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Innovation Tools - (Digital) tools that will increase the innovation potential of your team or company.
Creative thinking can be trained, and an environment for innovation can be purposefully built.
There appears to be some innate talent involved, but it is also clear that many hours of practice are required, along with the courage to continue to fail and try again, over and over until it almost becomes second nature.
My partner and I have worked with hundreds of international groups at all levels to explore the key blocks to creative thinking. We have metaphorically referred to these negative environmental blocks and mental as the ‘killers’ of creative thinking and innovation, and we have explored what is happening at a neurological and cultural level when creativity is impeded and innovation obstructed.
An area of brain research that reveals our capacity for learning creative thinking is the growing evidence that the brain is in fact plastic (Norman Doidge’s book ‘The Brain that Changes Itself’, 2007, is a great introduction to this concept). The brain has also been found to be plastic enough to allow specific areas to be strengthened and built up over time. University of New Mexico neuroscientist Rex Jung believes approximately 40 per cent of our creativity comes from our genetics and 60 per cent from environmental influences. All people, he believes, have the capacity for creative thinking, which is influenced by their interactions with the environment. HBS professor Teresa Amabile argues, ‘One myth about creativity is that it’s associated with the particular personality or genius of a person — and in fact, creativity does depend to some extent on the intelligence, expertise, talent, and experience of an individual.
Rex Jung has concluded that those who diligently practise creative activities learn to recruit their brain’s creative networks quicker and better.
The concept of ‘brain training’, which was once thought to be a niche market for people with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive problems, is now so popular that ‘brain gyms’ have become multimillion-dollar businesses.
The ability to rapidly shift between convergent and divergent thinking is also critical, and the good news is that this too can be learned.
The other area to consider is how we can ensure the organizational environment is relaxed enough to support creative development.
If you couple these interesting new theories with something that has been long known —that stress can ‘shut down’ or ‘switch off’ significant areas of the brain so they can no longer effectively be accessed —it becomes clear that inducing a relaxed state is critical for encouraging creative thinking. Consider the modern workplace challenge of multitasking – imagine the stress that is putting on the brain.
It appears that highly creative people are able to utilise non-conscious processing of innovative ideas more than others, and this is what distinguishes them from the pack. Creative thinking requires a relaxed state, the ability to think through options at a slow pace and the openness to explore different alternatives without fear, so it is critical that the organizational environment is carefully assessed to ensure there are optimum opportunities for creative thinking. Encourage the intention to create: Make the creative process fun, interesting and relevant, and provide time and dedicated opportunities for creative development. Teach optimism and self-belief: Reveal the thought-patterns that can lead to open rather than closed thinking. Provide platforms for creative ideas: These are places where all ideas are encouraged and supported, where individuals can feel proud of what they achieve and can learn to present these ideas confidently. Allow employees opportunities to take ‘time out’: Ensure scheduled break times are taken – try introducing yoga or mediation breaks! Encourage focused scheduled project time: Provide opportunities to get into the creative ‘flow’ of a project without interruptions.
I have already decided I will need to encourage my son to continue to develop his passion for juggling – and to take the time out to challenge myself to try juggling too! What will you do to support your own creative development and to ensure creative thinking is supported in your organization? Students are not the only ones encountering new challenges at school: Teachers face an evolving profession, driven in part by technology and a rapidly changing economy. Math teacher Jim Doherty remembers the conversation that became the catalyst for his mid-career journey. Soon, he became actively involved in the MathTwitterBlogsphere, eventually contributing to an instructional e-book. Such statements can be self-protective, said Peter Heslin, associate professor of management at UNSW Australia Business School. First, participants think about why it’s important to understand that people can continue to grow and develop their abilities throughout adulthood. Second, they think about one of their strengths that used to be a weakness — and then reflect on how this change took place. Third, participants write a letter to a struggling employee, sharing thoughts about how they can strengthen their skills. Brady said that creating an environment where teachers feel comfortable taking risks requires time — because trust takes time.
Remodel Faculty Meetings: Meetings “where information is shared that can be sent via email or other tools need to be a thing of the past,” said Brady. Reach Out to Seasoned Teachers: Brady said she tries to personally connect with veteran teachers who may be reluctant to adopt new strategies and then work with them on taking small steps that will have a meaningful impact on students. Model a Growth Mindset:  Eight years ago, Brady decided to sign up for Twitter to explore how it could be used as a professional development tool for her teachers.

For Jim Doherty, the community he found online helped him revitalize his classroom practice and expand his concept of what was possible. I have been teaching elementary school for 14 years, and I’ve always been willing to change things up, and take things on when I see something new and exciting. Deborah Farmer Kris has taught elementary, middle and high school and served as a charter school administrator. Virtual Villagers: The Secret City Guide a tribe of castaways as they live, breed, and discover secrets about their mysterious home in this real-time sim adventure.
Consciousness, perception, emotion, memory, learning, language, and intelligence all originate in and depend on the brain.
Often plagued by a sense of urgency and pressure the modern office does not appear to be the ideal incubation opportunity for innovation – and yet there are strategies that can be used to defy the odds.
As many jugglers will tell you, they eventually get to the point where they don’t need to look at the full ball projection. We have discovered that unless the right environment is created (physically, emotionally, mentally and culturally) it can be very difficult for people to have the opportunity to develop their creative capabilities. That process has helped us to identify how to deal with these ‘killers’, and how to build up creative strengths. Apparently the brain is not completely wired with location-specific neural pathways that are preset according to genetic coding and then established for life. This should give us hope that even if we feel we have established ingrained patterns of thinking and habitual ways of perceiving and behaving, we are not stuck with these habits for life. Studies in creative thinking show that children with low divergent thinking scores who continue to exercise these creativity ‘muscles’ can outperform others with higher scores who do not. Companies such as Lumosity have designed games and other products to improve brain performance for which there is a universal demand across all demographics.
Through developing training programs that alternate periods of intense convergent thinking with maximum divergent thinking repeatedly over stages, a number of studies have shown that brain patterns have changed and greater creative thinking capacity has emerged. Well-trained musicians are able to deactivate their right temporoparietal junction, which is usually engaged in reading incoming stimuli and sorting it for relevance. When the brain is under stress, the primal emotional ‘shutdown’ response is triggered as a coping mechanism, moving you rapidly into what has been called ‘the red zone’ (Mowatt, Corrigan, & Long, 2010). The ongoing release of corticosteroids can change neurons and their synapses in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex (McEwen, 2007).
It is important to be able to access deeper and broader levels of the brain, from the hippocampus through to the prefrontal cortex.
Not only can email and texting addiction be dangerous for your mental health, but it can actually lower IQ twice as effectively as addiction to marijuana! In order to process information we need focus, and it is difficult for the brain to take in too much if it is required to constantly shut down, reset and refocus on a new message. After a break people come up with more divergent solutions than when working continuously on a problem.
Introduce special learning opportunities for developing creative thinking, and utilise exercises that encourage divergent thinking.
Establish a culture in which employees are treated with respect and feel comfortable to explore new ideas, to ensure creative thinking is not shut down. Gaia has worked extensively with a range of clients assisting with in creative development and innovation through coaching, workshops, facilitating, consulting and keynote delivery. To ensure a better experience on our site, we recommend using a recent version of Internet Explorer, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. Studies indicate that children who view intelligence as pliable and responsive to effort show greater persistence when encountering new or difficult tasks.
After he observed a teacher’s classes and offered some feedback, his colleague replied, “I’ve been at this awhile. For example, a teacher might avoid adopting a new teaching strategy “for fear they might jeopardize their identity as an already highly skilled instructor.” According to Heslin, administrators can help alleviate these concerns by “reminding teachers that experiencing setbacks are par for the course when learning something new” and creating a safe environment for taking risks. His program includes four self-reflective exercises that he said could be easily adopted by superintendents and principals in their professional development work. He says this exercise helps participants understand that their skills are “not merely the result of an aptitude or talent they have,” but rather the result of effort and initiative. And finally, they think about someone who surprised them by learning how to do something that they never thought this person could do. It seems like a small matter now, but at the time some of her colleagues were “aghast.” Her willingness to experiment helps her staff see that she walks the walk. My teaching and the way my classroom is structured today are quite different than three years ago, or six years ago, or 10 years ago. She spent a decade as an associate at Boston University’s Center for Character and Social Responsibility, researching, writing, and consulting with schools. Over the past century, our understanding of the brain has raced forward to reveal many of the mechanisms by which the brain creates mind and consciousness. So just how do we maximise the brain’s neurological capabilities in the midst of the busy contemporary working environment?

A little agitated at the interruptions at first, it has dawned on me that this is a great learning opportunity, and I have started thinking about how challenging it can be to learn juggling. Over time we have learnt that there can be a significant loss in creative ability where it is simply not used. Accumulated research supports the idea that it is possible to ‘rewire’ the brain at any stage in life to form new and varied connections. But it also depends on creative thinking as a skill that involves qualities such as the propensity to take risks and to turn a problem on its head to get a new perspective.
It is possible to ‘rewire’ the brain at any stage in life to form new and varied connections.
Some 14 million people in more than 180 countries now either subscribe to Lumosity’s website or have downloaded its iPhone apps. By switching this off and therefore blocking out distractions, they are able to achieve superior levels of concentration and therefore work with the music more spontaneously. These produce impairments in working and spatial memory, and can lead to increased aggression.
The more relaxed the individual, and the more ‘open’ the mind, the more easily these broader connections can be made. Every time we shut down from one task to open up a new one, we lose data from the first task and also lose information from the second. Highly creative people are able to utilise this non-conscious processing time more effectively than others do.
In contrast, children who view intelligence as static or “fixed” have a harder time rebounding from academic setbacks or are reluctant to take on new challenges that might be difficult. Too many educators stop learning and stop reading professionally once they have their college diploma in hand.
There really is a broad spectrum on the scale of those that are willing to learn both nothing and anything. I always have thought that I only am a Student of Life , but the fact seems to be , that Each one teach One . In this brief introduction to the brain, neuroscientist John Dowling conveys to the general reader the essence and vitality of the field of neuroscience-the progress we are making in understanding how brains work and some of our strategies for studying brain function. A market research firm that specifically tracks development in the area of brain ‘fitness’ predicts that this market will grow to at least $2 billion by 2015. Other trained individuals who have also shown an ability to shift into this higher gear of concentration include dancers, comedians and orators —and athletes too. When ‘red zone’ emotions are expressed, they often have a negative impact on personal and working relationships, shutting off the relaxed and open state required for creative thinking.
They can also lead to deficits in the striatum, which can bias decision-making strategies and decrease flexibility — a critical quality for creative thinking. In effect, it enables conscious awareness to be freed from pressing and direct tasks to more open and divergent thinking (Fredrickson, 2001). The average desk worker loses 2.1 hours of productive time a day jumping from one task to another.
We can all utilise these spontaneous processes by giving the brain time to ‘incubate’ and thereby access both emotional and cognitive solutions that may have been previously unavailable to conscious awareness.
The district uses this feedback to create a year-long technology education “menu” that allows teachers to learn from each other on topics that feel relevant. Dowling often relates the exciting discoveries of neuroscience to specific examples of brain phenomena such as disease, mental illness, aging, or brain injury, demonstrating how these alterations in brain function cast light on normalcy and describing some of the therapies enabled by our understanding of the brain.
Even worse than that, negative influences can creep in where there is not a supportive environment, and a destructive downward spiral can ensue.
When this is done over a lifetime, the neurological patterns of the brain are gradually changed. Learning to deactivate this part of the brain can therefore help with creative development.
We need to learn how to control these brain responses more effectively so we can access the prefrontal cortex more easily and ensure we remain in the freethinking open ‘blue zone’. Under stress the brain will return to more conservative patterns of thinking and rigid habitual memory functioning at the expense of more flexible ‘cognitive’ memory. Your brain needs to focus to be really productive, and when your brain loses focus it can take 25 minutes to get back to full productivity.
This can enable us to fully utilise the brain’s capabilities and learn and train creative thinking. In so much Gratitude for this Inspiration , blessings from my Heart to your Heart and all those close to your Heart .

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