November brainstorm

2011

I don't know if it's the same where you are, but here in London most of the public Christmas decorations went up the day after Halloween. I'm trying to control my inner Scrooge, but he's shouting, "Too soon!"

Anyway, as we move toward the end of the year I have another round-up of ideas I hope you'll find useful, starting with something I know a lot about - making mistakes!

1: Can we learn to embrace mistakes?
In his enormously popular video on creativity, Sir Ken Robinson makes this point: "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like that, by the way. We stigmatize mistakes...and the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities."

ACTION: If you are scared of making mistakes one way to change your attitude is when you've made one, devote 15 minutes to figuring out (1) What went wrong; (2) What you can learn from it; (3) What you'll do differently if a similar circumstance comes up. Then imagine yourself doing that in the future, with a positive outcome.

If you have kids, go through the process with them when they makes mistakes but keep it from having the aura of a punishment - maybe do it while you're all having a pizza or other treat.

2: Is it time to create an imaginary friend?
OK, this one may seem a little weird, but bear with me... The other week I was talking to a friend who is facing quite a collection of decisions at the moment and felt overwhelmed. I asked him what his experience has been in the past. He laughed and said that when he was a kid his imaginary friend used to steer him toward the right decision.

I said, "Great, why not bring him back?" At first my friend thought I was joking, but I wasn't. Obviously when kids have an imaginary friend it's a product of their own minds, usually a part of themselves they're not in touch with consciously.

ACTION: Why let kids have all the fun and benefits? Either bring back your old imaginary friend (perhaps a grown-up version) or make up a new one. What messages does he/she/it have for you? You don't have to tell anybody - although do tell me if you try this out. It'll be just between you and me and our imaginary friends.

3: Can restrictions be a good thing?
An article about the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival mentioned that a chef named Thorsten Schmidt runs a restaurant at which they use only local, seasonal ingredients. This is in line with a manifesto written by a group of Nordic chefs. Here's the part I thought was especially interesting:

"When he first wanted to start a fine dining restaurant he found it really difficult to construct a menu which did not include traditional fine-dining ingredients...But Thorsten said that with the restrictions of the manifesto blossomed a great creativity. Now his staff literally go out to forage for ingredients, he uses 184 local herbs...and he uses all life cycles of a plant for different textures and flavours, from the leaves to the root to the fruit to the stalk."

It's a good example of how restrictions can actually foster creativity rather than stifling it. Another example: lots of people now use an iPad or similar device or their phone to read ebooks or listen to university-based course podcasts on their commute. This restricted time becomes an opportunity to learn.

ACTION: Are there restrictions in any part of your life you find frustrating? How could you turn them into something positive?

4: Your most important goal is small
It's great to set big goals, but all too often we find that we never quite get there - usually because we abandon them at some point. Why? It may be because we forget that every big goal is made up of many small goals, right down to the daily and even hourly level.

These little goals don't have the energy and glamour of our big, hairy, audacious goals, so we don't do them. But unless we pay attention to them, we'll never get to the BHAGs.

ACTION: If there's a big goal you want to reach, break it down into major chunks. Then break those down into smaller steps, and finally decide what you can do today to move toward it - and then what you can do in the next hour. If that task isn't one you find very interesting, link it strongly in your mind to your ultimate goal. Once you make this a habit, you'll find yourself making progress every day.

5: Speed-storming for fun and profit
A team of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, combined brainstorming with speed dating and got speed-storming. Two people spend three to five minutes generating ideas, back and forth, as quickly as possible.

Writing in Psychology Today, V. Krishna Kumar notes, " Ideally, the pairs may consist of people from different disciplines or departments. Bringing together people with different specialties helps an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas that may not be readily possible otherwise. It may also help to identify potential collaborators for a project."

You can do this using Skype or other internet tools - via video, audio, or text. Your partner can be anywhere in the world, possibly somebody you don't even know. If you follow somebody's blog, for instance, or they're your Facebook friend, you could email them and suggest a five-minute speed-storming session, just to see what happens. If it's a good outcome, you could let them pick the topic the next time.

ACTION: If there's something about which you'd like to get some fresh input, be brave and give this one a try. Pick somebody whose expertise is different from yours. Let me know what happens! (If you need more structure for the session, check out the methods featured in my book, "Creativity Now!")

6: And a quote to consider:
"Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure." [George E. Woodbury]

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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".