Several neuroscience principles limit our ability to creatively solve problems and generate innovative ideas. Understanding some of these principles can help you optimize your creative thinking and innovation processes.
While your brain is working all the time, there are serious energy constraints.
The brain stores no fuel, and running on empty degrades performance significantly. Therefore, it needs frequent breaks from high energy usage.One of the places you experience this brain energy constraint most acutely is during the brainstorming phase. It’s a fast and furious pace of generating ideas, potentially for a long time. Leaders have always known that taking breaks from ideation makes for better results, and this neuroscience principle is obviously why. However, it’s also important to help people understand they actually need to take a brain break, and to have the willpower to do it (instead of checking email or doing other work during the “break”). To help them, plan a little “enforced fun.” This can be things like group juggling, kid-like games or songs like “Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, or an impromptu dance session.
You’ll notice many of these activities have a physical element. This physicality also helps with restoring some energy for the intensive brain work.
Another energy-enhancing tip: feed people. A growling stomach is not conducive for maximum output of ideas. Be sure to feed them satisfying food—not just sweets. Offer nuts, cheese, veggies, or fruit. Oh, you can offer sweets too—but always make sure there’s some more sustaining fare, as well.
The brain naturally limits System 2 thinking.
Your brain has two types of thinking:
- System 1 (Fast): is the “easy” type of thinking that we use most of the time. It’s intuitive and automatic. So, obviously, it’s also energy-efficient
- System 2 (Slow): is thinking that requires more deliberation, more focus, more conscious thought, and literally uses more energy. So, we subconsciously avoid it whenever we can.
If you avoid (or limit) System 2 thinking when it’s needed in your innovation process, you will, at the least, miss out on really good ideas—and at the worst, make some bad judgment calls that you might have avoided if you had effectively used System 2.
One of the phases where people frequently try to avoid System 2 thinking is immediately after idea generation, when it’s time to select the best ideas. The brainstorming is usually lots of fun. It’s fast, and our brains are making sub-conscious and intuitive connections. Then comes the time we have to be focused and deliberate to narrow to a manageable set of ideas. Suddenly, it all becomes…a Lot. Less. Fun.
Know that your team will try hard to avoid System 2 thinking, and you need to be prepared to counter the objections, and ensure that the needed deliberate thinking will happen. For example, people will say, “It takes too long to review all the ideas. We don’t have time.” or, “Let’s just have everyone champion a few ideas instead of reviewing all of them. The ones we remember are probably the best ones anyway.” (Which isn’t true, but that’s another topic.)
Another all-too-common scenario — the team has gotten together and spent several hours generating ideas. Then, everyone gets 5 sticky dots to vote for top ideas. Most people will do this in 5 minutes and immediately dash out the door. They weren’t forced to engage System 2 thinking, so they won’t. Their decisions will rely on System 1, with all its concurrent biases, shortcuts, and mistaken intuition. There will never be the deliberate, conscious, effortful thinking that’s needed at this stage. If this is the typical process in your innovation sessions, you need to make some significant changes.
The brain is a “Bayesian inference machine.”
Huh? Bayesian logic is a very specific, formulaic method that provides a disciplined way of combining new evidence with prior models. So, the reference to our brains being a Bayesian inference machine is obviously a metaphor, although a very apt one.
Whenever people are faced with new information, they use it to only slightly refine — not completely rethink — their existing models/beliefs/hypotheses. Rarely do we assume new data means our existing beliefs might actually be wrong. Instead, we make only incremental and minimal adjustments to our existing beliefs; the least possible change in our thinking that will account for the new data.
Further, the more experience you have in a subject, the more of these existing assumptions you have about it. You are likely not even aware of all these embedded assumptions; many of them are so ingrained in your thinking that it wouldn’t occur to you to question them. They are presumed to be fact — if you even consciously recognize that you have these beliefs.
Obviously, to reach truly breakthrough insights and ideas, you must go beyond incremental thinking. To get there, we need to consider the possibility that our view of the world (or the market, or our product category, etc.) might need shaking up. Given that our human tendency is to retain existing mental models, you need to consciously be doing things to help you and your team break out of this natural limitation on new thinking.
Our brains are constantly making short cuts, mostly in the interest of conserving energy. As a result, your brain will subconsciously limit your thinking in ways you’re not aware of, unless you consciously and actively manage it. Remaining vigilant about these neuroscience-based barriers can help you dramatically improve your creative thinking and your innovation processes.
About the Author, Susan Robertson
Susan Robertson empowers individuals, teams, and organizations to more nimbly adapt to change, by transforming thinking from “why we can’t” to “how might we?” She is a creative thinking expert with over 20 years of experience speaking and coaching in Fortune 500 companies. As an instructor on applied creativity at Harvard, Susan brings a scientific foundation to enhancing human creativity. To learn more, please go to: https://susanrobertson.co/
What’s your favorite underdog story? Why did you root for them? Whether it is a small company up against a big company or dynasty sports team against the Bad News Bears, you know the stories. You’ve probably seen countless times in every sports history, from the Pirates defeating the Yankees in 1960 to the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey team. Hollywood even makes movies about the loveable underdog. Legends are made because the odds are stacked against them. Have the odds ever been stacked against you? Perfect.
HERE ARE FIVE WAYS YOU CAN WIN AS THE UNDERDOG:
1) Tap Into the “Underdog Effect,” the Odds Against You Can Be an Asset.
Ever wonder why people root for the underdog? More importantly, how can you get people to not only root for you, but come along side and actually help you? When the odds are stacked against you, the crowd is rooting for you. It’s in your DNA. People are programmed to want to help, even people you may not know. People who have money, contacts and skills that could help you beat Goliath. When they see your undogged persistence they are inspired and will use their assets to help you on this seemingly unachievable win. Get their attention, that’s an asset!
Get your story out there and tell it in a compelling way. The bigger your challenge, the more compelling your story. The more compelling your story, the more people will come along side you and help. Even unexpected people of influence or people you don’t know may pitch in and help. Make sure your story includes all the ways the odds are stacked against you. If your Goliath is known as a bully, even better. Get your story on the news, industry magazines, social media, and the papers any, way you can.
2) Decide to Be All-In.
What is the Underdog Effect? Intelligence is something that people love, respect and want more of. You’ve probably heard of EQ, Emotional Intelligence. Now many people are talking about AI, Artificial Intelligence. Now you’re about to discover A.I.I. The Underdog Effect. A.I.I. stands for All-In Intelligence. When you are all-in you think and decide differently. It is because the odds are against you that people not only will people root for you, some will even come along side you and help.
To take advantage of the underdog effect, you must decide. But this isn’t just deciding you are going to win, this is getting every single person on your team to make an all-in decision. Once you “burn the boats” and you make an all-in decision, perspective changes dramatically. You think and act differently. You feel differently. Like a parent caring for the child, there is nothing they won’t do to protect them. What stops you from committing to a dream or challenge like that? Us. We do. Enough is enough.
If one team member is not all-in, it effects the whole team. If one team member is all-in, they can inspire others to follow their lead.
3) Stop Worrying About the “How,” Knowing Exactly How is Optional.
The exciting part is that you may not know how and it’s OK! Embrace it. When we are kids, we dream like rivers flow. We never worry about the “how.” Why does this concern us so much as adults? Because if we can’t see the entire path, we don’t want to start the journey. That is not how successful underdogs win! They don’t worry about tomorrow, they focus on what they can do today, right here, with what they do have.
Underdogs win when they move with purpose even when they don’t know what tomorrow brings. Improvisation is an essential underdog skill. Having the ability to adapt and overcome each obstacle is part of their secret. They welcome mistakes because they are fully aware they can learn, adjust and re-engage. This becomes a huge advantage because the Goliath has a success strategy that they stick too. They are less likely to have to adapt because they usually win. So, their ‘adapting’ muscle is not as strong. If you are the underdog, build yours! It can be a huge advantage.
4) Have an Unexpected Strategy.
This can be a game changer. Here are a couple famous examples. In the movie Rocky II, Mickey, Rocky’s trainer, had him tie his left hand behind his back and trained him to box right-handed. Mickey did for Rocky to protect his blind spot. Also, Apollo Creed the Champion, trained expecting to box a south paw. Surprise. Midway through the fight, Rocky says, “no tricks” and reverted back to boxing lefty again. Yeah, it’s just a movie, but what if you could use that idea?
In the story of David and Goliath, Goliath was a massive, unbeatable warrior. David was a young sheep herder. He was not a seasoned warrior, never mind an equal match for Goliath.
David did not try to flight Goliath sword for sword. Instead, he used a different weapon, a slingshot. Think about this though, it was his weapon. It was one he used for years protecting his herd. The one that came natural to him. The one that gave him confidence. Using a slingshot allowed him to attack without being in the range of being struck by Goliath’s sword. What ‘unexpected strategy’ can you implement.
5) Beat Them at Their Own Game. What if you meet your opponent where they live. What if you out-trained them? In the inspiring true-life story of the 1980s USA Hockey Team was portrayed in the movie Miracle. The coach, Herb Brooks, didn’t pick professional all-star hockey players from the NHL, nope. He didn’t even chose the most outstanding college hockey players, he chose the best ones that would work together as a team. He trained his team to play a different style of play based on flow. To play like style of the Russian Hockey team that were considered to be unbeatable. In the film Coach Brooks decided trained them on this new style, but harder than they had ever worked almost. He chose the players that would train that hard. What if you out trained your competition?
Make no mistake the mindset with any of these strategies is critical when you are the underdog. There was a line delivered by coach Brooks in the film that sums up the mindset. Just before the game where they faced the Russian hockey team, Goliath, Coach Brooks said, “One game. If we played them ten times, they might win nine, but not this game. Not tonight.”
Don’t be a hobbyist; be a lobbyist for your dream. Yeah, some people don’t like lobbyists, but when you are all-in you won’t care what other people think. You don’t have time. Focus. How about you and your team living your own underdog story? Which of the five ways will you use?
About the Author:
Darren LaCroix, founder of Stage Time University.com, is the only speaker in the world with a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), an AS (Accredited Speaker), and a World Champion of Public Speaking. He is the author of the book 17 Minutes to Your Dream and the co-host of Unforgettable Presentations podcast. Through his live workshops and StageTimeWorkshops.com, he helps good presenters become UNFORGETTABLE. For more information, please visit: www.17minutestoyourdream.com.
With the shift to our new virtual world, you have probably found it more difficult to build and sustain professional relationships. Yet, the virtual technologies we are all using have actually expanded our opportunities to network and build connections. We are no longer limited to connecting with those in our local community as we now have expanded opportunities to connect with people from around the world. It is possible to build relationships by using virtual experiences. The challenge is, how do you do it?
Making Virtual Networking Connections
Some social media efforts seem to be a complete waste of time. But social media now provides new opportunities to make connections with others. The key is how you use social media to build and sustain your relationships with others in your network.
Finding people to connect with by searching the social media sites using keywords and company names is one way to identify new connections. An even better way is to take advantage of the various virtual meetings and events that you are already participating in and connect with those who are also participating in them.
If you have two monitors on your computer, use one monitor to participate in the meeting and your other monitor as your search engine. If you don’t have two monitors, use your smartphone or tablet. Pay attention to the people you are resonating with or those who are making thought-provoking comments in your virtual meetings.
On your other monitor or device, go to LinkedIn and see if you can find this person while you can still see their face in the meeting. You might be surprised at how difficult that can be, especially if they have a common name or have changed their appearance. By doing it while you’re still participating in the virtual meeting, you can double check that you have the right person before you send them a LinkedIn invitation.
When you send the invitation, be sure to personalize the connection message. Say something like, “Joe, I enjoyed your comments in the XYZ meeting today. I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn to get to know you better.”
The goal here is to establish an initial connection, not to make a sale or have them do something for you. You have to earn that right. Do not immediately reach out and try to sell them something once they accept your connection.
Successful Approaches to Networking Virtually
Once you’ve established a connection with someone, begin to explore the opportunities available to you to get to know that individual better. It is easier to do than you might think.
The most effective way to stand out to a new contact is to engage with them on the social media platform. Start to regularly post comments on their social media post and when appropriate, share their post on your own social media profiles. Don’t just “like” something that they’ve posted. Likes, hearts, thumbs up and other reaction acknowledgments don’t make you stand out. These are just passive engagement reactions and do not get much notice.
Active engagement that gets your name in front of your connection will make you stand out and connect in deeper ways.
If your connection has shared something on social media that you find interesting, do your own post and tag them in it. Take a picture of you holding their book with a testimonial. Then post your testimonial on their book page on Amazon. The idea here is to stand out, especially if they are someone who has a very large social media following.
Engagement is vital to building relationships. It requires energy and effort just as it does in the physical world. It is important to take this slowly. Nothing freaks someone out more on social media than the appearance of having a stalker or someone who is only connected to sell to them. Look for opportunities that are appropriate, but not every day, especially in the beginning.
Taking Your Virtual Networking to The Next Level
If the person you’re connecting with is someone that you would like to know better and the feeling is mutual, suggest setting up a telephone call or virtual meeting. That will allow for deeper communication beyond the written word.
Explore opportunities that might be mutually beneficial or ask them if there is something specific that they need right now that you might be able to provide. For an author, it would be a testimonial. Or it might be making some endorsements on LinkedIn once you get a deeper understanding of their skills and strengths.
Leverage the combination of interacting with them on social media platforms, phone calls, virtual conversations and email as a way to stay connected. This needs to be organic and it cannot be forced. Too many people today make an initial connection on social media or in a virtual meeting and then begin to bombard their contact with too many emails or too many asks. That is not building a relationship. That is pushing for a sale.
Those who are successful at networking virtually are looking to expand their connections with those with whom they share mutual interests. Those mutual interests turn into opportunities. In the best of all worlds those opportunities are mutual, not one-sided.
One thing is certain, virtual interactions are here to stay. Those who are most effective at networking in this “new normal” will bridge the gap between connections and relationships by strategically looking for opportunities to connect. Remember, networking is about building relationships, not making sales. It is vital to keep this key difference in mind as you begin to take steps to use virtual opportunities to make new connections. Sales or jobs may eventually flow from these relationships, but the primary goal in networking is to make a casual connection and build it into to a deeper relationship. Then, you take advantage of the virtual world to help you sustain and deepen that connection over a longer period of time.
About the Author:
Jill J. Johnson, MBA, is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.
We all could use a deep breath.
Most teams and companies are still figuring out how to help support their people and engage with them remotely, in hybrid settings, and in-person gatherings. With all that businesspeople have been navigating: differing modes of communication, the expansion of remote workers, global health, issues of racism, social injustice and equity, political and economic uncertainty, they are also expected to maximize the experience, product or service that you are delivering to the marketplace. Deep breaths are needed.
The process of breathing for the human body is “the process of moving air into and out of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange with the internal environment, mostly to bring oxygen and flush out carbon dioxide.” The leaders role in teams and organizations is to breathe oxygen into their people with mindsets and actions that fuel energy, possibility, connection and progress while flushing out negativity, blame and toxins.
The best leaders and teams on the planet understand their role is to help breathe oxygen into their people that helps give energy, hope and life so that all are able to thrive in a complex environment. These leaders and cultures are intentionally inhaling and exhaling with their people. The air they breathe and the mindsets they bring to stimulate action is everything.
6 Mindsets To Breathe Oxygen Into Your People and Culture
- Clarity — Vision + Direction is air that all need to breathe. Is your Mission clear? Is your Vision clear? Are you Values for how your team is committed to travel clear? Is your Strategy for the next priorities clear? If not, your team may be gasping for air. Every time you breathe oxygen into to these mindsets and concepts as a team, the air is easier for all to breathe. The path forward becomes clearer. Your team may not have all the answers, but they’ll have energy and clear direction on how to take the next step.
- Inclusivity — Leaders in the world play an enormous role in widening the circle so that more diverse backgrounds, ideas, perspectives, and experiences have a seat at the table. Teams and organizations will lead the way forward in society by modeling how to have civil, respectful dialogue and educate people on the strengths of diversity, equity and inclusion. When our teams are inclusive and welcoming, it breathes life and energy into all. We’re stronger together.
- Agility — Possibility + Adaptability is the name of the game in a changing world. Leaders have to practice breathing oxygen that allows their mind to find new ways of doing things and the courage to adapt to opportunities that emerge. If leaders return to the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mindset then they will sit back and watch the oxygen leave the room (and their people).
- Grit — Resolve + Toughness is critical to help people navigate their way through obstacles, challenges, negativity, finger pointing, and division. Leaders help their people breathe oxygen that stays focused on the present moment and the actions that are needed in order to take the next step. Toughness isn’t about being physically stronger than others, it is about being able to be vulnerable with your people and still have the resolve to find solutions, together.
- Rest — Teams and organizations have an unhealthy association with the concept of rest. Americans last year left 768 million days of vacation on the table with their employers. That equates to nearly $66 billion of lost benefits. We’ve forgotten that the research actually shows that deliberate rest is essential to elite performance. When we allow our bodies, minds and hearts to deliberately rest, we breathe more efficiently and are better at everything else.
- Ownership — Accountability + Action are mindsets and oxygen that the best leaders and team cultures on the planet breathe. They connect the things they say they will do with positive accountability and action. Accountability isn’t a negative word, it’s a positive mantra that all take ownership of. In a world where people are quick to gossip, point fingers, and be critics about what isn’t working, the best leaders breathe oxygen into their people and shift conversations from blame to solutions-focused.
The best cultures proactively help their people breathe and navigate through obstacles, together. They intentionally choose to inhale positivity and the 6 mindsets above and exhale negativity, blame, gossip and division. The air they breathe dictates the quality of air for all. The ecosystem of their culture is grown, developed, cultivated and led with intentionality, one breath at a time.
The process for developing high-performing and engaged teams never stops and the best leaders, teams and organizations are committed to breathing oxygen in how they hire, onboard, do performance evaluations, develop emerging leaders, and recognize excellence. The best leaders invest in their teams and the air they breathe, together.
If you’re experiencing a lack of energy, passion or hope for the road ahead, it may be the air you’re breathing.
About the Author:
Jason V. Barger is the globally-celebrated author of Thermostat Cultures, ReMember and Step Back from the Baggage Claim as well as the host of The Thermostat podcast. His latest book Breathing Oxygen is set to be released in the Fall of 2021. As Founder of Step Back Leadership Consulting, he is a coveted keynote speaker, leadership coach and organizational consultant who is committed to engaging the minds and hearts of people and growing compelling cultures. Learn more at JasonVBarger.com
The COVID-19 crisis has affected people in every way imaginable, including the way they view their life. For some, the pandemic has made them stop taking good things and people in their life for granted; for others, the silver linings are harder to find.
Having and showing gratitude in the midst of a crisis can be difficult, but research shows that it improves one’s health and overall quality of life. And in business, leaders and employees will strengthen the company if they prioritize gratitude during difficult times, says Michele Bailey (www.michelebailey.com), ForbesBooks author of The Currency of Gratitude: Turning Small Gestures into Powerful Business Results.
“Times of true crisis may challenge our ability to experience and express gratitude, but such difficult times also demand that we work on enhancing our capacity for doing both,” says Bailey, who is also founder/CEO of The Blazing Group, a brand and culture agency.
“Gratitude is seated at the heart of any truly great company culture, and it results in employees who live and breathe your brand. Employees who practice gratitude across personal and professional relationships will not only drive their personal happiness, they will drive business growth. Gratitude is a currency in the sense that it accumulates as a result of being shared.”
Bailey offers ways to incorporate gratitude into your life and business during a crisis and the benefits of doing so.
- Lose the scarcity mindset. Bailey says a crisis often encourages people to fall back on scarcity thinking – what they don’t have – as pressures prompt some to react with fear and anxiety. What’s needed instead, she says, is an appreciation for each other that leads to people finding ways to help each other. “I cannot stress enough that a crisis is not the time to retreat to a scarcity mindset,” she says. “Instead, it’s precisely the time to think of others, deepen our relationships and recognize the importance of support networks. It’s time to show renewed commitment to customers and communities as well as sensitivities to the challenges they are facing.”
- Think of all you can do, and for whom. Learning to show gratitude on a wider scale starts with these questions, Bailey says: Who has gone above and beyond to help me professionally, and why? How will I show my gratitude to these people? How can I give back to others? How can I make a difference in the lives of those around me and in the lives of others in need? Who have I taken for granted?” ”I believe in my heart that gratefulness is a social disposition or an attitude,” Bailey says, “and as such, it requires that we express it – and exchange it – with others. This is how we connect with one another in a way that lasts.”
- Embrace the strength of your team. Bailey says the resilience that’s honed by steady leaders and unified teams becomes stronger in times of trouble. People feeling isolated and vulnerable need to be thankful for good teammates, approach them for support and reciprocate. “When times are tough,” Bailey says “we can embrace and feel gratitude for what we still have, and we can use that strength of team – of ‘we’re all in this together’ – to fuel our individual and collective forward motion. Identify the people who give you a sense of value and purpose and examine what you value most about your relationships. In times of struggle, it’s our relationships that pull us through.”
“The world may change in surprising and challenging ways,” Bailey says, “but that only makes gratitude more important than ever.”
About the Author, Michele Bailey
Michele Bailey (www.michelebailey.com) is the ForbesBooks author of The Currency Of Gratitude: Turning Small Gestures Into Powerful Business Results and founder/CEO of The Blazing Group, a brand and culture agency born of her strategy-first approach to business and desire to enhance employee wellness in pursuit of business goals. She is also the founder of My Big Idea™, a mentoring program designed to propel individuals toward their personal and professional goals. Bailey has been recognized for contributions to women and entrepreneurship with honors such as the Bank of Montreal Expansion & Growth in Small Business Award and the Women’s Business Enterprise Leader Award in 2020. Bailey is a popular speaker and is also the author of a previous book, It’s NOT All About You, It’s About the Company You Keep.