May Brainstorm

2004

Spring has sprung and I hope this finds you well and engaged in a lot of exciting projects. Here is this month's collection of fresh ideas and inspirations:

1. How to get the truth
A Cornell University study reveals that people are more likely to lie over the phone than in e-mails, by a margin of almost three to one. The researchers theorize that maybe this is because an e-mail can't be retrieved once it's been sent, but it's also possible that people hesitate to put lies in writing.

ACTION: If you think someone may not be honest with you, put your question into an e-mail rather than phoning the other party.

2. The poor man's way to do biofeedback
You've probably heard of biofeedback, in which you are trained to learn how to relax by getting feedback via sensors attached to your fingertips or in a band around your head. It's a great technique but some of the equipment is expensive. Since your heart rate is a pretty good indicator of your level of relaxation, I've hit upon a cheap and easy way to do the same thing: use the kind of heart-rate monitor that people use at gyms (Polar is one of the main brands, but there are also less expensive ones). You put a strap around your chest, and your heart rate is indicated on the matching wristwatch. When you relax, your heart rate goes down and you see it instantly.

ACTION: If you've been meaning to learn how to relax, this is a quick and easy way to experiment with what thoughts (or sounds, or images) help you to do so. Most fitness equipment places sell the equipment.

3. Make your own music
In a recent issue of HOW design magazine, there is a quote from sound expert Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, who has studied the impact of sound on creativity. He says, "The brain looks different if you're trying to solve a creative problem than if you're trying to solve a math poblem." He adds that when you play music, your brainwaves try to entrain (match) the speed of the pulses in the music, which alters your consciousness, putting you into a more dream-like state. This level is more conducive to creativity.

ACTION: The next time you have a task that is creative (rather than analytical), experiment with having different types of music on in the background. Try brainstorming for five or ten minutes with each type of music, and jot down your ideas as well as what type of music was playing. Which prompted the most ideas and the best ideas? (You should repeat this experiment a few times, varying the order of the music, because the quantity and quality of the ideas may also be linked to other factors). When you find the soundtrack that seems to work best, use it regularly for brainstorming.

4. Oh oh, bad news for me - how about you?
A study conducted for NEC-Mitsubishi concludes that cluttered desks contribute to worker sickness (they call it Irritable Desk Syndrome - surely that should be Irritating Desk Syndrome...and maybe Irritating Studies Syndrome...). Of the 2000 employees they interviewed, 40 percent said they were infuriated by their cluttered desks but couldn't be bothered to do anything about it, and 35 percent said they had neck or back pain from sitting awkwardly.

ACTION: The leader of the study, Nigel Robertson, who calls himself a deskologist, suggests, "Don't endure, act today, and don't wait for someone else to fix it for you." My own tip: clear up one zone at a time, otherwise the task may seem so overwhelming that you can't face it, and you will let it go for another day.

5. Seven useful questions
Another article in HOW design magazine included seven questions to ask when preparing a design brief, and it occurred to me how useful these questions could be when planning almost any kind of project or presentation. As you read them, have in mind a project, plan, or meeting that you have coming up, and see how they could help you prepare:

1) What are we trying to accomplish?
2) Who are we talking to?
3) What do they think about the product or service?
4) We do we want them to think?
5) What benefit(s) does the product have? If it's generic, what else is unique?
6) What do we want the viewer [listener, potential client, etc.] to do?
7) What information is mandatory to include?

ACTION: If you find these questions useful, print them out or type them up on a sheet of paper where you can easily refer to them whenever starting a new project--or even when placing an important phone call.

6. And an interesting thought...
“It’s possible to own too much. A man with one watch knows what time it is; a man with two watches is never quite sure.” - Lee Segall

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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".