Unleash your creativity: how to practice divergent thinking

Today I want to talk about something super important, how to get our creative juices flowing.

Contrary to popular belief creativity is not something reserved to a few privileged individuals, but rather it is one of our most profound human trates that we can all develop if we simply understand and practice some basic guidelines.

Creativity is a three step process. First we need to nurture our minds with information from as many different sources as possible. This process is called knowledge. The second step is letting loose our imagination and generating as many ideas as possible. This is called divergent thinking. And the third and final step is to go through the ideas and choose the most promising ones. This is called convergent thinking.

So today I want to share with you four basic rules to help open the mind and develop our ability of divergent thinking.

Rule No. 1: Postpone judgement

Ideas are shy and fragile creatures that need the right environment to express themselves. Premature judgement inhibits them. Imagine that diverge thinking is like the accelerator of the car and convergent thinking is like the brake. If your constantly accelerating and braking your not going to get the momentum you need to get the imagination flowing. That’s why you need to put of judgement until you have sufficient ideas to really work with.

And this is vital to understand. Our mind is lazy, it’s always seeking the route of least resistance. That’s why when we sit down to generate new ideas the first things that we come up with are usually not very original. It’s almost always stuff we have already thought or heard of and therefore it doesn’t add much value.

And that takes us to our second rule.

Rule No. 2: Seek to generate as many ideas as possible

The nobel aureate Linus Pauling said “the best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas” and he was totally right. We need to go for quantity.

Also it has been found that the best ideas almost always come a the end of a brainstorming session.

Let me give you an example. If we ask a group of coworkers to come up with 30 bright ideas to delight their customers, the first ten will normally be lame. The second ten might have a few sparks of originality. But normally it’s not until the last batch of ideas, when they have overcome the laziness of their minds, that some truly interesting and original ideas start to emerge.

The silicon valley company Ideo, that is considered one of the most creative companies in the world illustrates going for quantity beautifully. In a given year their toy division generated 4000 new ideas, of which 230 showed some promise and were transformed into prototypes and of these 12 were commercialized.

Thomas Edison was the perfect example of his saying: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. He tried 10,000 different things before he hit upon right the solution to make the incandescent light bulb. That’s right 10,000 different routes. Contrary to the stereotype of the crazy enlightened genius, it turns out that the most creative people are also the hardest workers. Just look at the output of Leonardo Da Vinci, Mozart, Einstein, Edison and Jobs. They were all super disciplined, methodical hard workers.

Therefore as you set out to create its really important that you keep in mind that the number of initial ideas y generate are directly related to the your probability of success.

Rule No. 3: Make connections

The guy how coined of the 80-20 rule, Vilfredo Pareto also said that “creativity is finding new connections between existing things” and here too he was right on. This concept has now evolved into a discipline called “lateral thinking” and it is without a doubt one of the most powerful methods I know on how to fuel imagination.

For example there is a new scientific discipline called “Biomimicry” that imitates the models, systems, and elements of nature to help us figure out how to create new and better solutions to pressing environmental problems. The same principle applies to business processes when we observe best practices in one industry and imagine how to apply them to another.

A simple exercise you can do to unleash your creativity is to visit a company you really like and jot down what exactly are they doing to offer an extraordinary product, service or experience. Then sit down and think through how you can translate some of these best practices to your reality to improve your business.

Rule No. 4: Seek novelty

Finally a major sources of inspiration comes from our own experience. So go ahead and dare. Experiment and live.

Humans are curious and playful by design. We love novelty. So let your creativity flourish by trying new things. For example, take a new route to your office or to your home. Read a magazine you’ve never read. Try a new type of food. Listen to another style of music. Go to another industry’s trade show. Go some place else on vacation. Try flying through the air on a zipline or even better jumping out of a plane with a parachute. Go suba diving. Or just stand on your head and see the world upside down… All these things open your mind, delight your soul and ignite your creativity.

So wrapping it up. To get your creative juices flowing you need to follow three steps: acquire knowledge, liberate your imagination and evaluation and choose the most promising ideas.

Today, more than ever, creativity is what sets us apart. It’s imperative that each one of us finds our voice. That you find your voice. Your essence. Your differentiator. That that makes you unique, original, relevant and successful.

In this post I’ve talked about how to generate ideas. We saw the importance of nurturing our minds with with all types of information. Of observing best practices from nature, other human beings and companies. As well as seeking novelty in our own lives. In our next post we will explain how to choose the best ideas you generated.

So see you next time,

 

Celebrate life!!!

I just discovered a wonderful celtic writer, poet and philosopher. His name is John O’Donahue and I want to share with you some of his teachings and the inspiration I received.

For example, the celtics believe that the soul is not outside the body, but rather the body is inside the soul, and  that makes each one of us is the incarnation of God and our body is a temple.

I love this idea because it eliminates the notion of the separation of the body and soul, and he fact that the body is inside the soul makes the body a mystical and sacred place.

Another aspect of the celtic philosophy  that I really resonate with is that our senses are living prayer.

For them sensuality is beautiful. It is not something vulgar and shameful, but rather it’s something full of light and joy. Specifically, it’s life’s most profound communion with God which is manifest through our senses. For them pleasure is a tribute to our dignity as human beings. Wow!

They believe that our senses reveal the divine in the air, the sun, the water and the earth, as well as in each one of us. I Totally agree.

Something that I’ve learnt though out my life is that tension melts away when we live through our senses. We see the world as a kinder place. All of a sudden we no longer feel like orphans, exiled and alone, but a part of a beautiful family that we must celebrate.

Probably the greatest pain that exist is the feeling caused by the illusion of separation. It is hell on earth. And to deal with it we wrap ourselves in our ego and become cold and cynical, or even worse, aggressive and cold blooded.

That is why we must learn to feel and go deeply into ourselves. To listen to the voice of the pain that is generated through the illusion of separation and understand that this pain is our dearest friend because it is the cincel of our consciousness that is chipping away at the shell of our ego, helping us shatter it and free us from its oppression.

Another point that O’Donahue made is that as children the often teach us about the shortcomings of sin, but rarely do they teach us that the gravest sin of all is waisting our life.

It seem as though everything around us is set up so that we prepare to live. First they tell us to study hard so that we can get a good job and then they tell to work hard so that you can make enough money to assure a good retirement. And what about our life?

Too many people reach the end of their days saying to themselves, if only I had one more year to live and to do all that that I have always yearned to do. Unfortunately, because they spent their life putting off what their heart yearned, and the time has passed they no longer have the opportunity to live a meaningful life. What a shame… what a sin!

So many of the reasons that supposedly limit our possibilities of living a meaningful life are mear illusions in our mind. There are no real barriers. Therefore we should never permit our fear or the limits that other put upon us to determine our destiny.

God, Creation, or Mother Earth, however you want to call it, is gracious, abundant and fair. It takes us under its wing and gives us all we need if only we risk living a meaningful life.

Often the worst hardships in our lives are due to the fact that we are not living the life we love but rather the life that is expected of us.

We need to recuperate the course of our lives, for if we live a life we love we will find in it the refuge and blessing that we long.

Keep in mind that we have only one life. Don’t waste it. Live it fully. The illusion of security is just that, an illusion. Life is worth more, much more than the false sense of security of a mediocre existence numbed by the promise of 101 cheap solutions that will help you forget who you really are.

There is no outside solution to our solitude. Neither going shopping, nor having a drink or vegging out in front of the TV will do the trick.  Killing time kill you. Take control of your life. But do it kindly. Brutally applying willpower is not the answer.  Rather grow through the exercise of liberating the light of your conscience. Have faith. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Let it guide you and never give up!

And this brings me back to the celtic conception of the body as the temple of the soul and to celebrating life through developing our senses.

When we learn to develop our senses we no longer long to flee from the world, but rather we long to live it. Through our senses we learn to establish an intimate relationship with the best part of ourselves. We learn to invoke and get to know both the depths and heights of our being. And by doing it generating the most profound, inspiring and invigorating experience there is.

As I said at the outset, the celtic philosophy believes that the body lives inside the soul and John O’Donohue offers us a simple exercise to befriend our soul.

It goes like this.

The first step is to visualize the soul like a force field of glowing particles of multicolored light all around you. When I did this exercise I saw that each particle was really a tiny little angle of light that was waving its rainbow. Awesome!

The second step is to breathe and to imagine that as you inhale you are taking into your self the light. And the third step is to imagine that as you exhale this light is expanding and radiating in you, infusing each and every one of your cells with positive vibrations which make you smile and feel light, inspired and enthusiastic.

I believe that there are no coincidences. Works are wise. Enthusiastic means “full of God”.

To conclude, our body is a temple and our senses are preyer. Therefore I invite you to practice every day this simple exercise of breathing into yourself the force of devine light and permitting it to infuse each and every one of your cells with profound enthusiasm for the joy of being alive.

Have a great day.