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How to Boost Creativity: Secrets of the Creative Brain

How to Boost Creativity: Secrets of the Creative Brain

There are countless books and movies about individuals whose skills seemed to be naturally given. This has created a misconception that creativity is simply something you have, or do not have. A recent book Great Minds and How to Grow Them has shown that there is often no such thing as a born genius or born creative.[1] In fact, much like a muscle, creativity and inventiveness can be developed. It can even be taught.

All it takes is practice, and exercising those creative muscles that have often been unused and underutilized. But first everyone needs to learn how to clear some mental space for your creativity and ideas.

Clearing Mental Space

Think with Your Brain, Not Memorize

From an early age we are subconsciously taught to memorize and repeat facts. The focus on memorization and the repeating of facts is very misguided, and is based on a real misunderstanding of how the brain works.

Memories aren’t perfect reproductions of events or things, find out why we should stop remembering stuff to free up space for thinking here: Human Brains Aren’t Designed to Remember Things

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Instead it’s far easier to preserve past memories, emotions, and ideas by simply jotting them down.

Here’s How Jotting Down Ideas in 30 Seconds Boosts Creativity, and How to Start Marking down Your Mood for a better brain.

As you no longer have to worry about remembering this important information, you can safely focus on other things.

Once you no longer rely so much on memorization, your mind becomes much more freed up.

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Ditch Mental Clutter

The human brain is incredibly powerful. Everything that has ever come from humanity stemmed from someone’s plan or idea. Despite its power, the brain is bad at multitasking. Perhaps you were reading once, but you kept stopping to check your Facebook, or perhaps your WhatsApp notification distracted you. As soon as your brain had to focus on multiple things at once, you ability to do any of the tasks severely decreased.

The same thing happens when we have a lot on our mind, we can’t focus, and as such, your mind and brain becomes less able to work dynamically and creativity.

We are often unaware just how cluttered our minds are by physical distractions and thoughts. What’s worse, is if we try to ignore all these distractions, our minds become even more full in the process.

If you have no idea how bad clutter has been draining our brains, this is essential for you: How Clutter Drains Your Brain (and What You Can Do About It)

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The only way to clear up all this mental clutter is to be ruthless. It is a good idea to prioritize what is most important to you. This can be generally or smaller scale (such as the resolution of an important task). It may seem difficult to ditch stuff that doesn’t serve a purpose, I’ve got you this Declutter Formula to eliminate everything that isn’t necessary.

Fostering Creativity

Keep Your Right Brain Sharp

Now that you have cleared some mental and physical space, it should be easier to focus on developing your brain’s creativity.

The two sides of the brain are focused on the development and control of different cognitive abilities. The left side of the brain processes things like language, and numbers, fixed concrete information. Whereas, the right side of the brain processes and controls creativity, critical thinking, and artistic ability.

By focusing on fact retention and memorization in school, most people have strengthened the left side of the brain, at the cost of the right brain. Discover the real reason why creativity has become more challenging than ever: Why It’s Difficult to Be Creative: An Underdeveloped Right Brain

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To fix this imbalance and develop the creative muscles, try these:

  • Do this 10-minute exercise every day to workout the brain: The Journey of a Man and a Dog. This simple exercise makes you think out of the box, and is an effective way to stretch the creative muscles.
  • Take up a creative hobby. By involving yourself in a creative hobby such as painting and playing music, you keep your right brain active.

Look for a Problem

One of the most common excuses people give for not being creative is that they lack ideas. The inspiration isn’t coming. The ideas aren’t flowing.

Often times, people focus on something new and original. Doing this will always be fruitless as the mind needs stimulations in order to think. Luckily mental stimulations are everywhere. All you need is to observe for problems in your life. Check out how to look for a good problem for better creativity: How to Look For a Good Problem to Boost Your Creativity

Every problem we face is also a puzzle which needs a creative solution. When you are faced with a problem, you naturally try to think of solutions. By thinking of dynamic or creative solutions to problems, you are improving your ability to be creative.

It’s No Privilege to Be Creative

Once you develop your creative ability, you’ll discover the wonderful truth that everyone has the potential to be a powerful creative thinker. All that is needed is utilize your brain and a little bit of exercise.

Featured photo credit: IStock via istockphoto.com

Reference

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on February 18, 2019

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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Encourage Your Employees

When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

Offer Rewards

Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

Give Autonomy

Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

A To Do Scheduling System

Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

“The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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Ask If They like What They’re Doing

If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

The Bottom Line

Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

More Resources About Team Management

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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