6 Ways to Break Open Your Brain

I’ve endured thirty plus years of meetings and one of my biggest complaints is that too often there’s a clear lack of divergent thinking. Folks tend to jump on the bandwagon around an idea quickly, especially if an influential person in the group makes the suggestion.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m all for generating and acting on big, powerful ideas. My concern is that we often stop at a GOOD idea and don’t continue the thinking and brainstorming process in pursuit of the GREAT idea. In addition to deferring to the influential person, a group will often defer to the boss, or to someone who is very passionate about his or her idea. Why? Most of the time, it’s simply easier than actually thinking outside the proverbial box. We become very familiar with our patterns, routines, jobs, the company’s product line. The result? Ingrained, rigid thinking, even if we’re trying to free up our thought process to get some innovative solutions.
 So, how can we break out of this pattern? Here are six suggestions to bust you out of that box.
  1. Give advance notice about the meeting topic. Ask participants to bring an idea or two into the meeting. This will activate their thought processes and get their juices flowing before they have to deliver “on the spot” and under pressure.
  1. Create a multi-disciplinary group. Invite people with divergent perspectives to the meeting. Hearing from those with different points of view may open up a fresh possibility or at least bring up an idea that can be transformed into a winner.
  1. Reward participation. Recognize those who come up with ideas, perhaps award fun prizes. Even low-level incentives will bring out the competitive spirit in the group and get folks motivated.
  1. Don’t let folks coast. Ask those who have not contributed anything for their opinions. Some are less comfortable volunteering ideas on their own because they are shy or quiet people. They may have an idea but be reluctant to voice it.
  1. Find your super powers. We’re creatures of habit and prefer the familiar to the unorthodox. This bias works against us in generating big, fresh, innovative ideas. Do what you need to do to be a better contributor in brainstorming and problem-solving sessions. More sleep, exercise, vacation and water intake are easy ways to boost your cognitive and creative abilities. Give yourself thirty days to see if they work. You’ll be surprised.
  1. Use your brain differently. Age is the enemy of innovation. Research shows most inventors and scientists over the past 400 hundred years have had all of their best, breakthrough ideas while in their twenties. If you’re well past your twenties and you’ve been at the same company or industry for more than a decade, you might be disadvantaged. My personal secret weapon is intuitive writing, a process of tapping into the right hemisphere of the brain. Are you in your “right” mind? Click here to learn more.

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