April Brainstorm

Apr 12 2006 by Jurgen Wolff Print This Article

Ahh, finally the days are longer and warmer (well, a bit warmer…). I don't know about you, but every winter I hibernate a little but then it's a pleasure to start waking up when spring is in the offing.

One thing that's blossomed is my newish blog, which you can visit at www.timetowrite.blogs.com. It's of special interest to people who write or would like to, and it gives me more space to cover creativity topics, so please have a look.

Now here are some new ideas I wanted to share with you:

1: Are You Plussing?

The other day I went to the Science Museum to hear a talk by Pixar animator Dan Mason. One concept he mentioned was "plussing." He said that once they have worked out what needs to happen in a scene, they continually try to find little ways to add something to enrich the scene. This might be a small nuance of expression, or something going on in the background, or an echo of an earlier scene, a change in the colour in order to suggest a mood, etc.

The effect of any one of these additions may be very small, but over the course of the film they do make an impression.

It struck me that we can apply this to anything we're doing (it's not too different from the principle of Kaizen, the drive for small, continual improvements). I wonder how you might be able to apply it to what you do?

ACTION: Consider selecting one of your activities and for one month, every day see whether you can find a way to 'plus' it.

2: The Push-Pull Principle

Dan Mason mentioned one other aspect of how Pixar works that I found useful. He said when they are developing stories and images, rather than trying to come up with the safe or acceptable approach right away, they dare to push it over the edge. Then they pull it back until the idea works best. Knowing that it can always be pulled back weakens the inner censor, and allows them to think big.

ACTION: Are you daring to think big about the issues that concern you? Try having a brainstorming session in which you deliberately come up with ideas that are excessive in some way, and then (only afterward) start pulling them back. You may find that you are more creative using this technique.

3: Let Your Subconscious Do the Work

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam have confirmed that taking a break during a creative tasks actually helps you be more creative when you resume.

They asked three sets of students to name as many uses as possible for a brick. One group was asked to start right away, another was allowed to think about the task for three minutes before they started listing uses, and the third group was given a distracter task for a few minutes before starting to list uses.

An independent panel judged that the third group proposed more creative and unusual uses than the other two.

ACTION: Whenever you need to solve a problem or come up with ideas, define the task, then go off and do something else for a while. The research suggests that your subconscious mind will get to work on the task and will give you better results when you return to it later.

4: Norm's Rules for Managing Risk

In Inc. Magazine, entrepreneur Norm Brodsky told how his enjoyment of risk led his company into bankruptcy and the loss of 2000 jobs, whereupon he realized he had to find a new way to make decisions:

"For openers, I resolved that whenever an important decision presented itself, I would not make it without taking a shower. I do some of my best thinking in the shower (and) the rule thus prevented me from making snap decisions about important issues."

He also resolved to be a better listener; he still made his own decisions, but with an awareness of other arguments.

Finally, he resolved to invest in new ventures only the amount of money he could afford to lose. He says, "That meant setting an investment limit in advance and sticking to it." (He writes that in one case he lost his set limit of $1 million in a souvenir business, but stuck to his intention and avoided throwing good money after bad.)

ACTION: If you tend to be an impetuous risk-taker, try applying these rules. I think the same techniques could help those who are overly risk-averse. By knowing that you have followed all of these rules, you should feel more confident that you're keeping the risk under control.

5: Before We Were so Rudely Inter -

Last time, I summarized some of the research into dealing with interruptions done by New York research firm, Basex (www.basex.com). I was referencing an article about the study, but Jonathan Spira, the company's chief executive, was kind enough to send me the entire report, which is fascinating.

Some of the ways you can stop others from interrupting you: stand up when they enter your office, to suggest that you were just about to leave; don't make eye contact; relocate to a conference room and 'hide', and post a 'do not disturb' sign.

Of course often we interrupt ourselves. One case cited is a man who actually paid someone to design a computer program for him that would block his access to certain programs (like emails or computer games) for a period of time he sets. It can be over-ridden by typing in a long sequence of characters, but generally it keeps him from getting distracted from the task at hand.

ACTION: It will take a bit more self-control, but you could achieve much the same thing by using a timer. Set it for a period of time, like 30 or 45 minutes, and promise yourself that you will not switch to another program until the buzzer sounds. (If you are interested in learning unique time management techniques for creative people, please click here for information about my new e-book. You'll see and hear exactly what it can do for you.)

6: And a Quote to Think About…

"Keep away from small people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

Mark Twain

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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".