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7 Ways to Make Your Brain Storm

Jun 10, 2008
To many, creativity simply means being able to produce lots of ideas quickly, with the expectation that some will be useful. But to those who deeply desire to be thought of as "creative," any creativity challenge is also seen as a chance to fail and be "uncreative."

This can quickly produce a kind of stage fright. Stage fright involves fear, worry, often self-chastising, and can result in freezing up.

Naturally that inhibits the flow of ideas, producing more stage fright.

It's a vicious cycle.

But it can be brought around to a calmer, more productive state where ideas come easily, and in a steady stream.

All you need to do then is record them as they come, take a breather, then later, choose among them, and elaborate on those select few.

But how do you get there?

Try these approaches:

1-Don't Judge Creativity While Creating

Mental state rules. Your mental state, that is. If you feel creative, or even neutral, you're in the right mind frame. The neutrality I'm talking about is a nonjudgmental state, where you're not constantly asking yourself if you're creative or uncreative.
Or whether an which ideas have merit.

In fact you're not aware that you're thinking at all.

Thinking about your thinking--which involves being judgmental--
stops the flow faster than anything else I know. Let your brainstorming be an unjudged flow. Leave the sorting for later.

If you judge now, you stop tapping into your right brain and move into your analytical left brain. Good for judging, editing, polishing. Not so great for producing a wide array of alternatives.

2-Remind yourself that you have already produced many ideas in your lifetime.

Count the times in a day that you come up with an idea. You'll be surprised how many there are. Big ideas or small ideas? Smart or dumb ideas? Don't categorize them that way. Or at all. Not yet.

Think that ideas are ideas. Their purpose is to create a flow of more.

Creativity is a habit, and producing a plethora of ideas gives you good odds of finding a great one in the bunch. The more you push yourself to churn them out in large numbers, the more your mind trains itself to think that way, and quickly!

There's another reason why "the more, the merrier" is true in creative pursuits: even discarded ideas contain fragments of great thinking that you can use on the hand-picked winners.

Example: An ad agency team was searching for a surprising gift for a new client. They came up with delivering a do-it-yourself ice cream sundae setup to the client's office for an afternoon of fun.

The delivery of an experiential event sounded good to the agency CEO, but because the client was in a sophisticated business, he replaced the sundae bar in favor of a caviar tasting. Shortly thereafter, the president of the client company awarded additional assignments to the agency.

He did it, he said, "Because you truly understand us."

3-Make A Point Of Appreciating Creativity Wherever You Find It

Creativity is all around though not always beautiful, or cool, or in an art museum. Sometimes it's the clever way something is displayed in a store. Or an apt phrase spoken by a colleague.

Instead of feeling disappointed that you didn't think it up, embrace it. Imagine how the person may have come up with that thought. In fact, read books by creative types who discuss topics like "how I came up with that idea."

You'll learn tricks and techniques, and enter into the mindset of creativity.

Children can be our best teachers because their special perspective exhibits a rare view of the world. And they are unashamed--or unaware--of their uniqueness.

If your three-year-old saw a pregnant woman and whispered, "Mommy, that lady looks like she swallowed a beach ball!" would you feel proud or embarrassed?

It happened to my friend, and she applauded her son's creative thought (and only later requested that he speak more quietly). Of course it helped that the expectant mom laughed till she cried.

4-Try Easy Creative Jumpstarts Beginning Today

Noticing and appreciating others' creativity can inspire you and prime the pump.

Visit the art museum on free day. Since you paid nothing, it's okay to go in for a half hour. Don't expect to see much. Just take in what you can and let it feed your mind. You can return next week and see more if you like.

If you're in a walking city, walk as much as you can, observe the people and the surroundings. Eavesdrop occasionally, and listen to the different words used to express thoughts and perspectives.

Which of your friends thinks very differently from you? Many of us choose friends who think like us. It's comforting but not always mind-feeding.

Make an effort to get to know people unlike you. The stimulation, even when uncomfortable, allows you a peek outside your usual worldview; it broadens your scope and upgrades your thinking. (You get smarter!)

5-Watch TV Fewer Nights A Week

Choose shows that foster new thoughts, or show you the unexpected: situations, ideas, or people you rarely encounter. Also choose unique quality entertainment. Both of these are good food for your mind and a way to keep in touch with the best of the current media offerings.

You already know what junk food is, so you can easily determine what "junk thoughts" are. Indulge in them only rarely and mostly to know what the public is seeing.

6-Tap Into Trends To Boost Your Ideas

A direct approach to getting ideas would simply be to copy what exists: if everyone is buying small cars, you, too, buy a small car. If you're in the car-design business, your company designs another small car.

"Trend-tapping" is an indirect approach. You can, for example, tap into the smaller-car phenomenon indirectly:

If you're a luggage maker, you could design luggage that fits easily into smaller trunks.

If you're a toy designer, you could produce games that kids can easily play in smaller cars. Maybe the game board is smaller and players don't need to move around much to play.

If you design clothing accessories, you design a purse that is inspired by a hat you saw. Same for a media campaign, a new soup, a way to stimulate interest in a medical facility.

Whatever your occupation, you can use this approach.

You're hitching a ride on the spirit or vibe of a product, company, or individual.

Ask yourself: what trend outside my field can I bring to my work?

If Mac created a car, what would it be like?

What if Porsche created a restaurant?

If Harvard designed a grade school curriculum, what would it be like?

If (a person currently in the media) were in charge of (whatever task you're currently working on), how would s/he handle my new project?

7-Borrow Techniques From Improv Actors

Improvisational actors really know how to take an idea and run with it, quickly and
regularly. If you want to know how to produce lots of ideas fast, these are the people to model.

I discovered this when I was an creative director in advertising and I took many improv classes. Before long my group ran brainstorming sessions around that model.

Surprising? Not really.

"Improv"-ing (which, of course, comes from the word "improvising") is a kind of brainstorming whereby one takes the info/situation given to her, and staying within that "world," creates a scene.

Improv actors are instructed to never to negate an action or a line fed to them by another actor, but to move on with it.

If one actor says to another, "So what's your husband up to?" the second actor would not say "But I'm single." Instead she enters the reality that she has a husband.

Valid replies might be as varied as "He's leaving me," "He's making pizza" or even "I just killed him" because they move the scene forward. This kind of answer is called "Yes and--"

Creativity demands a "Yes and--" answer, too, because it opens the door to more possibilities that build on each other and allow movement.

The opposite of "Yes and--" is "No but" and it brings the action to a dead halt.

If "how's your husband?" gets the answer "I don't have a husband," there aren't many places to go but to a scenario about amnesia (ho-hum). "Yes and--" generates hundreds of possibilities. I bet you could list twenty without even trying.

When you want to be creative, or to foster creativity in those around you, always reach for "Yes and--." Discover how generative and life affirming that can be in all areas of your life.

-Final Thought

If you were to choose one technique you just learned to use on your current project, which technique would you use, and what new thought(s) might arise? 2008 by Wendy Lapidus-Saltz. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Wendy Lapidus-Saltz, "The Optimizer," is a mind coach and creativity expert who combines a corporate background with knowledge of the subconscious mind's natural abilities to invent, heal, and produce unexpected success in all areas of life. Read her at http://www.hypno-attraction.com, http://www.nonsmoker4life.com . Connect with her at ILAPSAL@aol.com or 312-640-1584.
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