5 Surprising Hacks That Will Boost Creativity In Minutes

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This is a guest post by Greg Fisher; he is the Founder of Berkeley Sourcing Group. He started BSG eight years ago after realizing the need for coordination between manufacturing firms located in the U.S. and factories in China.

Creativity is a fantastic trait to develop that can help us to perform better in a huge range of situations – not least in business, where it can help us to come up with new products, new marketing angles, new business models and unique solutions to enduring problems.

 

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” –Henry David Thoreau

 

But creativity is also an elusive abstraction that is difficult to define and even more difficult to acquire if you aren’t naturally gifted in that way.  With that in mind, how does one go about helping themselves to be more creative and to think outside the box?  Especially in a world that more and more often seems to encourage conformity and output?

With these powerful hacks, that’s how!  Follow these tips and in minutes you’ll be having better ideas and using your brain in ways you didn’t know you could.

 

“The creative process is a process of surrender, not control.” –Julia Cameron

 

Hack #1: Lie Down

 

Lying down or at least leaning back into a more supine position has been shown by many studies to boost creativity.  Why’s that?  Because it encourages us to feel relaxed and at ease. When you’re stressed or busy working, your body produces chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline which gives you a kind of ‘tunnel vision’ and focus.  That’s useful for completing a dull task, or for outrunning a lion, but it’s not useful when you need to ‘see the bigger picture’ and try to connect abstract concepts.

 

Hack #2: Look at a Plant

 

Thus anything that helps you to relax to a degree will help you to access more of your natural creativity.  Another example is simply looking at plants and greenery, which help us relax thanks to our evolutionary imperative of finding fertile land and luscious green nutritious plants.

 

Hack #3: Use a Green Wallpaper on Your Desktop

How to Stay Relevant and Ahead of the Competition

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In any given day we receive thousands of messages.  Our inboxes explode with email.  Our social media accounts are never-ending streams of new information and updates from friends all over the world.

Staying relevant in the midst of all of it is an ongoing challenge.  Breaking through the noise and standing out whether personally or professionally is a constant challenge.

 

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” General Eric Shinseki

 

RelevanceAndrea Coville is the CEO of global public relations agency Brodeur Partners.  Paul B. Brown is a best-selling author and contributor to The New York Times.   Together they have written an excellent book called Relevance: The Power to Change Minds and Behavior and Stay Ahead of the Competition.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with them about the concept of relevance.

What do you mean by relevance and why is it so important?

Let us start with why it is so important. Worldwide, organizations spend hundreds of billions of dollars annually to get people to buy a product, embrace a brand, follow a candidate, or join a cause. And yet we can all agree that these marketing campaigns, ads, public relations initiatives, communication programs, and social media and change efforts are—to be kind—often less effective than they could be.

Relevance is a guiding principle to ensure that all your marketing and communications efforts make a sustained impact.

 

Relevance is a guiding principle to ensure that all your marketing and communications efforts make a sustained impact.

 

Okay, so what do we mean by relevance? We mean your offering is practical and especially is socially applicable.

We have found that most people misread the definition, putting almost all their emphasis on the practical.  That’s understandable.  It is certainly true that what you are offering must solve a customer need and do it well, but you need to do more.  And that is where the emotional part of relevance comes in.  If your product/service/idea resonates with a customer, if it means something to him in addition to being utilitarian, then the relationship will be deeper, longer lasting, and more profitable.

 

Avoiding Irrelevance

 

Let’s flip to the counter.  Irrelevance.  When you think about becoming irrelevant, it paints a whole different picture.  Would you share an example of a company becoming irrelevant?  What can be done about it?

Unfortunately, it is easy to come up with examples of companies that became irrelevant.  Think of a technology company that had THE hot product five years ago and now is a distant also-ran. Or think of entire industries—the makers of payphones and print encyclopedias spring to mind—that are no longer relevant.

Orbit Shifting Innovation

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How do you create the type of innovation for the history books?

Why did record producers reject Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody?

What are the 8 enemies of innovation?

 

After twenty years of research in the field of innovation, Rajiv Narang and Devika Devaiah authored a terrific book, Orbit Shifting Innovation.

If you’re interested in small shifts, slight improvements, and new versions of an existing product or service, then you can pass.  Orbit shifting innovation is all about huge, disruptive, groundbreaking transformations.  With an orbit shifting innovation, history is created.

I had the opportunity to ask Rajiv and Devika about their work.

 

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” -Steve Jobs

 

Experience An Orbit-Shift

 

Your new book is the result of 22 years of work in the field of innovation.  Would you define “Orbit-shifting innovation” and share an example?

Orbit-shifting innovation happens when an area that needs transformation meets an innovator with the will and the desire to create, and not follow, history.  At the heart of an Orbit-shifting innovation is the breakthrough that creates a new orbit and achieves a transformative impact.

 

There is nothing called a saturated market, just saturated mindsets.

 

Orbit-Shifting Water Purification

 

The Swiss firm Vestergaard Frandsen has developed an Orbit-shifting product that is and will continue to have a transformative impact in areas where there is a pernicious shortage of clean drinking water.  The entire water purification industry is locked into the mindset ‘Purify at the source and then drink.’   So bottled water is purified at the source or in factories, and then supplied through retail to consumers.  Home water purifiers either have pre-purified water dispensers or purify the water which is filled into containers (jugs and bottles) and then dispensed.  LifeStraw broke this industry mindset by making it simultaneous: purify as you drink.  The real shift that LifeStraw made was not in miniaturizing the system; deploying technology to make it smaller, sleeker and speedier is a given in the natural progression of development and growth.  It is the delivery mechanism in the format of the straw that changed the game comprehensively.  By putting a miniaturized system into a straw, LifeStraw broke the mental-model boundary from ‘purifying and then drinking’ to ‘purify as you drink’ (Vestergaard Frandsen).

LifeStraw

You can literally drink water from any source:  This straw filters 99.9 per cent of water-borne bacteria and parasites.  A single straw costs about US $6.50 and filters about 1,000 liters of water, which is enough for one person for one year.  This has bought potable water within the reach of millions of people for whom traditional water purifiers or bottled water is simply not affordable.  Vestergaard is truly saving lives with this Orbit-shifting straw by safeguarding against waterborne diseases, which are among the commonest sources of illness.  No wonder then, it has been named LifeStraw.

What’s more, Vestergaard was originally a clothing company in the fabric industry.  And yet fabric became the trigger, rather than the boundary, to create the LifeStraw – its central component is a cloth-based filter membrane.

 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” -Albert Einstein

 

The Enemies of Innovation

 

I’m interested in your view on the enemies of innovation.  You point to a survey by Business Week and BCG that identified the enemies as:

  • lengthy development times
  • lack of coordination
  • risk-averse culture
  • limited customer insight
  • poor idea selection
  • inadequate measurement tools
  • dearth of ideas
  • marketing or communication failure

And those “enemies” would be the expected ones.  You, however, say that all of those are really manifestations of something much deeper.  What is it?

From our experiences in ‘Making Innovation Happen’ with over 250 Orbit-shift projects over the last 20 years, we find that these are not the real enemies, these are merely symptoms. The real enemy is the underlying mindset gravity.

02fig2Mindset gravity conditions and limits even the most brilliant teams and organizations, layers of invisible constructs and beliefs that unknowingly limit the thought spectrum, reduce the exploration space and stifle new possibilities.

Most organizations and teams have a tendency to settle into an orbit that works, that is reasonably successful, that is fairly predictable and one that minimizes uncertainties.  The more settled an orbit, the greater the desire to cling to it – the greater is the accumulation of gravity – gravity that prevents a move into the next orbit.

 

We need to hire mavericks; only people with this kind of a rebellious attitude can come up with innovative ideas and see them through to the end.

The Hype and Hope of MOOCs

 

 

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to host an expert panel debate on the subject of MOOCs.

What are MOOC’s, you ask?

It stands for Massive Open Online Courses.  In the world of education and training, they have garnered considerable attention and debate.  Some say that this new technology will change higher education forever, causing thousands of traditional institutions to disappear while it dramatically lowers the cost of education.  Others say it holds promise, but the hype has gone too far.  The MOOC will change education in various ways, but it will not lead to a fundamental transformation.

Outside of formal higher education, MOOCs hold enormous potential for continuing education, professional development and training.  Organizations that want to grow must grow people, and MOOCs offer an opportunity to learn in a completely new way.  On my recent trip to Africa, I had many conversations about the transformative potential MOOCs offer in this regard.  Corporate leaders should be studying this potential.

The above video is an abbreviated snapshot of the conversation.  If you would like to see the entire MOOC debate, it is here.

Many thanks to the panel participants:

Bryan Alexander, author of The New Digital Storytelling, an editor of the Horizon Report and a frequent writer/speaker on digital technology in education;

Anya Kamenetz, a contributing writer for Fast Company, the Digital/Edu blogger for the Hechinger Report, and author of Generation Debt and DIY U.

Ray Schroeder, Professor Emeritus and Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois at Springfield, and Director of the Center for Online Leadership and Strategy at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association;

Audrey Watters, a technology journalist and founder of Hack Education;

Cathy De Rosa, OCLC Vice President for the Americas and Global Vice President of Marketing.

 

Everything Connects: An Interview with Faisal Hoque

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My friend Faisal Hoque is a serial entrepreneur, author, and thought leader.  His life is a modern story of success, failures, and resiliency – leaving Bangladesh at 17 for the United States where he has since founded businesses including SHADOKA and others.  You may know his writing from Fast CompanyHuffington Post, Forbes, or BusinessWeek.

I previously talked with him about The Power of Convergence.  His latest book, written with Drake Baer, Everything Connects: How to Transform and Lead in the Age of Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability. Like all of his writing, it is packed with ideas.

Everything Connects

Faisal, it’s so good to talk with you again.  Let’s start with your definition of “connectivity.”  What is it?  Why is it so important? If it is that important, how do we cultivate it?

 

There is no substitute for inspiration, curiosity, and passion. -Faisal Hoque

 

Being holistic and humanistic is key to a great life and doing great work.

faisal.hoque300dpi2013Connectivity is a sense of journey to the sense of purpose — it is an individual, lonely pursuit and a collective, companionable one at the same time.

Our individual, interpersonal, and organizational working lives all interconnect. By examining these connections, we learn new ways to create, innovate, adapt, and lead.

We need to address our own mental experiences, our social interactions, and the mindset we can take to orient ourselves to this holistic, long-term view.

We need to explore understanding that leads to long-term sustainability, the way to act in a manner that promotes mutual flourishing, and how, crucially, a leader can urge us along this process.

We need to arrange our lives and our organizations in a way that leads to long-term value creation: surveying the subtle and not-so-subtle arts of idea generation, decision-making, and creating continuous value.

The newest problems of the world find solutions in the oldest timeless practices like mindfulness, authenticity, and perseverance—because Everything Connects.

Understanding Unique Motivations

“Somewhere along the way, people become convinced that stasis is safer than movement. Consistency feels comfortable; volatility is frightening.”  As a leader, how do you motivate people out of the comfortable?

I think first, we have to appreciate the interior complexity of the people that we work with. Then, we need to make the links between a person’s individual motivations and what our organizations need. In other words, link the individual–personal goals like career trajectories–to the collective group goals like innovation, revenue growth, and impacting the world.

Leaders need to connect with the emotional intelligence of their people and curate their talent to change, adapt, move forward.  There is no substitute for inspiration, curiosity, and passion. -Faisal Hoque

To do this we need to understand what people need from their work in order to do their best work–and how leaders can help arrange that for them. This distinction is rooted in intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. If people are intrinsically motivated, there is something inside of them that pushes them to their work; if they are extrinsically motivated, something outside of them brings them there.  They embrace the unknown, volatility.  Leaders need to connect with the emotional intelligence of their people and curate their talent to change, adapt, move forward.  There is no substitute for inspiration, curiosity, and passion.

The Benefits of Meditation

You place a lot of value on meditation, calling it the “batting cage for getting familiar with the fastballs and curveballs of our conscious and unconscious habits.”  Off the top of your head, what are the top three benefits of meditating?