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Unleash your creativity: Saying Yes to Change

You know how for the last few years there’s been a whole conversation about how women should learn to say no? Well, today I’d like to invite you to unleash your creativity by learning when NOT to say no! Come with me!

Between February 4 and 6 2014 there was a transportation strike in London during which some Tube (subway) stations were closed. If you are a commuter, you can empathize with the pain our friends across the pond must have felt. For two days, the Underground stopped and people had to figure out a different route to get to work.

As we all know commuters are masters of efficiency. For years they’ve studied to the millisecond the best routes, shortcuts and timesaving schemes until they arrived to the “perfect” one. So, having their routine suddenly interfered with created more than a bit of anger.

When the dispute was over, most people went back to their old routine. But a substantial minority did not. In what turned out to be an unplanned, yet, a great social experiment, about 5 % of commuters discovered a new, more effective (or maybe more pleasurable) way to get to and from work every day. Why do I tell you this story? Because it reveals that sometimes, to unleash your creativity, you need a major, unexpected disruption.

Necessity is the mother of invention inspirational quote

You don’t need to wait for a disruption to practice your creativity. You can set your own disruptions deliberately.

Rejecting change may get in the way of unleashing your creativity

The reality is that most of us resist disruptions even when they pretty small. They entail changes in our plans, routines or expectations. The train is late; your client cancels and appointment; it rains the day of your annual picnic; your favorite coffee house is closed when you’re craving a shot of espresso, and a million other circumstances that face us daily.  Suddenly, we become children ready to throw a tantrum and it’s all you can do to hold the fumes building inside and not give into the tantrum completely.

But what would happen if at the moment the disruption takes place, right when you hear that the flight is cancelled for instance, you said, “Wow, the news sucks but let me think for a second about how to do something unusual with this circumstances.”

It’s not easy to change direction when things don’t go as you expect. Sometimes, the emotional toll is hard to deal with. But the saying “necessity is the mother of invention” is true. Many great innovations were born of mistakes, of disruptions and /or extreme situations where people were forced outside of their comfort zone. That’s what pumps your brain to come up with new solutions. That’s why disruptions can seriously help unleash your creativity and we’d all be better off embracing them.

Being more creative is about embracing change. Pictures taken at a recent Red Shoe Movement Signature Event.

A few weeks ago, I had a trip planned to Europe. The night before my trip the friend I was visiting had an emergency and asked me to cancel the trip. I immediately agreed that this was the right decision and called the airline to cancel the flight. It took me a bit longer to align my emotions with the new circumstances. We had put a lot of energy and expectations into planning this trip and the fact that I knew cancelling was the right thing to do, it was still not enough to get me out of the funk.

So I gave myself 24 hours to process the change of plans and then I bought a ticket to Seattle. Look, my bags were packed, my calendar cleared, my mind prepared for a week off. A friend of mine had just landed a new job there and I had never been to town so I said, why not. 48 hours later I was on top of the Space Needle, having a fabulous time.

Not only did I visit with my friend and enjoyed some quality time with her, I also did some serious sight seeing. But most importantly, the change of scenery enabled me to pivot from a big disappointment quickly, and make new plans rather than wallow on what should’ve or could’ve been. My conversations during the trip informed new projects I had been thinking about and the trip in general lifted the cloud that came over me as a result of the unexpected change of plans. It allowed my creative juices to flow again.

Asking questions like this one can also help unleash your creativity

Unleash your creativity on demand

There’s a story about Keith Jarrett the famous, talented jazz musician, who is always extremely meticulous about his instrument when he performs. One time in 1975, he accepted to play a concert in Cologne, Germany, despite the fact that the Opera House got him the wrong piano, one only intended for rehearsals. That concert was recorded and surprisingly, it has become the best-selling solo album in jazz history, and the all-time best-selling piano album. What Keith Jarrett did when faced with such a disastrous situation was magic. He turned lemons into lemonade. How ready and open are you to do the same? How creatively do you react to adverse situations?

No doubt that the more you practice, the better you become at turning the unexpected disruptions into sources of creative solutions. The problem is that you never know when or what will go wrong so it’s hard to practice with random life occurrences. But what if instead you set your own disruptions? If you’re looking for a great way to unleash your creativity on demand, here are 5 ideas to consider.

Few things accelerate your creativity as saying yes to change. Try it! Photo insert credit: Pnina Yuhjtman.

Here are 5 disruptions to unleash your creativity:

1Assign the role of contrarian to someone in your group. It’s natural for a group of people who work together to try to arrive to agreements, and that’s fine. In the end, we need to push towards one common goal or project. But that one common project could be much more creative if you consider as many different points of view as possible before settling for the best idea. If you make sure one person has the role to come up with what’s wrong with what everyone agrees on, it will force the group to continue improving on the idea.

2Interrupt yourself strategically. Rather than working on a project from beginning to end without taking a break, stop. Set up an alarm at a random number of minutes and no matter where you are at stop, get up, take a walk, make yourself a cup of coffee or make a phone call. (Or rather than ignoring it, follow your smart watch instructions to get up and walk 250 steps every hour!) Interrupting your thinking flow makes you come back to the project with new eyes.  Now you may think you get interrupted a million times by beeping sounds from your electronic devices anyway. Not the same thing. Those interruptions are counter productive as they don’t allow enough time to dive into a project. The idea is to dive in deep and then stop. So silence your devices and just set up your alarm. You can do this with anything: while writing a blog, creating a presentation, developing a product, etc.

3Change roles. Try to rotate roles even for a day. Ask your boss for the opportunity to spend a day, a week or a month in someone else’s shoes. It could be in a different function, or location. Talk about a real change of perspective.

4 Shake up your flex-policy. A great way to unleash your creativity could come from reversing the days you work from home and from the office. Or, if you have never taken advantage of this policy, it may be time to try it. This simple change will likely throw your routine off and it will force you to come up with creative solutions for everyday problems.

5Pick a different route or way to get to work. Create your own transportation disruption and either chose a different route to get to work or a new mode of transport. Do you usually take the train? Use your bike. Do you normally drive? Ask a colleague for a lift.

Lateral thinking is a great strategy to foster your creativity!
Inspirational quote

Test your comfort zone often…

Even small disruptions like going to the bathroom on a different floor can elicit new conversations with people you don’t usually see. And who knows where those conversations may lead?

If you really want to unleash your creativity, it’s important to embrace change and say yes to those things that make you uncomfortable. They may prove to be the spark you need to take things to the next level.

Consider joining our Step Up Plus program to learn more about some key skills!

 

 

Lateral Thinking: Find More Innovative Solutions Faster!

Lateral thinking has two functions: to generate creative ideas and to solve problems. The more we exercise it, the more and better solutions we find to all sorts of challenges. Don’t miss this mind bending post!

What is lateral thinking?

“There are six eggs in one basket. There are six people. Each one takes an egg. How is it possible that in the end there is still an egg in the basket? ”

(Answer: The last person was left with the basket with an egg.)

This is a typical challenge that requires the use of lateral thinking. Why? Because more than data or logical reasoning, this problem demands mental processes related to insight, creativity and ingenuity.

Family, education and culture stimulate memory and vertical thinking, based on logic, which is a necessary but insufficient skill. We have two cerebral hemispheres, each specialized in one type of processing: the left is rational and the right is creative. We need to develop both sides and integrate them to be more effective in solving problems.

To incorporate lateral thinking into your life you simply practice specific creative techniques that allow you to use it at will. It’s like going to the gym, but in this case, to keep your mind in shape.

Lateral thinking allows digging wells in different places instead of deepening the same well (solution, idea.)

Lateral thinking allows digging wells in different places instead of deepening the same well (solution, idea.)

Two styles of thinking: vertical and lateral

The term lateral thinking was coined by Edward de Bono in the 1960s to differentiate it from conventional or vertical thinking, the type of thinking based on experiences, assumptions, and deductions. Using memory and vertical thinking means applying a higher dose of the same solution to a problem. In other words, they lead us to dig deeper into the same well.

Instead, with lateral thinking we dig a well in another place. And if it doesn’t work, we try another, or instead of a well we dig a tunnel, or rethink the basic approach. Because in addition to a type of mental processing, lateral thinking is a method for using information that considers that there are always several possibilities to approach a situation. Different from vertical thinking which assumes there’s only one correct way.

The aim of lateral thinking is not to come up with correct ideas, but to generate a great number of them. Then, at a later stage, you can apply vertical thinking to analyze the ideas you came up with, improve them, discard the invalid ones, choose the best ones and test them.

In a first stage the focus should be on producing lots of new ideas. In a second, you analyze which can be put into practice. You have to know when to use lateral and vertical thinking.

In a first stage the focus should be on producing lots of new ideas. In a second, you analyze which can be put into practice. You have to know when to use lateral and vertical thinking

Want to develop this type of skills? Join our Step Up Plus program!

The 3 types of problems

You could define a problem as the difference between what you have and what you want to have.

By breaking down established models, lateral thinking liberates the information these models contain challenging assumptions and prejudices. This facilitates the creation of new models and mental structures, connections and processing styles. Not in a fixed way, but rather so that they can be decomposed as often as necessary.

According to Edward De Bono there are three types of problems:

1 Those that require more information. They are solved by vertical thinking, such as mathematical problems and police puzzles, which involve a logical sequence that increases with new data. Its a linear approach to a single possible solution.

2Those that do not require more information, but a reorganization or restructure of the available information. They are resolved through the use we make of data, new associations or connections, imagination and even questioning our vertical thinking. These problems are usually are based on a new perspective, a new mental process, a discovery or a series of partial ideas that bring us closer to the best solution.

This is the case of the classic lateral thinking conundrum: a gardener is instructed to plant 4 trees so that they are all equidistant. How can you plant them?

I won’t post the answer here to help you force your methods of rearranging the data I gave you. If you want to know the answer you can send me a note: bbensignor@gmail.com.

3Those that are not recognized as a problem. They have to do with perception and can’t be resolved until they are detected. They may also require a change of perspective, as in the previous case. Here we don’t even realize that we have a problem to solve. In this case, you need an increase of focus and sensitivity to the unexpected in order to perceive what you don’t know.

 

Prejudices are persistent and difficult to disintegrate. For that you can use lateral thinking.

Prejudices are persistent and difficult to disintegrate. For that you can use lateral thinking.

Impossible cube

Most people see a cube in this image of Escher. But it is a virtual figure: the front and back edges intersect. It is an example of a problem that goes unnoticed.

 

 

A perfect example of a problem that goes unnoticed.

A perfect example of a problem that goes unnoticed.

5 techniques to develop creativity

Lateral thinking can be trained by practicing specific techniques to develop your creativity.

Some of them are:

1Search for alternatives

An example: how can a square be divided into four equal parts? (Take a few seconds before viewing the following pictures.)

Solution: alternatives, from the easiest to the less usual:

Solution 1 to divide a square into four equal parts

Solution 1 to divide a square into four equal parts

Solution 2 to divide a square into four equal parts

Solution 2 to divide a square into four equal parts

Solution 3 to divide a square into four equal parts

Solution 3 to divide a square into four equal parts

2Assumptions review: lateral thinking does not accept or reject the validity of assumptions about a topic, its objective is to question and restructure them as often as necessary.

An example: two players, O and X, mark the spaces of a 3 × 3 board alternately. A player wins if he manages to have a line of three of his symbols: the line can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. (Take a few seconds before you see the next image.)

Solution:

Reviewing assumptions

Reviewing assumptions

Surely, the first thing you thought about was that I cheated. I would have done it if I had explained that it was the Tic Tac Toe game. That is your assumption: at no time did I clarify that it was the traditional game and that therefore the limits of the board should not be exceeded.

3Redefining the dominant idea: a dominant idea is the theme or principle around which a situation or problem revolves. If it is not grasped, it will influence the thinking that will limit possible solutions. It is easier to escape the influence of something that is known than that which is ignored.

An example: a man lives on the 10th floor of a building. Every day he takes the elevator to the seventh floor and then climbs up the stairs the remaining three floors to his apartment on the tenth. Why does he do this? (Take a few seconds before reading the solution.)

Solution: he was little person.

The dominant idea of ​​this riddle, as in most, is that it is a person of a standard height. And it is that idea what limits the possibility of resolution.

4Dividing technique: if a situation is divided into parts that constitute it, it is possible to restructure the situation by reordering the parts. It is important not try to find preexisting elements, but to create parts, breaking up the situation in an artificial way. This also facilitates the generation of new models, applicable to future (not necessarily similar) situations.

An example: if we are trying to solve the problem of “transportation by bus”, we could divide the situation as follows:

  • Selection of itineraries
  • Frequency of services
  • Comfort of the service
  • Total probable number of travelers
  • Probable number of travelers at different times of day
  • Bus capacity
  • Other means of transportation
  • Cost and income
  • Number of travelers who depend mainly on the bus service and number of them who can easily use other forms of transportation

5Inversion method: this technique is more lateral in nature than the previous one. The problem is considered in its real structure and is inverted in one direction or another, from top to bottom, from outside to inside, causing a forced rearrangement of information.

Example: In the famous fable of Aesop, the water in the vessel was too deep for the bird to drink. The bird began to imagine means of extracting the water from the jar, without reaching any satisfactory solution. Then she reversed the focus of the problem and instead of thinking about the means of drawing water, she thought she could introduce elements into the vessel to bring the water up. In fact, she began to throw stones until she was able to drink.

Want to play and practice your lateral thinking?

Here are 3 classic riddles of lateral thinking. With this exercise you can start your training. Go ahead!

1Two chess players. Two excellent chess players played five games in one day, and each of them won three. How is that possible?

2Coal, carrot and cap. Five pieces of charcoal, a whole carrot and an elegant cap are thrown in the garden. Nobody has lost them and they’ve been in the grass for the same amount of time. How did they get there?

3You are driving your car on a terrible storm night. You pass by a bus stop where three people are waiting:

  • An old woman who seems about to die.
  • An old friend who saved your life once.
  • The perfect man or the woman of your dreams.

Who would you take in the car, since you only have room for one passenger?

Solutions:

Answer 1: They did not play with each other, but against other opponents.

Answer 2: They are the remains of a melted snowman.

Answer 3: Unlike the previous ones, this is an ethical-moral dilemma that was once used in a job interview. You could take the old lady, because she’s going to die and therefore you should save her first. Or you could take your friend, since he saved your life and you are indebted to him. But if you take these options you may never meet the lover of your dreams again.

The candidate who was hired from 200 applicants did not hesitate. What did he answer? Very simply: “I would give my car keys to my friend, and I would ask him to take the old woman to the hospital, while I would wait for the bus with the woman of my dreams.”

We can always overcome the apparent limitations of each problem by learning to think creatively.

How do you plan to deal with problems after training in these creative techniques?