August brainstorm

2012

Here in London, it's still all about the Olympics. Having once worked with one of the Monty Python group, I had a sense of déjà vu when watching the opening ceremony - good old English eccentricity! I think it should also have included one of those whirling teacup rides with all the members of Parliament in giant teacups, then it would have been perfect.

Now...it won't do anything for our abs but let's see if these ideas can get our minds racing:

1: Is the way you're working broken? Here are five fixes.
In the book "Be Excellent at Anything" Tony Schwartz writes, "The way we are working isn't working. The relentless urgency that characterizes most corporate cultures undermines thoughtful deliberation, creativity, engagement, and sustainable high performance."

It think it's not just corporate culture. Even freelancers are beginning to feel that relentless urgency and to wonder whether they have time for thoughtful deliberation (which includes turning off the phone).

ACTION: Here are some strategies from Schwartz along with a couple from me:

  • Measure results, not time.
  • At the start of each project, take time to plan and to figure out what aspects, if any, can be outsourced. Use services like HireMyMom.com, elance.com, and guru.com
  • Take a break every 90 minutes. Get up, get out, walk, drink water, don't just use the break to check your email.
  • Cultivate routines and habits that help you make time for deliberation and contemplation. How about scheduling a 60-minute walk once a week?
  • Train people to expect that you'll be out of contact for at least one hour, the same time each day (it will become part of their habit not to bother you then). Use that hour for the most creative work you do or for planning and contemplation.

2. The question you may be forgetting to ask yourself
Working on a project that still has a ways to go, I experienced the "dip" that Seth Godin talks about - that part around the middle where you feel like there's a LOT yet to do and your spirits sink a bit. I had to remind myself to ask the question we often forget: "How far have I come already?"

ACTION: Consider creating a chart that allows you to mark off our progress so the evidence of how far you've already come is in front of you all the time.

3. Why to dress for a party every day
I came across a video of a talk by ad man Steve Edge the other day. He was home-schooled so he didn't learn all the "rules" other kids were programmed to follow. He was an apprentice jockey, he worked with Jim Henson making props, and he worked with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

In the first Indiana Jones film the double for Karen Allen wouldn't get into the snake pit with Harrison Ford, so Edge shaved his legs and put on a skirt and did it. Eventually he got into the ad business and brings his offbeat lateral thinking to that.

One of his mottos is, "Dress for a party every day, the party will come to you." He does that literally, wearing gold shoes and colourful jackets and trousers, but it's really more about your state of mind. I think he's right - if we look and act like we're ready to be open to the wealth of experiences out there, we are more likely to attract them. That's something for me to work on - how about you?

ACTION: If you're not ready for gold shoes and jackets made out of curtain material, maybe you could wear or carry just one thing to remind you to be receptive to the party. If you want to see Edge's video, by the way, you can find it here.

<4: This approach could make networking painless - and profitable
An article in The Economist summarizes some of the findings of Clay Christensen and his colleagues about what spurs innovation. The article says:

"For all their reputation as misfits, innovators tend to be great networkers. But they hang around gabfests to pick up ideas, not to win contracts. Michael Lazaridis, the founder of Research in Motion, says he had the idea for the BlackBerry at a trade show, when someone told him how Coca-Cola machines used wireless technology to signal that they needed refilling."

This could be the answer for people like me who hate those networking events in which everybody is eager to whip out their business cards and tell you about themselves and you're supposed to do the same.

I've avoided those kinds of events, but what if you went to one with the sole idea of finding some ideas that might be useful for your projects? No selling, although of course you'd end up telling people what you do because they'll ask. But what if you spent most of your time asking people about the details of what they do, with a view of figuring out what you could adapt to use in your work?

Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting you learn what they do and then become their competitor. It's about finding useful strategies to apply to what you do already.

ACTION: If you've resisted going to networking events or have gone but not enjoyed it, try going to one with this approach.

5: That thing that happened today: what treasure does it hide?
In the same Economist article I mention above I read that "IKEA never planned to base its business on self-assembly. But then a marketing manager discovered that the best way to get some furniture back into a lorry, after a photo-shoot, was to take its legs off, and a new business model was born."

Little events like that happen to us frequently and most of the time we give them no thought whatsoever. It makes me wonder how many great ideas dance in front of us but we don't notice them because we're not primed to.

ACTION: I invite you to join me in a little experiment to conduct every night for the next week or so. First choose a challenge or problem or a goal you'd like to reach. Take 10 minutes to review everything that happened to you that day, including trivial things and things that you read or saw on TV.

Think about how something you experienced or saw that day could give you an idea about the challenge or goal you've chosen. Be sure to jot down all ideas, even bad ones - you can do the judging at the end of the week. If you find the process useful, make it a nightly habit. I'm going to try this and will report back in next month's e-bulletin.

6. And a quote to consider:
"The first and most important thing an individual can do is to become an individual again, decontrol himself, train himself as to what is going on and win back as much independent ground for himself as possible" [William S. Burroughs]

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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".