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Creativity tip - Find a recorder

>> 31 October 2010

You are creative every day.


Oh yes you are!

You have ideas right?

  • At work to improve a project.
  • At home to fix a toy.
  • With your kids to come up with games to play.
What do you do with them?
  • You implement them.
  • You share them.
  • You test them.
But do you record them?

Leonardo Da Vinci had no Ipad. He had a notebook.
He recorded all of his ideas in it. So did Edison.

Where do you keep your ideas? Do you let them be lost in space?

Ah, but I have no such brilliant ideas as Edison and Da Vinci, you say.

Not yet, I answer. Not all their ideas were groundbreaking either. The thing is: they had MANY ideas. They recorded them. And that enabled them to come back to them, analyze them, ponder over them, and eventually make the unlikely connection that becomes a brilliant idea.

So, get a notebook, Ipad or phone, dictaphone, rolodex...whatever system suits you best.
And start recording.

Come back to your treasure chest from time to time when you are looking for ideas. You might be surprised what you find.


A wish is a niche

>> 27 October 2010

(or how a bug list can help you invent the next hype)

The other day, someone posted a wish on Twitter along the lines of 'I wish teabags wouldn't drip when you try to throw them away'.

I answered with 'A wish is a niche'.

Think about it for a while.

The dripping teabag bugged someone enough to come up with a solution for it.

Does it ever happen to you that you wish something was different or worked better?

Let's do a little exercise here:

Create your Bug List (or problem bank) by listing all the things that:

  • don’t work quite right, 
  • bug or annoy you, 
  • you notice people struggling with
  • you struggle with
  • you think need improvement

You add to this list by observing people around you, your customers, your competitors, your family.

Here is my today's bug list:
  • Buttons coming off shirts
  • Standard helpdesk response emails
  • Unscrewing a screw when you have no screwdriver
  • Time lost during driving
  • I have the best ideas in my car - but I need to record them while driving: I wish I could just speak a text and a device would turn it into a text document - my blog posts would be written in no time! (something like it exists, but not available in Luxembourg, duh!)
  • Remembering all your codes and passwords
Use your list of problems for idea generating using some of the creative techniques presented to you in my Sunday Creativity Tips (like random object).

Combine any new ideas with your bug list.

Connect the unlikely, the impossible, the unthinkable. See what comes out of it.

It might be a niche!


Creativity tip: Constraint and limitations

>> 24 October 2010

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away. -- Linus Pauling
In previous creativity tips, I have given you a few tips on how to generate new ideas.

And as Nobel prize winner Linus Pauling rightly points out, you need to have a lot of ideas to be able to have a few good ones.

Often enough we are so happy to have found a great idea that we jump though hoops to get it implemented right away.

And it is exactly at that point where we should sometimes try to restrain and constrain ourselves, yes even give ourselves some limitations.

This may sound contradictory.

Ideas circulate when we let our mind wander loosely, when we have no limitations to what is possible, when we fantasize, when we combine the seemingly uncombinable (is that a word? - it is now!).

But let's experiment. Let's take your great idea and list 7 or 8 major elements that make up this

Let's say I want to launch a project that circulates new ideas among employees, a sort of black media box, with a theme each month (far from the work floor, such as 'Success' or 'Happiness'), You Tube videos will be shown on the subject, community partners will be interviewed etc.

The major elements would be:
  1. Physical Black Box (contradicting elements: constraining people to a box to give them horizon enlarging inspiration)
  2. One theme a month, subjects not work related
  3. Internet contribution (Youtube, TED etc)
  4. Community interviews on the subject (with the local cycling star, the farmer next door, the owner of the grocery store, etc)
  5. Employee contribution on the subject (anything that inspires them on that subject and that can be communicated via the black box)
  6. Benefits:
    * community partners get free publicity among company's employees
    * employees get freebies from community partners during the month (free milk tasting at the farmer, discount at the grocery store, etc)
    * company gets employees that become more creative through this stimulation
  7. Low cost, high impact.

Now, let's eliminate 3 of them. Go ahead, pick any 3.

In what ways would my creation change if I developed it without these 3 elements?

This constraint can trigger new, original, useful ideas, which might actually spice up the project a bit.

Try it at home :-)


How do you know you have taken the right decision?

>> 20 October 2010

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Our life, our days are full of them.

To get up or not to get up?

Cross the road now or wait until the car passes?
Get gas or wait until later?
Give my child an apple or a pear for recess?

And then there are the more important ones.

Those that we don't usually take on the spot.
Those that need a few good nights' sleep.
Or those that keep us awake.
Those that need talking to friends about.
Or those that we need to take all by ourselves.

And the difficulty with all of them is this:

How do we know that we have taken the right decision?

Because once we have made a decision to go for A or B, that's it right?
What if after some time we find out it was wrong?
We can't go back can we?

When I was living abroad, an older colleague introduced me to the PRO and CON system to help me make decisions. She said "Take a piece of paper and draw two columns. Put a plus on the left and a minus sign on the right. Then just start filling it in with everything that comes to mind. On the left write down all the positive results of taking the action. On the right all the negative effects. And give them points for importance and relevance."

I still do this occasionally but I have since learned a few more things:

  1. Procrastination:
    Are you pushing the decision from one day to the next? If so, ask yourself why. What are you afraid of? How can you mend this? Maybe the decision is too big to take and you need to do step 2 first.
  2. From big to small:
    If your decision is big (or even huge), try to slice it into smaller, doable, less scary parts. Parts that you can achieve and complete easily and celebrate a certain achievement.

    The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
    -- Mark Twain 

  3. Intention:
    Decision is intention with legs. Whatever it is you put out there (I want another job, I want a partner, I want a music career), it won't start walking anywhere until you give it legs and make some decisions. Once you have taken a decision, you can still steer it, you can still stop it and turn it around. However, the next step is very important from the start.
  4. Clarity:
    Intention is all very nice, but if they are formulated like above, they are not very clear or precise. Your intention will have no idea where to walk to.
    What kind of job? Where? When? Why? To do what? What will that bring you? How will you grow? Visualize it. Write an elevator pitch for it. Does it sound clear? Credible?
  5. Support:
    Before, during and after decision making: get a support system in place. Whether it's a friend who listens to your doubts, a mentor who steers you in the right direction, a mother who cooks your favorite meal when you had a setback, some money in the bank just in case. This can be as simple or as big as you need it to be. It will help you feel safe to take decisions. And after a while you will learn how to use it better. And maybe you might not need it as much. Although the favorite meal is something that always gives you a boost.
  6. No half things:
    We often take a decision but don't really mean it.
    It's like saying I'm going ice-skating and forgetting your skates (on purpose).
    Decide like you mean it! To help you with that, go to step 7.
  7. Accountability:
    So you have taken a decision. You mean business. But do you?
    To make sure you do, get accountability. Talk about your decision to people (maybe the same people from your support step). Put yourself out there so that you have to report on your progress.
Once you have completed these steps there is of course no guarantee that the decision you have taken is the right one.
But if you are really clear on your intention, then no decision is really wrong in the end.

And sometimes you have to adapt your intention because you change, situations change, life changes.

And that is ok.

It's okay to change direction.

It's also okay to fail and admit it was the wrong decision.

Any failure is really just an opportunity in disguise.

What decisions are you taking today? How clear are you about them? What is your intention?

Take a little test:
How good are your decision making skills?


Creativity tip - Look at nature

>> 17 October 2010

Nature is incredibly diverse.

Nature is incredibly complex.

Nature has overcome obstacles and adapted to a changing environment.

Nature has found solutions to problems it was facing.

Nature can give us ideas for problems we are facing.

Biomimicry studies nature and all its elements and takes inspiration from it in order to solve human problems.

Here are a few examples:

  • Wound healing inspired by flies
  • Solar cells inspired by leaves
  • Friction-free fans inspired by nautilus
  • Bacterial control inspired by barberry
  • Self-cleaning surfaces inspired by lotus plant

For more examples visit the “Nature’s 100 Best” web site.

So next time you are looking for a solution, go for a walk in the woods, run through a field, look at the birds and the bees. Think about how a plant or animal would solve your problem.

Something out there might give you a clue.


The surprising truth about what motivates us

>> 13 October 2010

Are you motivated right now? Why? Why not?

Does your job suck?

What would need to happen for it to be good or even great?

  • More money? 
  • More / less responsibility? 
  • A new boss?
  • A new job?
  • More challenges?
  • More freedom?

What is it that actually gets you motivated?

Dan Pink who wrote the excellent 'A whole new mind' gives us the surprising truth about what motivates us.

So, money is a motivator in some situations only. It's extrinsic.

  1. Autonomy: I like to decide how and when I do things
  2. Mastery: I like to get better at it
  3. Purpose: I want to make a contribution
are intrinsic motivators that have a much bigger chance of making us happy people.

So how can you change your work or that of others today to add these three elements to it?


Creativity tip - Explain it to grandma

>> 10 October 2010

We live in a fast paced world, where new technology is thrown at us daily.

We work on complicated projects, elaborate complex plans and often try to reinvent the wheel.

And sometimes we overdo it.
  • We use acronyms and a high tech language
  • We use complex diagrams to explain our solution
  • We use 100 slides to convince management
  • We talk about us before we listen to our customers

Well, sometimes it is needed of course. We need to go into technical details when we talk to engineers for example.

But think about it.

Is Apple doing the tech talk when they sell their Ipad?
Is the Google search engine crowded with explanations on how to use it?

When I catch myself trying to reinvent the wheel, or thinking about a fancy word to use, I stop.
I breathe.
And I try to think about how I would explain this thing I'm working on to my grandma.

I'm not talking about making the message stupid. Your grandma is not stupid, right? (if she is, pick someone else :-)

I'm talking about making it more simple:
  • simplify your problem as far as you can so that it still makes sense
  • formulate things differently
  • use less words, simpler words
  • delete all acronyms
  • tell a story
  • make a drawing or use images
  • make it low tech (do you really need a computer and powerpoint?)
That puts it all in perspective.

Grandma understands the Ipad and can use Google.
Grandma will understand my pitch to management because I only use images and tell a  story.
Grandma will like a short and simple creativity tip on Sunday (I will need to print it though because she doesn't have a computer...)

So, next time you're stuck, try explaining it to grandma.


How to become a likable control freak

>> 6 October 2010

I was in a training course recently about Stakeholder Management.

We were taught the different levels of buy-in and involvement stakeholders need to have over the course of a project.

A colleague of mine, let's call her Melissa, was having trouble with this.

To her, it seemed normal that ALL her stakeholders needed to be kept happy and up to date ALL THE TIME from the beginning to the end of a project.

But at the same time she was admitting that she was stressed and afraid things would get out of hand if she lost that control.

I sent her a post on perfectionism and she replied that it wasn't so much perfection that she was striving for but that she probably was a bit of a control freak and if I had any posts on that, she'd be glad to receive them.

Well, I didn't.

And as I used to have some control issues in the past, I thought I might as well write a post about this myself.
  • What is control?
    If you look in the dictionary, it's a scary word.
    It has to do with power, domination, restraint, regulation.
    It implies that something is bad and needs to be changed.
    It insinuates that something or someone is better than another.
  • Is it good or bad?
    Probably neither. The opposite of control may be chaos. If there were no control over anything, where would we be? Would we all be running around wildly? Or would we just adapt to the new way things are?
  • How much control do you need?
    A certain amount of control can certainly be beneficial, depending on the goal you need to achieve. The more you control people though, the more you restrain them from a lot of things (like being spontaneous, creative, individual or just simply your friend). Most people don't like the feeling of being controlled. Some are being controlled and don't even notice (because they think it's normal, because they are in love...).
  • When do you become a freak?
    It is normal that you should want to be in control of your life. YOUR life, not other people's.
    Control freaks are terrified of failure. They don't trust other people can do things as well as they can. Being in control gives them a temporary illusion and sense of calmness.
    Control freaks suffer from perfectionism, they are very orderly, can't delegate, micro-manage and have workaholic tendencies. They are afraid of being vulnerable. 
There is a lot of advice out there on how to deal with a control freak.
There is not much help out there if you ARE one and want to change.

I'm a control freak. How do I change?
  1. Childhood:
    First of all, it is good to know that most behaviors (good and bad) are with you since childhood. You learned to behave this way. Whether from your parents or other meaningful people around you. You copied the pattern that you were shown.

    I am not saying you should go into therapy to return to your childhood and analyze how evil your parents were so that you can blame everything on them!
    But it is good to know where this behavior comes from and why you're doing it.

  2. Attention:

    Okay, so you figured out why you are the freak that you are. And a behavior you have learned over the last x years is not something you shake in a day. So, instead of trying to stop controlling completely, let's start with little steps:

    Try to be aware of your actions. Notice whenever you are controlling something or someone. Give it some attention. Ask yourself 'What's going on here? and why?' Then breathe, let it go.

    The more you focus your attention on your behavior, the more you become aware of it. The more you become aware of it, the more you can steer it.

  3. Change the HOW not the WHAT

    You're a control freak. That's your WHAT. It's WHAT you DO. That's what you have been trying to change because deep down you know it's getting you stressed, making you unhappy and not gaining you any friends.

    What would happen if you tried to change the HOW instead?

    This can be many different things depending on the type of your controlling behavior

    • How you behave with people
    • How you see and value yourself
    • How you are organized
    • How do do things

    How can you change a few little things to alter the above?

    Ask yourself what it is that you really want. Slow down and get clear. Why do you do what you do? Where do you want to go?
A few quick and dirty tips:

Woah! I hear you say. That's like a looong process. Isn't there a shortcut?

No, there isn't. But there are a few things that you should know that may kick you in the butt:
  • Showing a weakness does not mean you loose control. It makes you human and likable.
  • Trust your instincts: does this need to be controlled by you or is it gonna be fine without it?
  • If you have to use control, use it in a respectful way (don't belittle, shout, pressure, manipulate...)
  • Watch your tone of voice, your body language, the way you deliver something. How does that make you come across?
And most importantly: You teach people how to treat you. 

Don't say that your kids never clean up or that your husband never does the dishes.
Because you've always done it, people get that you will always do it....


Creativity tip - Work backwards

>> 3 October 2010

We are always moving forward.
From A to B.
From Beginning to End.
From Problem to Solution.

And sometimes we get stuck.
We lack ideas, inspiration.
We have been working on the project for such a long time that we can't see the forest for the trees.

We can take a break, concentrate on something else and come back to the problem.

But often, we don't have time for breaks.
We need to move on, get the thing done.

So how do you keep moving?
By working backwards.

  1. Start with the end:
    Imagine the perfect solution to your problem, the perfect launch of your product, the happy ending of your project.
    Go on, be crazy. Splurge. Exaggerate. Imagine the impossible. Fantasize.

    Let's say you're organizing a wedding and it needs to be original. The bride is a vet and the groom an astronaut (I am making this up as I go along...).

    The perfect wedding would take place on the moon. Dogs could line the aisle and howl 'Here comes the bride'. Neil Armstrong is the best man. Apollo 13 swings by with a banner saying 'you may kiss the bride'....

    You see where I'm going...

  2. Now take one step backwards from there.

    Okay, so you can't fly the whole congregation to the moon. What other crazy or moon like location can you think of? Maybe the Arizona desert?
    Dogs could line the aisle, but let's forget the howling.
    Could we get a Neil Armstrong lookalike?
    Could we make a model of Apollo 13?
  3. Now, let's take yet another step backwards.

    Maybe Arizona is still too expensive or just not feasible. Maybe we can find a decorator who can turn a restaurant into a moon landscape.
    Who will take care of all those live dogs? Maybe we can rent dog statues?
    Maybe we can make cutouts of Neil Armstrong and other space like characters to decorate the room.
    Maybe the invitation can be a little Apollo 13 model in a box.
  4. If you are not happy, continue zooming away from the end result.
If you get stuck again, stop and go make some tea.

You can also start with step 1 all over again imagining another end result to work backwards from.

The possibilities are endless.


How to Stop Stealing Your Own Wealth

>> 1 October 2010

How come so many people are doing so well in their businesses, practically doubling or tripling their income every year - and others keep scraping by, trying to make ends meet?

How does that work?

Is it about luck, or being super-talented, or drop-dead gorgeous?

Nope. Nada. Not!

So what's the deal?

What stops us? What keeps some of us so stuck in our old worn out habits and patterns - while other people just soar into their success?

Well, the Queen of Upleveling, Christine Kane is going to clear it all up!

On Thursday, October 7, Christine is presenting a deep coaching/content call FREE OF CHARGE.

It's called: "REVEALED: The Six Most Common Ways We Crash our Creativity, Stop our Success and Steal our Own Wealth."

She's going to show you exactly what gets IN the way - and how to Get OUT of your way!

In fact, her strategies have helped her clients and students make more in the year 2010 than they've made in the last 3 years COMBINED.
(And yes, they've done it while raising families, leaving jobs - even getting laid off! They are NO different from you!)

Here's the link to take a look at Christine's video message - and also sign up for the call.


It's all happening Thursday, October 7th at 8pm EST.

I'll be on the call too! She always packs it full of great information you can start using immediately! Here's the link again: https://christinekane.infusionsoft.com/go/ullpreview/mindfulm/

See you there!


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