5 brain training tips to boost creativity and turn ideas into action

21 April 2016 -


From planning a pre-mortem to taking a walk, Brainhack author Neil Pavitt explores how to be more creative in your problem solving

Guest blogger Neil Pavitt

This final collection of tips from my book Brainhack, will help you get creative and turn ideas into reality.

1. Plan a pre-mortem

How parents prepare for trips is often a lot more sensible than how many companies prepare to launch their new projects. In business everyone is encouraged to be really positive, whereas parents are worriers and imagine the worst: “What happens if it rains all the time?”, “What happens if the children get hurt?”.

Rather than imagine a project your working on is going to be a success, try imaging it’s going to be a complete failure.

That’s the idea behind the pre-mortem. It actively encourages you and your team to be as negative as you can.

Because if you can imagine what could go wrong, you can fix it before it ever happens.

2. Switch off

The time when you allow yourself to daydream is when your mind’s at its busiest.

Cognitive psychologist Jonathan Smallwood says, “In a very deep way there’s a close link between originality, novelty, and creativity and these sort of spontaneous thoughts that we generate when our minds are idle.”

In a study by Pennsylvania State University, participants watched videos that were designed to create certain emotions and then afterwards took creativity tests. Of all the emotions elicited the ones who were bored outperformed all the others.

3. Think when you’re tired

Analytical work requires a focused brain, but if it’s more of a creative problem, you’re at your best when you’re not at your best.

If you’re tired, your brain is not so good at focusing on a task or filtering out distractions. Your mind will wander more and therefore you’ll be far more likely to create new connections and come up with unexpected ideas.

Try setting your alarm half an hour before you have to get up. Being half asleep is a great state for your mind to wander and for unconscious thoughts to bubble up.

4. Take a walk

Famous creative people throughout history have sworn by the value of going for a stroll. Nietzsche said: “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

Steve Jobs was a huge advocate of walking as a method of working on problems, but also as a way of holding meetings. Co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook are also big fans of walking meetings.

In a study by Stanford University, it was found that whether walking outside or inside on a treadmill, the participants’ creative output went up by an average of 60% compared to people sitting down.

5. Just say it

Verbalising a problem to a person real or imagined, can be a huge help.

By stating your problem out loud you are forced to mentally organise all the information you have regarding the problem. If you assume that the person you are explaining the problem to has little or no knowledge of the subject, it forces you to think about what the essence of the problem is.

Instead of spending all your energy focusing on the solution, you can focus purely on the problem. Also stating the problem out loud engages many more areas of the brain than merely thinking about it.

Neil Pavitt is a writer and creativity coach. This article is based on his latest book Brainhack: Tips and Tricks to Unleash Your Brain's Full Potential (published by Capstone)

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