I move, therefore I think

June 26, 2014

What do you do when you get stuck in a “thinking rut” or have a deadline looming close ahead with the project far behind?  Even if we know we need a break, most people stay seated at their desks.  They feel they have to stick with it to get it done.  So, some gnaw the tips of the pencils and pens.  Others check their emails for the fifteenth time, answering trivial messages, just to feel like they’re making progress.  It’s all basically time wasting in the hope that when we return to the job at hand, things will have improved.

Interestingly, lots of research flies in the face of this methodology.  It appears that moving, yes, physically getting up and moving around, may be one of the best things to do in such circumstances.  When we take a moment to think this through, it begins to make sense.  After all, as Michelle L. Marigliano and Michele J. Russo stated in their paper, “Foster Preschoolers’ Critical Thinking and Problem Solving through Movement”, one of the techniques used to build critical thinking and problem solving in preschoolers is creative movement.

Movement causes several important positive effects.  For one, it increases blood flow to the brain, “waking it up” so we can think more effectively.  For another, it energizes our bodies, putting us in a better frame of mind for working.

The next time you feel some movement would help, why not try one of these easy-to-do options.

Chair Yoga

For those whose bosses frown on them leaving their cubicle or office too often, chair yoga is a great option.  You can find visual instructions on YouTube, or written information here.

Two for the Time of One

In his book, “Play”, Dr. Stuart Brown suggests taking a mood-improving walk.  If you take a walk to the water cooler for a refreshing drink, not only are you moving, but you are also hydrating.  Did you know that when the brain doesn’t have enough water it works less efficiently?  Were you aware that the majority of people don’t have enough water in their bodies?

Make Time to Smell the Roses

In his book, “Presentation Zen”, Garr Reynolds gives advice on how to improve creativity.  Applying his ideas here could look like the following: Get out of the building.  Focus on whatever nature is at hand in order to calm your mind and see the big picture.

It took me some effort to give myself permission to get up and move around.  Now that I have gotten into the habit, I find it easier to be creative, get work done and enjoy my day.  I encourage you to allow yourself the freedom to move during work time.


Why you should care about Design Thinking – Athena Alliance Radio Interview

May 17, 2012

Design Thinking is a fresh way to look at innovation.   It’s about creating the opportunity for something really new that meets the needs of the end user in a desirable way.   Design Thinking involves analytical thinking AND intuitive thinking – it requires both logic and creativity.    Are you looking for a way to delight your clients and customers?   Are you interested in creating new and exciting products and services in your market?     Cindy Stradling of Athena Training and Consulting interviewed me about Design Thinking on her BlogTalk radio show – check it out here: http://bit.ly/JmEWZ7

Let Your Unconscious Mind Do the Work!

April 30, 2012

Have you ever made a quick decision and then regretted it?  Have you ever left a meeting and thought after of a great comment or insight that you could have shared?

When do you come up with your best ideas?  Have you ever had a great idea when:

  • You’re about to fall asleep
  • Driving (and it’s relaxing!)
  • Going for a run
  • Chatting with a friend about an unrelated topic
  • In the shower

Our unconscious minds need time to incubate to respond to challenges and opportunities and to make good decisions.  David Allen (of “Getting Things Done” fame) wrote in his newsletter about two psychologists in Amsterdam (Dijksterhuis and Nordgren, 2006) who published research that indicated decisions made after the unconscious has had time to process the inputs are always better.   I also wrote in an earlier blog entry about how going for a walk is part of my creative process.

Here’s how to let your unconscious mind do the work:

  1. Present, read or discuss information relating to the situation.
  2. Brainstorm either alone or in a group.  Get your ideas flowing.   What ideas may be useful?  DON’T ask for a decision or agreement to a solution.
  3. Take a break.  Do something completely unrelated to the topic at hand, particularly any activity that will help you relax. Don’t even TRY to think about the situation.  However, if ideas come up, let it flow.    Make notes of any solutions.
  4. Bring your ideas back to your client, team or office.   You’ll probably find your ideas flow more easily and you are more confident in your decisions.

This is most useful when there’s an important decision to be made, or an opportunity or challenge to respond to.  Decisions about what to have for dinner can probably still be made in the moment!

Building Buy-In Through Brainstorming

April 6, 2012

In January, Susan Cain wrote in the New York Times about the superior creativity that introverts can achieve alone, compared with the noisy, chaotic experience of brainstorming in groups.

Keith Sawyer, a professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis, replies: “Reviewing all of the studies of creativity and extroversion using the “five-factor” personality model, most studies don’t show any relation between creativity and either introversion or extraversion.”

I’m a big fan of brainstorming.  It’s fast and energetic.  As an extravert, I find it an enjoyable way to come up with creative ideas.

However, creativity is only ONE benefit of brainstorming.   Brainstorming also promotes buy-in by getting the team involved in the process and having everyone in the room to make a decision.

Brainstorming is important or helpful when:

  • It is necessary to share different perspectives on an issue
  • There are many paths to success
  • Consensus is essential

Brainstorming works when:

  • Participants have the opportunity to express their doubts/concerns
  • The session is designed so the group will hear from everyone
  • Strong personalities are not allowed to dominate

As a professional facilitator, I design brainstorming sessions to ensure that everyone gets their say, that concerns are shared and real buy-in is achieved.     Within a brainstorming event, different processes can be used to draw out ideas from a range of personality types.  For example, giving participants a minute or two to silently write ideas on post-it notes before sharing will appeal to introverts, while calling out ideas spontaneously will appeal to extraverts.   Why not use both?

Creativity and innovation require contribution from diverse personality types and a range of tools to draw out ideas.  Let’s keep the conversation going about how we can all contribute our talents.

Learning to Innovate Like a Designer

March 12, 2012

What is Design Thinking?

It’s a methodology of innovation, that involves:

  • Analytical thinking AND intuitive thinking
  • Distinct stages, including: gathering information, framing opportunities, generating ideas and trying experiments
  • Tools and techniques to help move through the stages

There are many examples of Design Thinking applied to products and environments.   Design Thinking also has relevance to creating services, processes and experiences.

Why is it Helpful to Think Like a Designer?

If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said “a faster horse”.  This quote is attributed to Henry Ford.   I love the simple way it conveys this message: Don’t base innovation on market research.   To be truly innovative, meaning to create something NEW, you have no reference points for what will work.      Designers use analytical thinking and creative thinking to come up with new solutions to existing opportunities or problems.

In “The Design of Business” Roger Martin describes the way the hugely successful Aeron chair was developed.    It started with the designers observing that people who sit in chairs all day often shift as the upholstery gets too warm.   The design for the Aeron chair features a seat and back made of mesh that allows air to flow to the body.   When it was tested in the market, people hated it.  They asked to see what it would look like when it was finished (i.e. with upholstery!).      The company, Herman Miller, trusted their designers’ instincts and launched the chair.   The chair has since won multiple design awards, achieved phenomenal sales and has a place in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.

How Do I Get Started?

One of the early stages in Design Thinking is making observations.  Last week, I sat down with Mette Keating, an interior designer who uses “human-centered design” to create collaborative spaces.  Mette described how she begins projects by going into a space and observing the staff.    She described that often sees people who will block their computer screens with their bodies when people behind them.   She also observes  how people work together and move about in the space.    The observations she makes help her to redesign space to allow for different needs such as privacy, collaboration and flow of work.

Design Thinker Workshop

ExperiencePoint, in partnership with IDEO, designed a workshop that features a technology-based game that helps teach the concepts of Design Thinking.   I’m excited that I’m now certified to offer this course.  It’s available for groups of 12 to 40.   Please contact me for more information.

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