A mind once opened cannot be closed …
Give your neurons a treat and a shot of inspiration …
What we are not often sure of is where the zone actually is.
So I have set out on a bit of a mission this year and that’s to explore The Zone, to find out where it is and to draw up a map for others to follow and explore themselves.
So what you will see this year is:
- At least three or more books on the subject
- A new Udemy ecourse called Getting in the Zone
- A series of interviews with people who spend time in and out of the zone
This is the first of many blogs on this subject and here’s an ‘amuse bouche’ to help you get in the zone each day …
The first book in the series is now available for Amazon Kindle and free Kindle Readers …
Take your first step into the Zone today …
Note that this special first edition of the book contains a special redemption code to get access to the Getting in the Zone ecourse worth $99
If you read and acted on the last post in this series, Seven Ways to Block Light Bulb Moments, well done – you’ve set up the conditions whereby light bulb moments to come your way.
Rather than waiting for them to come in randomly though, there’s a few things you can do to stir them up and encourage them to occur.
There is clutter and clutter. A completely sterile and clinically clean environment might look nice but will not stimulate the brain. On the flip side, a desk with piles of unfinished business piling up in an In Tray or covered in Post It Notes of things to do, can have a negative effect. A balance is recommended which implies a buzz is happening with positive results and sales wins are clear for all to see. Fill your office with creative resources such as white boards and a book library and ensure a room or space is available for people to meet and be inspiring.
2. Celebrate Success
In our busy days, we sometimes forget to take time out to pat ourselves on the back. This doesn’t mean you have to take the whole team down the pub every time you get a sale in. Have a stack of Mar Bars or a pile of iTunes or Amazon vouchers and dish them out appropriately.
3. Map your Minds
Mind Mapping is one of the most powerful and coolest tools for stirring up creativity. They can either be used for free association or to get your thoughts in order, plan a project or design a product or service. See Mapping your Mind for more on this. They become especially powerful when you work on them collectively and collaboratively. The maxim two heads are better than one grows exponentially when more heads get involved.
4. Appreciative Review
We can spend a fair amount of time analysing what went wrong. The culture of public enquiries and tendency of the press to report everything that’s bad just serves to fuel this type of negativity. When something ‘goes right’, there is much to be gained from working out what you did that was so good and then applying that wisdom to other processes in the business. Different parts of the brain get involved with this process and you will be amazed at the results.
Breathing is something we all have to do, yet most people breathe very shallowly. Our neurons don’t store oxygen yet need it to function so learning to breathe properly and to pump prime your brain has great benefits to both creativity, health and well-being. Listen to this Getting in the Zone visualisation for 11 minutes – and why not play it at the start of your next creative meeting.
Many people think it’s impossible to meditate and make their minds go quiet. In our busy days, the idea of wasting 10-20 minutes meditating sounds horrendous. I can testify personally that the days that I don’t meditate don’t flow so well and that when I meditate my days seem to be full of good luck, chance encounters and clients that seem to find me ‘by accident’. Listen to How to Quieten Your Mind to experience the meditative state.
7. Trust your Gut
The most successful business people pride themselves on trusting their gut. It is now known by neuroscientists that our gut has more neurons than a cat’s brain and works about 5 to 10 seconds ahead of our conscious awareness. Using a combination of right breathing and meditation, you can tune into your gut mind and communicate ‘consciously’ with it. The results you get from learning this technique are simply mind blowing.
More resources and articles
This is probably the trickiest of all the blocks in this this series so far that stop people being creative as it’s the most subjective.
For example, one person might love your writing, music or art and another may loathe it. The former will appreciate your talent and the the latter think you don’t possess an ounce of it.
So one simple way to boost your perception of your talent is just to find the people who like your stuff. When you do find them, watch out for sycophants and the perils of an ego that comes from having a fan base – remember it might be temporary.
When you get reviews, remember to thank people for them.
From an objective perspective, there’s a bunch of really practical things you can do to improve and hone your talent.
The first three might not normally be associated with the arts but they are as follows:
- to get regular exercise
- to eat the right things
- to breathe using your diaphragm
Each of these increases the nutrients reaching your brain which in turn facilitates increased interactivity between your neurons. By the way, the exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous, a brisk walk with diaphragmatic breathing is enough – this is why I recommend writers should be dog owners. And when you walk, if you can, look up not down – it makes a huge difference.
Now onto honing your talents themselves … here’s my top seven tips
- Practice … and then practice some more
- learn how to Mind Map (properly)
- create something each day
- have an Artist’s Date per week – see Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way site
- when you read, see or hear something you like, spend a little thinking about what you like about it
- then plagarise, copy and emulate a style you like … making your own fusion along the way
- don’t hide your reviews away, pin them on your wall, post them on your web site, Tweet them
Finally remember the best way to hide your talent is not to create anything at all … and that your talent is a gift and natural endowment, not to be hidden under a bushel or suppressed by any of the fears in this series.
In any case, it should be remembered that these fears are only there to give us the indication that there’s something we need to tackle and embrace.
Incredible advances in understanding how our brains work have been made by neuroscientists, yet the place where our consciousness is generated and our mind resides proves elusive. It’s a good guess is that it’s only proving tricky to find because people are looking in totally the wrong place.
So when it comes to finding the source of something even more ethereal such as an idea, where do you even start looking? Even an expensive MRI scanner won’t help you here as it measures the brain state after a thought has occurred. Apart from anything else, you might not have an MRI scanner handy when that idea comes along as they tend to be random in nature.
Bring in the Thought Detectives
To find the source of ideas, we have become sleuths. The first clues to pick up on can be found in our language.
It is no accident that we say things like, “Off the top of my head” and “At the back of my mind”. When something is on “the tip of my tongue”, it well be exactly where it is at that moment in time.
If you observe people when they talk, the position of their hands gives much away too. Sometimes people reach above their heads as if they are pulling an idea out of the ether. They will pat the centre of their chest if they feel passionate about something.
It turns out that thoughts exhibit properties similar, but different, to electromagnetic waves. The quantum physicists, neuroscientists and the mystics (and crackpots) are all converging on the same type of somewhat preposterous conclusion. It looks like our three space and one time dimensions sit on top of a number of other dimensions that, accordingly, sit outside space and time. Furthermore, it is in these ethereal realms that thoughts propagate from the present, past and future.
So it seems that the latest theories in cosmology are somewhat converging with those on consciousness. These theories could explain things like your dog knowing you are coming home or that you know the phone is about to ring and who is going to be on the other end of it. Da Vinci may well have had the prescience to invent the helicopter and parachute by using a similar mechanism.
Water, Water Everywhere
A similar mystery exists around where ideas and thoughts go once we had them. The search for the location of our memory in our brains has proved fruitless.
Some further illumination into this conundrum can be had from the phrase, “I can feel it in my water”. Many people I spoke to when researching my book on light bulb moments testified that they got their ideas when in the shower or when out walking near a river or waterfall.
It is also reported that people who have had transplants of organs like the heart, lung and kidney exhibit personality changes and can even pick up memories from the donor.
It appears that the water in our cells is not just to stop us drying out. The Japanese author Masaru Emoto has done many experiments with water that show its state changes with the mood and emotions of people around it.
Nothing New Under the Sun
For some readers, some of this might sound bonkers and for others, it may nothing new you may have heard bits or all of it elsewhere. Well it appears that much of what we are re-discovering was known and accepted by the ancient Greeks and civilizations that predated them by thousands of years.
There may be a benefit to those who suspend their belief and accept that some of this might be true, even if it’s not been quite ratified and embraced by the left-brained scientific community. If you accept the notion that thoughts might come from outside our brains from a collective thought pool, we must then ask the question of why we just picked up on a specific thought at a specific time.
After all, if this is all true, there’s a near infinity of thoughts bouncing around in the cracks between our neurons.
If these specific ethereal whispers are filtering through to your conscious awareness, perhaps it’s important that you pay attention to them. What’s more, as they only occur in the space between your thoughts and if you want more of them, it may pay great dividends to attend that meditation or yoga class.
I had the great pleasure last week of hearing Dr David Hamilton talking about the remarkable properties of mirror neurons in the brain. They are the mechanism behind how we empathise, emulate, copy and learn.
This resulted in many light bulb moments firing in this particular head of mine.
I’ve been doing talks and workshops on creativity and innovation for some years now and I’d noticed that when I get into the state where I can receive light bulb moments, people in the room would follow shortly after.
To find out how this all works, I recommend you buy David’s book called The Contagious Power of Thinking or, better still, attend one of his talks and then buy the book – as he explains it all much better than I ever could.
So at my talks naturally people will pick up on my body language, the words I say and the images should I use any slides or handouts. The mirror neurons are the mechanism whereby such empathy is achieved. There is something which is more subtle in operation too however.
Before I even get to the venue to do the talk, I set my intention that the attendees of the talk will get into the state of having light bulb moments. Furthermore, that this state will linger either for a few days after the talk or even permanently.
People report having not known why they came to a particular talk but that they felt strangely drawn to attend. They also can’t remember where they first heard about it.
Now I am not claiming any extrasensory powers. What everyone is experiencing is a natural state of affairs and happens all the time but, mostly, outside our conscious awareness.
What is interesting is how this concept can be applied in business – especially if the business is involved in new product development or any creative field such as publishing, marketing, design or any artistic endeavour.
Any mindset we adopt will spread unconsciously – including anger, fear and guilt – and any behaviour and culture set will also ripple throughout an organisation like gossiping and lunchtime drinking.
So if you want innovation to spread in your organisation, it needs to be seeded and then it will spread organically. For example, apocryphally a US president visiting NASA in the Apollo era asked a janitor what he did and the reply was, “I fly rockets to the Moon”. This type of team spirit amplifies, reflects and ripples from mirror neurons to mirror neurons in each team member working to a common goal.
Sowing the seeds for innovation
The first step is to initiate the culture change with a thought and attitude and it can start anywhere in the organisation but ideally with senior management. The end goal is for it to be adopted from the bottom up whilst also aiming to remove the whole idea of the top and bottom hierarchy, as one could not exist without the other and it is in essence more like a symbiosis.
Then practical steps should be taken to foster innovation throughout the business, such as:
1. A simple suggestion box [perhaps anonymous]
2. A suggestions wall or whiteboard [best seeded with an associative Mind Map]
3. A more formal and facilitated intervention like a Walt Disney Three Rooms session or de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats. Even better again would be to use Appreciative Inquiry which additionally generates a positive thinking mind set. The idea of positive thinking also spreads like wildfire and is based on taking what works and making it even better rather than focusing on woes and trials and tribulations.
This is the first in a series on light bulb moments in business.
More in this series:
It’s often traditional practice in business that innovation is restricted to either the product development team or the marketing department.
While this is natural and to be encouraged, businesses who want to survive and thrive in these times should take a more holistic approach to ideas generation.
Back in 1984, I was the proud owner of an early Macintosh computer. In the nineties, I ended up being begrudgingly dragged into the world of PC’s. Two years ago, I returned from the wilderness and have become a proud owner of an iMac and am writing this blog on an iPad. If you call me, I will answer you on an iPhone. I use MobileMe, shortly to be iCloud, and all in all I am a happy bunny.
Why? What Apple do is bring innovation into all customer touch points – starting with new product announcements and rich product functionality through to simplicity of purchase, ease of set up and use. This is all capped with superb ongoing support. A good example of the benefits of such a philosophy is that most iPad owners pay the same price again as the device in apps over a product’s life span.
But if you haven’t got Apple’s billions, how do you even begin to emulate their success? Where do you start?
The answer lies in looking at all the areas where you connect with clients and tackling the ones that are giving you the most headaches. By looking at these first, everything else will be a breeze. The way you look at them is important though.
If you wallow in negative thinking, this engages the parts of your neurology that block light bulb moments from occurring. The key lies in positive thinking. Even if the area you are looking at is not so great, it will inevitably have some good points at least.
What you do is simply identify the good points only and see how you can improve them as opposed to focussing on any negatives. The results are surprising – especially when you engage an independent and objective facilitator 😉
This is the basis and start of a process known as Appreciative Enquiry (or Inquiry). It is an example of parallel and sequential thinking which I will expand upon later in this new blog series on Light Bulb Moments in Business. Using this type of thinking is the key to making sure ideas don’t get away.
If you’d like to bring unlimited creativity to your business, have a look at my Light Bulb Moment on Demand service