You want to unlock your power of innovation. Whether your think of yourself as a creative genius or a bump on a log, that all-important human ability to think of something new, to produce what no one has yet produced, to see things with “new eyes” is one of the most rewarding of human experiences.
Innovation, thinking things up that are new, has made millions and millions of dollars, earned great honors and saved countries with its power. But like a beautiful and powerful horse you have to learn how to ride it and to act harmoniously with the power. And the first step is to become friends with it.
Step One: See New. Over and over again people say that some of their best ideas come from seeing what everyone else sees but doesn’t really notice. Anything can be looked at with new eyes. If you are having trouble with this try this exercise even if it seems silly. Take a handful of index cards or pieces of paper. Write the word EXHIBIT nice and big on each of these. Walk through your office or house and, as randomly as possible, place the cards in front of different items in the house. Then go through the house and look at the EXHIBIT as though your were a visiting tourist. Forget that you know what you are looking at. Imagine you are visiting the memorial home of some famous inventor or innovator. And, most important, see everything like it is for the first time!
Step Two: Retire Your Wastepaper Basket. To make breakthroughs your have to make mistakes. But people become very ashamed when a new idea is a little weird or challenging. So into the trash as soon as possible. Wrong! You don’t have to love your mistakes but you don’t have to hate them either. And sometimes they turn around on you and become valuable at one level or another. Instead of rejecting your half-baked ideas have a special file. You can even call it a funny name like “Whoa!” and put in every idea you feel like rejecting (as of this week). That’s it, you never have to look in there again. But we bet you will, sooner than your think. Be guided by the great art teacher Nicolaides who used to tell his students, “You have to make 5000 mistakes to learn to draw. Better get at them.”
Step Three: Use indirect thinking. The shortest distance between two points is NOT always a straight line. For instance, if you are a fly on a globe the shortest distance to another part of the globe is an arc. You have set yourself a problem, let’s pretend. You think and think and keep coming up with ideas that don’t solve this particular problem. But what you are ignoring is that they solve all sorts of OTHER problems. In fact, every idea you come up with is some type of solution. The truth is, the human mind doesn’t like to think in straight lines. Not only that but fixating on a problem can sometimes be the worst possible way to solve it. Have a special notebook for solutions that arrive a little ahead of schedule. When this crisis is over you may find that these unasked for solutions are multiples better than what you were looking for. Sometimes we are staring at the mountains and stumbling over the buried treasure. There are solutions waiting to be found, be the one to discover them.
Innovation comes from seeing and thinking about things in a new way. Once you start refining this ability you will find that it comes in handy in every phase of life. Now go enjoy the exhibit; after all the price is right.
With all the talk and debate about creating jobs for America, perhaps we’ve been focusing on the wrong “jobs.”
Steve Jobs created jobs through creativity, innovation and inspiration. Born without knowing his birth parents … not really getting a college education … creating a company and getting dismissed as its CEO … pursuing his passion even while battling a terminal illness … Steve Jobs defined the essence of creativity and its koan-like paradox: that creativity arises from nothing … and everything.
Whether you believe in the “Big Bang” or a theory based in religious conviction, the fact is that THE Creation originated from nothing — from the void, from a singular moment, from an idea God had one day. Poof, here we are … and then we’re making our way down the yellow-brick road of evolution.
And, while the notion of evolution itself is hotly debated in some circles, it does suggest the other half of the koan: that creativity arises from everything.
Indeed, we don’t really create anything. Everything has been created already. I mean, Mozart used the same notes that McCartney uses. There haven’t been any new notes created lately. And Shakespeare used the same words your daughter used in her term paper … although Shakespeare didn’t say, “way cool …” or such; and your daughter didn’t write, “How wrought thou art,” or such.
The point is we don’t so much create anew as rearrange what’s already here. This is a powerful idea because it places the bolts of creative lightning in our humble hands. We can create from nothing and everything. We can either choose to see things in the same ole way we have been seeing or we can put in our creative contact lenses and choose to see things in a brand new way.
It’s what Steve Jobs did. Nobody gave him a map or instructional manual to do what he did. Guided by his own internal GPS, developing life-apps as he went along, he saw things in new ways. He took complex ideas and stripped them down into knowable, usable, practical and insanely-enjoyable ideas and products. And, as a byproduct … he created jobs for many others.
So, here’s the thing: You can do this too. In the world … in America … in your own life. From what is already there – here – in front of you. Dare to see the same ole same ole in a brand new way. Rearrange the notes of your business, your relationships, your life. Be your own “Jobs”-creator.
Last year around this time, the Washington Post ran an article about what the author considered to be the secret of Apple’s success. The author was Yash Gupta, Dean of Johns Hopkins’s Carey Business School.
In the article, Gupta attributed that success to the fact that the company had a right-brain CEO (Steve Jobs) and a left-brain COO (Timothy Cook), working in concert and synergy.
Now, this is a wonderful working partnership for Apple and other organizations, but what’s a solo entrepreneur to do?
The fact is that BOTH the linear, logical, left-brain AND the free-flowing, creative, right-brain exist in each one of us.
Until recently, the cultural conditioning and societal demands of our fast-paced, high-tech, fiercely-competitive, information age has de-valued our creative nature versus our ability to perform rational thinking. Creativity has heretofore been the exclusive province of “arty types” who daydream their days down the hall somewhere. My sense is that this equation is shifting, that creativity is getting closer to its rightful place at the conference table, where ideas and innovation are born – and where major decisions are exacted.
This shift – from information to inspiration – can also take place within us.
Athletes and other peak performers who frequent “the zone” know that thinking gets in the way of flowing and so they learn to shift their awareness from their analytical brain to their sensory body.
Through simple exercises, we who perform and compete on other playing fields, can strengthen our right-brain creative capacities and operate in concert and synergy WITH our left-brain logical thinking. In this way, we can create a very real partnership within us, seeing the whole field and making decisions from the full range of our whole zone of peak performance.
Interested in learning more? I address this topic in my book, “Prescriptions for Living a Creative Life,” and here on the blog. I invite you to download the first chapter of “Prescriptions” for free at http://www. neiltepper.com. The book itself is available on Amazon.com.
I was once asked by the parenting reporter at a Hawaii newspaper for five creativity “Prescriptions for Parents.”
In honor of Mother’s Day (yes, I know it’s EVERY day, ladies), here are my top five creative parenting tips. Not just for moms, of course, these are for everyone who is parenting a child today.
1. Creativity is much more than just artistic talent. It is a powerful tool that we all can use to solve problems in new ways. Allow kids to find their own unique way to their own preferences, inclinations, skills and talents. Observe and encourage these tendencies in them rather than inserting yourself and your own preferences into their natural process, or by comparing them to other kids’ talents. Even letting them make their own mistakes is a wonderful way to encourage them, show your unconditional support for them and to allow them to learn their own lessons.
2. Since life-balance is an issue for everyone. Teach your children elements of moderation at an early age. Whether it’s time in front of the television or computer or texting; or, in eating moderate quantities and types of foods; or in demonstrating behaviors of consumerism (yes, kids get those messages from you as well as from their environment), or any other aspect of excess.
3. We are born creative, exploring our lives mostly from the right side of our brain. The early years are about learning how the world works and developing the logical, left side of our brains. As adults, we tend to allow the right-brain, creative side to languish and fall into dis-use. Keep creativity alive as kids grow and develop by encouraging them to frequently be in Nature, by constantly piquing their curiosity and by helping them to fine-tune their sensory abilities.
4. Parents are people too. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. The first thing they tell you when you settle into your seat on an airplane is to “put your own oxygen mask on before trying to help others.” You can’t care adequately for your children if you, yourself, are not healthy in body, mind and spirit.
5. Don’t just tell kids to do stuff because, “I said so.” Take time to explain the true consequences and positive benefits of their actions. Then, take time to listen to their perspective of the situation. Kids have an uncanny ability to see things from such a pure place that they can illuminate an issue in a way we never thought of before. Listening attentively to kids also demonstrates your respect for their point of view, which builds trust between you both as well as a strong self-image for the child.
What tips would you offer?
For anyone who needs a reminder (you know who you are), Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 8th. Don’t let a chance to let the many women in your life – whether they are moms, aunties, cousins, grandmas, mentors, coaches, teachers, godparents, friends or neighbors – know that they make the world a better place.
Editor’s note: Neil Tepper’s Prescriptions for Parents originally appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser. To learn how to live a more creative life – beyond parenting – check out Neil’s new book, “Prescriptions for Living A Creative Life,” now available at Amazon.
There are so many myths and misperceptions about creativity.
When I lead creativity workshops, I usually begin by asking the participants their definition of this most elusive concept. Usually, the answers I hear are something like – artistic, fun, playful, freedom, outside the box … and others you may even say yourself.
The fact is that creativity is all of those things – and so much more. I tell the workshop members that I’ll share my definition of creativity later on but that regardless of the definition, the important thing to know is creativity lives inside everyone. All of us. Even you.
Do you think of yourself as creative?
So many people I meet say, “Who, me? No way. I’m not creative. I can’t carry a tune.” Or, “I can’t draw a straight line.”
And there we have the most prevailing myth of all: That creativity is synonymous with artistic talent.
The truth is that creativity is not only about painting a picture, writing a screenplay or playing the piano. Creativity is a powerful force available and accessible to anyone who is willing to see things in new ways.
You may be surprised that one of the most creative people I ever worked with was the chief financial officer of The Coca-Cola Company. Yes, a bean counter; a hard-numbers type; a very disciplined senior executive.
In addition to creating new financial models and other sophisticated principles for accounting and global investment, this very powerful executive dared to see the very function of corporate finance in a new way. And, he called the Company’s worldwide finance managers together (a multi-media conference I produced) to tell them that from now on he wanted them to see their jobs in a new way. It’s not enough to count beans, he told them; he wanted them to help grow the beans, as well. It wasn’t surprising that his success led him to be Coke’s CEO a few years later.
So, what is my definition of creativity? I thought you’d never ask. Okay, here’s a secret. Promise not to tell? We really don’t create anything! Everything’s been created already! What we do is re-arrange things. We create new forms of things that already exist. We see things in new ways.
For example, Mozart used the same notes that McCartney uses. There haven’t been any new musical notes created lately. Shakespeare used the same words as your daughter uses to chat with friends – although I’m sure she didn’t use words like “wherefore art thou?” and for sure, the Bard didn’t refer to things as “LTHTT” or “MOS” (instant messaging abbreviations for Laughing Too Hard To Type and my personal favorite, Mom Over Shoulder.) But, they used the same letters of the English alphabet, just re-arranged in different combinations.
Now, here’s the “LTHTT” thing: Youcanlearn how to think and see in new ways. You can learn how to re-arrange the notes, the words, the elementsof your own life.
When you apply creativity to any aspect of your life – for greater business success, enhanced relationships, living with less stress and more passion and, yes, learning how to paint or play the piano – you live from your true power.
Oh, and another myth about creativity is that it’s some random bolt out of the blue. The truth is that creativity can be evoked at will. All you need is the will power to start to see things in new ways. To “dare” to re-arrange the elements in your life so they align with your constantly changing needs and desires.
That’s what I call living creatively. Now, that’s real art.
I went to the beach the other day. It was an act of courage.
Courageous, not because of the whipping winds and high surf we often experience in Hawaii, but because I pulled together the brave audacity to ignore the threats and taunt that screamed at me from the stacks of paper and to-do lists piled on my desk. “How dare you leave us incomplete and unresolved!” they sneered. “And … for the beach? What a lazy @#^!”
Yes, I courageously snubbed these commanding voices of “should’s” and “supposed-to’s.” I even managed to flick away the feelings of guilt that tried to cling to my board shorts as I stepped out the door of my office and headed to the beach.
When we step beyond the bounds of logic and reason, we engage the forces of creativity. For me that day, it was very satisfying. In addition to enjoying the warm and healing sunshine and a nice long walk in the sand, the needed break from my work yielded a valuable lesson – and the inspiration to write this piece.
The ocean was rough and angry and as I walked along the shoreline I noticed a riptide. This is a condition caused by an unusual clash of wind and waves that results in a narrow trench of powerful backwash as the breaking waves seek a way back out to sea.
The reason riptides are so dangerous – and why people drown in them – is because the novice doesn’t know how to navigate them. When someone is caught in the unusually strong “rip” and swept out to sea, they swim furiously … against it. Sadly, this is futile. Not only can’t the average swimmer overcome the powerful current, they expend enormous energies in fighting it so they quickly become exhausted and get taken under.
I sense that many people are feeling a little like that these days, as they fight the fierce current that is ripping through our global economy, maybe wreaking havoc with their personal finances and possibly drowning their emotional well-being.
What we’re experiencing today is an unusual condition caused by the clash of extraordinary forces that can take you under unless you know how to navigate them. Logic and reason, while useful in normal circumstances, can blind you to new, fresh, creative thinking.
But, you can overcome these powerful currents and even thrive in the process. You can learn how from riptides.
The way to survive a riptide, experts say, is to — illogically and paradoxically — not fight it. Because most rip currents are only 30-100 ft. wide, it’s advised to swim parallel to the shoreline in order to leave it. You can also relax and let the tide take you out to sea (talk about illogical), where it disperses in deeper water. Then, calmly, swim beyond the narrow swath and head for shore, saving even more energy by allowing the normal waves to carry you back to safety.
In my book, “Prescriptions for Living a Creative Life,” and here on the blog, I offer suggestions for how you can stop fighting the riptides in your life, save energies for the positive forces and swim calmly to safety and comfort.
Looking out from this tiny speck of sand called O’ahu – where I live, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – it’s easy to feel isolated.
Way …… out …… here … In the middle of nowhere. The farthest place from any other land mass on planet Earth. Separated from everything.
Actually, I kinda like the sensation.
I also like how island life can teach us about living life. For example…
Residents of Hawai’i have all heard visitors to our shores say how being in the Islands helps them slow down from the frenetic pace they lead on the U.S. Mainland and in other parts of the world. But, living here affects us “kama’ainas” (locals) in the same way.
As we well know, “Hawai’i Time” is a real thing.
I think the reason life is slower on an island is because we have more intimate contact with nature’s rhythms. Viewing the ocean through your office window, or seeing a waterfall as you drive to an appointment has a profound effect on our own, internal rhythms.
What slowing down really means is not racing for the future. Not rushing to what will be or what might be. It’s about BE-ing where you are, in the present moment.
So, in those moments when you’re sitting in traffic on the freeway and squeezing and pounding the steering wheel in frustration… Instead of changing lanes to get there faster, you can choose to relax and be here … in the moment. Be witness to the clouds, s-l-o-w-l-y gathering over the mountains, setting the stage for rainbows to appear.
Another lesson from Island life is that SMALL IS GOOD.
When I moved back to Hawai’i a few years ago, after living on the Mainland for a number of years, I packed and shipped all my stuff. When I tried squeezing all that stuff into the smaller space of my new island home, I thought, “How much stuff do I really need? How much stuff is enough stuff?”
I’m still thinking about it.
An island’s geography can teach us about more than just small spaces and short distances. It can also give us perspective on other parameters in our lives. Like, where is the line between what we want and what we really need? When do we cross over into excess? When is less, more? Eventually, such questions help us to re-calibrate our lives and learn to choose substance over style and quality over quantity.
Keeping it small keeps it real.
Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn from island life is that WE’RE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT … or on the same speck of sand, as it were.
With an island’s entire population living in relatively close proximity, it’s much easier to notice how our individual actions have an effect on everyone else.
Things are more personal on an Island. There’s no them here; it’s just us. As a result, people tend to be more courteous to one other. I’ve never seen more courteous drivers than in Hawai’i. Before you even think of making a left turn, someone is waving you on.
Businesses seem to give better service, too. You’re not just a customer on an island; you’re a member of the same community. On an island, reputations count. The “coconut wireless” is loud and clear.
Being in the same boat also leads to tolerance. This is especially true in Hawai’i. With close to 99 percent of us having come here from somewhere else, we learn to not only tolerate our differences, but to appreciate our diversity. This creates a sense of trust, even goodwill.
Ultimately, all these lessons – “slowing down,” “small is good” and “we’re all in the same boat” – are universal.
The fact is, whether we live in Honolulu or in Los Angeles, Tokyo or Paris, Boston or Buenos Aires, we all live on an island: the island of our own self, afloat in the vast sea of humanity. The island of our own life, within the greater, global community.
And, though it may seem like we’re isolated way… out … here … it’s an illusion. The waves that separate us from everyone else are the same waves that connect us to each other. Island to island. Shore to shore. Door to door.
Melanie Brocklehurst, the guest on last week's Self Improvement Show, brought to our attention the plight of little girls in Nepal and Tibet. (If you didn't hear the show, it's worth listening to - click the video above and hear what Melanie has to say.)It is an opportunity for you to help someone … [Read More...]
Frontline Learning is making over 40 online learning courses available to 5000 unemployed individuals. Any currently unemployed person is eligible to receive these programs simply be registering online (see link below).
There is no hook or catch or "fine print" here - these are full featured … [Read More...]
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Thoroughly researched and carefully crafted this is a program that is designed for success in a field that sees far too much failure. How many people struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol check themselves into rehab over and over and never seem to be free of the need to … [Read More...]
This morning when I started working on this blog, I opened the Dashboard, as usual, to deal with the comments. Often I get great comments about the articles I've posted. Occasionally, I get comments by someone who thought the article was wrong, needed changing, or just didn't measure up. I welcome … [Read More...]
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Have you seen the ads for electronic cigarettes? It's an interesting twist on the ordeal of quitting the smoking habit.
My son decided he wanted to quit and after researching a number of companies settled on a productg by LeCig.
His package arrived Friday and today he … [Read More...]
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