Fancy a brain work out?

Developing your Mental Flexibility

Mental flexibility- the pliability of your mind- openness- the associations you can make where at first there seem to be none- a skill essential for innovation.

Most of us however are quite rigid in our thinking. We see a chair and we say it’s a chair and use it to sit on. Where’s the harm in that you might say? There is none. That’s how the brain works. It problem solves and takes that solution to the problem next time we come across it. It remembers, it learns, so that we don’t have to continually solve the problem of working out what a chair is every time we see it.

There is however a slight problem- because if we continue to bring previous solutions to problems we face- which are now coming to us in a different point in time- we never think up anything new. We come up with the ‘same old- same old’ as they say.

In some ways the brain functions, because of necessity and survival, in a very uncreative way. As a result we have to make an effort to develop that mental flexibility where we don’t just adopt the first solution that comes to us. We need to push ourselves to unlearn, to make new connections where there are apparently none.

Edward de Bono has developed a series of games based around the principle of word association- which helps us address this problem- you could think of it as a ‘brain work out’.

So it’s Friday lets play for a while.

brain workout

Take a sheet of scrap paper and list the following 8 words in two columns: tortoise, TV, stone, toilet, tiger, lipstick, tent, chimney. Now see how many connections you can make between the left and right columns. Give yourself 2 minutes. Maybe do this with your colleague sitting next to you and make a bit of a competition out of it!

How did you find it- difficult? Just like physical exercise- it gets easier the more you do it.

In my workshops I use this exercise as a precursor to brainstorming, using a random word, to help generate new ideas.

Just to continue on the game playing theme you could also select a few random words and think up a board game or perhaps a new sport. Just think of all the crazy games you’d play on a school sports day- not the serious stuff you see at the Olympics. So here are your words for new sport: Shoe, Sauce, Ladder and Skeleton.

Give yourself 5 minutes for this one and you can recruit a friend to help as its lots more fun that way. (Might also be a good party game at Christmas!)

So how did you get on? I’d love to hear what you’ve come up with.

A Rush of Creativity

A rush of creativity since the launch

Since the book’s been launched part of me has been eagerly awaiting responses from people but another part of me has allowed myself to ride on the wave/ vibe of my book launch and see where it takes me. I have experienced a huge rush of creativity and it feels amazing!

I’ve been working on ‘Break out Break free’  which is almost formed, so I shall be emailing out invitations for the pilot workshop soon(some scribbles on this below). More recently another idea has floated in…’Dare to Dream’.

Big pens for big ideas!

Big pens for big ideas!

The Process of Creativity

The process by which ideas are coming in is also interesting. In addition to my conscious scribbling in ‘work hours’ there is some night-time stuff happening too!

It might be the hot weather, but over the past 2 weeks I have developed a little pocket of work time, which is probably around 4-6am, where I have the most amazing thoughts, visualisations and conversations with myself. Well I did say in the book “Make the most of sleepy states” so here I am – my body and mind doing just that. Playing around with fuzzy ideas and then letting them take shape in this deeply relaxed state.

I have worked on the detail of a workshop I’m doing in Brighton in October- in particular visualising the all important opening. I’ve worked on a 3 hour Dare to Dream workshop which I have also presented to a whole audience from the stage! That was a tiring night!

Making use of my creativity ‘Sparklers’

Obviously not all my ideas are good ones, so I usually discuss them with trusted ‘Sparklers’. Dare to Dream has had 2 positive responses from people from the corporate and business world:  “We never give ourselves permission to dream and it’s difficult to make time in a life which is just full of stuff to do. Having a dedicated space would be great- do it!”.

So I’m going to trial this soon- Saturday morning- August 24th – in fact. Email me if you want me to post you details. Just as an inventor creates prototypes I create short pilot sessions, at a low ticket price, to test my ideas too.

On a conscious level I’m questioning myself- should I really be trying to implement all this new stuff- is it shiny penny syndrome? As well as my core work of running monthly Innovation workshops and my new Creative Mastermind Group,  this is a lot more new stuff to be developing and ‘getting out there.’

But some of this stuff I feel in my belly – so it has to be done! They are so exciting they need to be given a space to breathe and take shape. They may or may not work but if I run them as pilot sessions, at a super-low ticket price, then I can have fun with them and explore their potential.

As for my current process of creativity, I’ll run with it for now, always keeping a book by my bed. I do think however it is passing, as the nights draw in and we ‘go back to school’ in September my body clock may revert to more traditional working hours. (But you never know!)

P.S Comments on the book welcome.

You can buy the book ‘Who says you’re not creative?’ on Amazon

After the party

A party to celebrate "Who says you're not creative?"

Last week I threw a book party!

Over the last 18 months I have been working on a book “Who says you’re not creative?”

I finally published and celebrated this milestone in my life on Monday July 22nd- which also happened to be my birthday. (I usually ‘take stock’ on my birthday so this seemed like a good day to launch!)

I was overwhelmed by the support in the room- around 30 people came after work on a hot sweltering Monday evening. I showed my book to the world: business pals, close personal friends, my husband and son. My presentation went well, I felt relaxed rather than nervous and I had lots of positive feedback. A little light drinking was also had- including a matching blue cocktail which the Manager of the bar kindly supplied- what a party!

A week after the party

So after all the fun and celebrating what happens now? Now that people will begin to read my work? Am I nervous? Maybe slightly. Writing a book is an interesting process on many levels. During it’s creation you question your credibility for writing a book. You also think of particular people, maybe work collegaues or family members, that will read it. What will they think of it?? Will their opinion of you change for the worse?

For me to have published I had to confront these questions and be able to deal with them. On a concsious level I feel ok about everything. My job, for me, was to put the book into the world. I needed to see if I could do it, I needed to discover for myself what I thought about this fascination subject that is the basis of all my work.

I recently re read Susan Jeffers book Embracing Uncertainty and she said something that struck a chord. She gave the example of Drew Barrymore ‘letting go’ of her movies once they were released. She almost kissed them good bye and disconnected herself from what people might think of it- as this was beyond her control. Jeffers calls this the ‘scissors of the mind’ exercise. “As long as you are tied [to an expectation] you are not free”

An audio I recently listened to also provided a perspective on this situation I now find myself post party.   ‘You are not the opinion of others..in fact you are not even the opinion of yourself’. This took me a while to understand but once you get it- it’s great one to have as part of your belief system.

So it’s gone- I’ve done my bit to create it. Some people may not like it- others may love it. But if there’s one thing in there that inspires someone to change and create something positive for themselves – I think that’s pretty good. Also- as long as I like it- I’m ok with the opinions come my way.

Post party feedback

So far I’ve had a couple of tweets back. Saying ‘love your book’ which is great. A friend of mine Deborah Burdette also mentioned me on her blog today.

“I had a major clear out of my office this morning. I’m in need of some fresh ideas and the thought was that if I clear my desk for new things I’ll clear my mind for new things too.
I’m reading ‘Who says you’re not creative’ by my friend Prith Biant and will be doing some of the exercises she recommends to get some INSPIRATION!”

I’m meeting her on Friday so I’ll be able to chat more then.

Do I have post party blues? No not at all. Now is just the beginning of more that I want to create around the book. I have a vision board full of ideas! More new workshops, an audio version, note cards with quotes from the book, may be even a full colour version of the book. This is just the beginning- the party in my head has only just started!

The launch party photos

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Wow the launch – what a fabulous evening in beautiful Cardiff Bay! Thank you to all the lovely people who came to share the moment with me.

Steve Williams: At @prithb‘s book launch. Great to see so many here. Let’s start #daydreaming again!   Aimee Bateman: Great evening at @prithb new book launch party. Lovely to see @GreenGrassWales & @moneywales also. Victoria Dere: Great book launch @prithb. Looking forward to reading Who Says You’re Not Creative. Lee Sharma: Congrats to @prithb – great turnout at the new book launch in the Bay. Love the personal message in my copy #GoPrith Clive Thomas: Enjoyed @prithb ‘s book launch tonight – fabulous book “Who says you’re not creative” #buyitnow! Gareth Jones: Fantastic evening celebrating @prithb‘s book launch w/ @CoffeeAppleUK @meirionm @ZokitCardiff @GreenGrassWales and more. Very enjoyable. Neil Lloyd:  Looking forward to reading @prithb ‘s new book

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“I’m going to take this book on holiday with me along with Celestine prophecy which I haven’t read for ages. Will come back renewed!”

“Wow you were so inspiring. I have to give a talk later this week and now I feel much better about doing it. I’m going to read this book tomorrow morning first thing!”

“I’d like to buy 3 books please. One each for son and daughter and one for my business colleague who is my Sparkler!”

“I felt very inspired when I got home and can’t wait to read the book. It will probably live on my desk in work xx”

10 people also signed up to explore their creativity through for my new ‘Break Out Break Free’ workshop which is based on the book. Can’t wait to put that together later this month.

Please do post your comments about the book on here as the website is still under development.

The book is now available on amazon. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1489574026

P.S Thank you so much to the gorgeous people at Salt who provided complimentary snacks and the co-ordinating blue cocktail! It all added to the magic of the evening.

The Book Launch! July 22nd 2013

book small

Today I launch the book through a small gathering in the fabulous Cardiff Bay! It’s more of a celebration than a launch as it’s taken since October 2011 to get this baby finished and available on amazon.

Interesting that it’s taken so long and yet it’s not even 100 pages. But you know what Anita Roddick said “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.” So I’m hoping my book, although small, has a big impact on people individually.

I am also mindful that now the book is out I have no control of how people may respond or how they may interpret what I’ve written. My work is done I have to let go and not be attached to what people may think or how they judge it. Part of me did it for a personal challenge- What did I think on the subject of creativity? Part of me also did it so that  people got to know about all the ‘best bits’ from the various more serious text books I’ve read on the subject- without having to go through all that reading!

Underlying it all is that I believe creativity is a great thing! It is a gift- that maybe we’ve wrapped up too well and pushed to the back of the cupboard. Being creative means that you have to be positive and open to possibility also essential traits in this climate. Creativity is empowering because it says you have a choice- you can create- you can contribute.

The book is about reconnecting to our inner creativity and using it in which ever way works best for you. This might be in work- with some fo the creative problem solving techniques. Or you may just want to ‘get out of your box’ more generally.

I hope to take this work forward and continue my creative explorations- particularly in using creative mediums within the workplace. I am convinced, although I have no scientific proof yet, that thinking through different mediums can help you come up with more innovative solutions. I will be inviting people at my launch to come and explore with me at a pilot workshop in August.

The book is available now on Amazon at a price of £9.99

I look forward to your thoughts and pictures!

The story of the illustrations

illustration 1

When I first visualised the book I imagined it to be landscape, full colour and spiral bound – a bit like a sketch book. I had created a set of small experimental paintings that I wanted to include- to show people how easy it was to create ‘art’.

However this isn’t so practical in the world of publishing. The books would have cost a minimum of £20 to produce, would not be stocked by book shops as it would have no spine and packaging may be difficult. Part of me was going to go ahead anyway but then I had a rethink. What else could I do? A book on creativity, with a chapter citing the importance of images- had to have some visuals!

On my desk lay the hand drawn business card of an illustrator I had met a few months earlier. He had been taking ‘visual minutes’ at a creative conference I was running (Photo from event below). Visual minutes, if you’re not familiar with the term, are now the super cool alternative to the written form of minutes. These talented people literally draw the people speaking and capture a few key statements. There are different styles of visual minute takers I think Karl was a bit more stylised than others I’d seen.

Ilustrators

I’d kept his card because it was so beautifully and so effortlessly drawn. As part of the his work that day he also drew me – highly ‘characterised’  if that’s a word?! So I emailed him and asked if he might be interested in creating a few illustrations for my book. ‘Yes’ was the answer – fantastic!

Usually I am a bit of a ‘control freak’ when it comes to design. I often have a clear picture of what I want, sometimes even make a mock-up,  and usually just ask designers to recreate it for me. (So designers beware-  you have now been warned).  But this time things were a little different. I just sent him a few sample chapters and said – ‘do whatever you like- whatever comes to mind’.

A few days later I had an email from him  ‘I have some ideas for different characters but when I read your words  I imagine you.’  This was a particularly moving moment for me – not sure if you can feel it too? Well it bought a tear to my eye- joyous tears which hardly ever happen.

I had given him artistic freedom so I said – ‘Yes do what you feel.’  So the illustrations happened. When you see the book it doesn’t look like me- just a super skinny female with shoulder length hair and great dress sense!

The other amazing thing about the illustrations is that Karl read more into what I had written than I had actually written. It’s almost as if he could read my mind the way he embellished his illustrations with words that weren’t actually there! The cover image is a great example of this. The diagram he put together is just how I think! Maybe he joined the dots himself too as he created them.

book

So my illustrator,the super talented Karl Mountford, was a gift.  I no longer regret not having the colour images I produced as his illustartions are  so much richer.

Part of me still wants to do a colour version as I love colour- so if the book is received well I may do a fabulous full colour spiral bound version- just as I had originally imagined it.

As a quick update the book is going to be available on amazon very soon. The last proof has been signed off and I’m having a ‘book party’ / launch on July 22nd in Cardiff.

The power of colour

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One section of my book is called ‘Release it- Paint’. It’s about encouraging people to paint and be unafraid.

Today I am going to run this idea as a workshop for the first time which is super-exciting. A lot of my work is about creativity in terms of generating ideas. Today will be different as I aim to facilitate creativity on a different perhaps more spiritual level. I am going to ask people to play around with colour on a canvas. The object of the exercise is not represent anything they might see in ‘reality’ but to enjoy colour just for what it is.

We aren’t going to have too many paint brushes just sponges and people will be encouraged to use their fingers too. In addition to paint I will also take in some coloured paper so people can do more collage-like work.

I have a few different angles planned to help people engage in the process so we shall see how it goes. I shall also take along some colour images that I created for my book. The image above was created just on a small index card and I made lots of them. The first one was created by pressing pieces of paper together and the in the second I used a ruler to spread colour around. (I was going to use these in my book but colour printing was a little too expensive for a first book!)

So today I get to show other people how much fun you can have exploring colour. For me it’s therapy. I don’t have to talk to anyone, achieve anything, communicate anything…I can just be. The session today is all about wellbeing so lets hope it works as well for the people today as it does for me! I shall keep you posted.

 

 

Proof arrives- reactions from my aunt

I set this blog up to slowly release the book into the world prior to publication. I’m pleased to say that this is coming closer. I’m just at the final proofing stage of the printed copy. I made this short video of me opening my parcel as it arrived …

It’s also been an interesting process showing the proof to people. At the weekend I showed it to my aunt who is just turning 70 next week. I thought it would be the perfect answer to the usual question of “So what have you been up to?”

She does the crossword daily and as she saw the slim volume she assumed she’s be able to ‘skim it’ while I was there. (Luckily this was not the case – she did pause for thought between sections)

It’s fascinating and slightly nerve-wracking to have someone read the book in front of you. In the introduction I talk about ‘taking a leap’ from employment to self employment. This immediately struck a chord with her and she went on to tell me about the leaps of faith she had taken in her life and the risks and pay offs that were associated with them.

Her interpretation of how she ‘thinks outside the box’ was fascinating to hear and her views on the innocence of childhood and play was also something she picked up on and wanted to discuss.  Unfortunately other people in the room didn’t know what she was reading, as there was only one copy, but she was commenting as if we all had the book in front of us!

One of the funnier comments she made, apart from “Who is this Ken Robinson chap?”,   was in relation to the section on “There is no one right answer”. Here’s a short extract:

If you are to take a more creative path you have to let go of this notion of the ‘one right way’ and accept there are many ways of doing things. You may also have to believe that there is no right or wrong way of doing anything, just different ways.

“It’s going to sound arrogant but I am always right at most things. Aren’t I?” She said this with all seriousness turning to her husband for support. “Of course” he nodded. Maybe she’ll want to spend a bit more time on this section when the final version comes out.

One final point of her reaction to the book, she suggested it would be good for people ‘suffering from depression’. I thought it was a book primarily about creativity but for her it was just as much about positivity. Interesting how we write with one intention but people then add their own layer of meaning to something…

On the plus side, she as a 70-year-old great-grandmother, identified with the book and wanted her grand-daughter to read it too! So maybe it has a wider appeal than I had imagined. On the downside being the avid crossworder that she is – she spotted a typo that I and the proof reader had missed! 🙂

Who says you’re not creative? Blog post 2

Welcome to the second installment from my book: Who says you’re not creative?

The first section of the book is headed Our starting point : Where are we now? It includes 4 ideas for your consideration. The first was posted last week   “A logical-rational bias” and I am pleased to say it prompted a good discussion. (Press ‘previous’ to view). The next two sections are below. Again very short but I hope they are thought provoking.

Straitjacketed?

We are all straitjacketed to a certain extent. We take on the mantels of the organisations and institutions we become part of and begin to think and behave in a certain way – ‘group think’.

Even if we rebel it is often against the parameters set by the context so we are, to a certain extent, still locked within a given system.

When developing a workshop recently, I found myself trapped by the value I placed on established ‘models of creativity’ instead of giving value to my own thinking and ideas. I kept myself in the bounds of the knowledge created by others, which surrounded and created my world and understanding of the subject. What was this if not straitjacketed thinking?

Scared to play

As adults we are scared to play. Our notion of being an adult, especially at work, is being sensible, serious, measured discussions and debates, little laughter. Having fun is frowned upon and seen as ‘not working’.

We all know of some of the famous companies who encourage play and fun environments like Google and Innocent but these are few and far from the everyday experience of what most of us know as ‘work’.

In my workshops I sometimes ask people to draw a problem, or mould their problem using play dough. There are usually three reactions: some people become paralysed by the situation; others laugh and eventually start playing and make something fairly descriptive; and the third, smaller group relish the challenge and often create something a little more left field, metaphorical.  It’s as if they have been waiting for someone to give them permission to let out their creative selves.

The majority of us feel embarrassed, too self-conscious, as adults to do this kind of thing. Are we afraid of what people will think? Are we afraid of looking stupid?

Will this same fear keeps us from presenting new, off the wall ideas, to our peers? In which case – it becomes a problem.

My questions for you:

Do you feel ‘straitjacketed’ in anyway? How much of this is self imposed? 

(It was this realisation that prompted me to write my book- it was the vehicle through which I could ask myself what i thought about the subject of creativity.)

Are you scared or too self conscious to play/ be playful in your attitude?

Are you lucky enough to be in a work environment that encourages a sense of creative play/ exploration?

 

Who says you’re not creative?

Towards the end of last year I wrote my first book – with the working title “Who says you’re not creative”. In my work as a Creative Facilitator, I come across lots of people who label themselves as ‘un-creative’ which I am not even sure is a word! My book is a response to all those people. We are all creative. We’ve just got a little disconnected from our right brain/ our capacity for creativity.

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This book is an accessible insight into creativity which aims to help people re-connect to their natural/ inherent creativity. It’s currently in the process of being published but I wanted to start releasing it into the world anyway.

The book format is a ‘one concept per page’ rather than a heavy narrative text. It follows a journey which begins with an understanding of why many of us consider ourselves as ‘not creative’ and shows how we can ‘break free’ and get to a state where ‘we absolutely can be!’  

Comments are most welcome but only constructive ones please. There is enough negativity in the world. (I borrow this approach from the wonderful Richard Wilkins who said something similar at the end of one of his talks last year – it made many of us chuckle).

It would be great to foster creative conversations on here and find out what you think of the sections I publish. If they resonate with you I’d love to hear about it.

P.S. If you want to know a little more about my work as a Creative Facilitator here’s the link to my main website http://www.thecreativethinkingcompany.co.uk.

Welcome to my world.

Section 1: Where are we now?

 A logical-rational bias

We live in a society that places greater value on rational logical thought rather than creativity. We can see quite clearly how the western education system places science and maths above the arts and humanities. You only have to think back to your time at school and the pressure to choose certain ‘academic’ subjects that would be more likely to help you get a good job in later life. Those good jobs being: medicine, accountancy, teaching not artists, dancers or writers.

Many people talk of this split in terms of the left and right side of the brain where the left side houses logical, rational, analytic processes and the right: images, sound, imagination, colour. This split is metaphorical rather than the way the brain is actually structured which is far more complex. It does however provide a useful shorthand for different ways of thinking.

The value difference between left and right brain thinking can perhaps be attributed to a belief that the more academic disciplines would contribute to building a more wealthy and successful society. This may have served us well up until now. Now we find ourselves in a recession, which many say was predictable and is here for the next 5 years. Might our reliance on logical rational thought let us down? Would now be a good time to embrace the right side of the brain?

Unfortunately due to the left brain bias, we need to re learn how to use all those wonderful things of the right brain like our imagination, playing with the impossible and nonsensical, the use of metaphors, images and lateral thinking. Fortunately we can re-learn.