February Brainstorm

Feb 12 2010 by Jurgen Wolff Print This Article

This time, I explore the power of difference, ask what sort of mindest you have, ponder whether it's time to take a break and enjoy some great thought on creativity from marketing mastermind Seth Godin.

1: Finding the difference that makes the difference

It was on storyteller Stefano Boscutti's website that I came across a great story that illustrates the concept of finding the difference that makes the difference.

It's the story of how Jerry Sternin was able to have an impact on the problem of children's malnutrition in Vietnam. His charity didn't have the funds to address poverty and purify the country's water. Instead he went to a village and asked whether some children there were healthier and better nourished than others. That was indeed the case.

Then he enlisted the mothers of the village to do the detective work of finding out what was different about the way those children were fed. They discovered that they were fed more often (same amount of food, but in smaller doses), that their mothers were mixing in some sources of protein that generally were not considered appropriate for kids, and a few more unusual practices.

Sternin then devised a program that actively got the rest of the mothers to adopt those practices as well (rather than just giving them the information). Six months later, two-thirds of the kids in that village were better nourished.

ACTION: Identify an area in which you'd like to do better. Let's say it's time management. Then you can use one or both of these methods:

(1) identify the times that you DO use time wisely and notice what's different about those. Then bring those changes into the other times;

(2) find someone who is good at time management and discover what he or she does differently from you, and start doing things that way.

2: What's your mindset?

In her book, "Mindset" Carol Dweck points out that people have either a fixed or a growth mindset.

A fixed mindset means that you think that you have a set amount of talent or ability. If you've been praised for being clever or talented and have a fixed mindset you tend to avoid new challenges because failing would reveal that you're not so clever or talented after all. This may account for all the people who start out being talented but never fulfill their potential.

The growth mindset says that your results are largely determined by the amount of effort you put into something. You tend not to be scared of new challenges because you know that, despite initial failures, through hard work you probably will be able to learn or do what's necessary to master them.

ACTION: If you believe that a fixed mindset could be holding you back, think about a challenge you'd like to tackle. Break it down into small chunks. For each one, determine what you need to learn and the best way to learn it. Continue step by step.

If it makes you feel more secure, don't tell anybody about it, that will help assuage any anxiety you may have about being exposed as a fake! When you're done you can pretend it was easy for you all along :-)

3: Is it time for a break?

Spanish top chef Ferran Adria has shocked the food world by closing his three-star Michelin restaurant for two years in order to look for new frontiers in cooking. He told CNN, "I decided to do something radical." He will retreat to a secluded kitchen workshop in Barcelona to figure out what innovations he can create. What's most interesting is that he's pausing to reinvent himself while at the top of his game.

ACTION: We can't all afford a two-year break but it can be useful to take some mini-breaks periodically for reflection - when things are going well. Consider setting aside a weekend or at least one day to step back, consider what you're doing, and brainstorm whether and how to re-invent some aspect of what you're doing.

4: One more lesson from this top chef

The same CNN article Chief Adria revealed that his restaurant, where the 30-course meal cost $400, wasn't making a profit. But it established his reputation and that made possible endorsement deals for olive oil, the design of plates and silverware, guest lectures at Harvard and other places, and many cookbooks.

This mirrors the experience of many authors who don't make that much money from their books but make up for it with lectures, consulting, training programs, and other activities that come about due to the exposure they get from the books.

ACTION: Consider whether you may be overlooking some spin-off activities that might end up being more lucrative (or more satisfying) than your core work. If so, what could be the first step in that direction?

5: Seth Godin's ideas on creativity

Marketing mastermind Seth Godin recently listed some of his thoughts on creative thinking. Here are my favorites:

  • Waiting for inspiration is another way of saying you're stalling. You don't wait for inspiration, you command it to appear.
  • The hard part is finishing, so enjoy the starting part.
  • Keep your overhead low and don't quit our day job until your idea can absorb your time.
  • Powerful organizations adore the status quo, so expect no help from them if your idea challenges the very thing they adore. [Sometimes that applies to powerful people, too - J.]
  • Think big. Bigger than that.

ACTION: Did any of those have special resonance for you? Which one? What are you going to do about it?

6: And a quote to consider

A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about how he felt about a tragedy. He said, "I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one".

The grandson asked him, "Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?"

The grandfather answered, "The one I feed."

more articles

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".