broadcasting, etc. have nothing. Maybe I'm getting to be more of a curmudgeon as time goes on, but I'm getting increasingly upset with the cavalier way that creative people are treated-and by how much we buy into thinking we don't deserve any better.

ACTION: I'm going to be developing this theme more and proposing some practical strategies for us, but in the meantime, the next time you feel intimidated by the 'giants' remember the Wizard of Oz and picture them as the blustering men (and women) behind the curtain.

4: Two Great Zags

In his book "Zag", Marty Neumeier argues that in an age of me-too products, you have to out-position, out-manoeuvre, and out-design the competition by using radical differentiation. Wwhen others zig, you have to zag.

One fun example of "zagging when everybody else is zigging" is the world's smallest conference center. The folks at creativityatwork.com came up with this - it's actually a Smart car (you know, those cars that look like they shrank in the wash) - and they take it to conventions and give people a fifteen-minute consulting session in it. Is it a gimmick? Sure, but it's fun, it gives value and it's memorable.

Example number two: the wikimindmap. You're probably familiar with wikipedia, the 'people's encylopedia' that allows users to add and modify content. If you enjoy using that and also happen to be a fan of mind maps, as I am, then you'll want to know about www.wikimindmap.org. You just pick which language you want to use, and when you type in a word, like "creativity," it automatically generates a mind map based on the wikipedia entry for that term. It's an excellent way of getting an overview of any topic.

ACTION: Give the wikimindmap a try, and then take some time to consider how you could benefit from 'zagging' in your field.

5: And a Quote to Consider

"The deepest human need is the need to be appreciated."- William James

Until next time...

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About The Author

Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. His goal is to help individuals liberate their own creativity through specific techniques that can be used at work as well as at home. His recent books include "Focus: the power of targeted thinking," a W. H. Smith best-seller, and "Your Writing Coach".