Creative Fakery

May 14, 2009

In all the methodology of creativity and reinvention, rarely mentioned is a simple and effective technique that is commonly used, but no one ever talks about.  Faking it.

Go ahead,  take a moment to recoil in horror. Huff and puff about blasphemy. Innovation is “serious” business and to suggest that “faking it” is a tool amounts to trivializing the entire movement. Etcetera. Etcetera.  Then get over it.

Faking it is an essential part of any creativity, innovation or reinvention effort. It’s a mind tool based on the concept that to be something, you have to think like that something. Actors do it all the time and even have a name for it: Method acting, in which they become the character they’re playing.

Another way of looking at it is to, as psychologist Carol Dweck tells Forbes.Com innovation writer Terry Waghorn, act as if — adopt a mindset of the kind of person you have to be to perform a task, or achieve a goal.

Why does this work? Well, let’s break it down.

When you’re innovating – a product, a business model, a marketing campaign – you’re also reinventing to an extent. Your view of that product or business model has to change, and the deepest way to do that is to adopt a different persona – to become someone else.

In any creative act, you as a person, have to change. At the same time, overall change isn’t a single event: Transformation is an ongoing process because the result is never clearly known. With each step in the transformation journey, you learn a little bit more about where you’re going to be in future.

The only way to cope with this fuzziness is to form a mental view of the kind of person who can handle such a journey, and then adopt it.

If you want to be more creative, then start asking as creative people act. Start using the methods they use to jumpstart their creativity. Eventually, they’ll become habitual and you will be that creative person.

Similarly if you’re reinventing yourself, or your organization, imagine what the new reinvented entity will be like, and start acting like it. Your entire viewpoint will change, and eventually will be come so ingrained it will be reality.

So to be it, think it.

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Creative Free Falling

April 19, 2009

Have a problem to solve, a strategy to create, a market to decipher, or a product or service to design? But you just can’t seem to get going on it?

It’s probably because your logical brain is restricting the part that’s creative. We all need to use both sides of our brains today, but it’s a natural hazard in our task-oriented world for the logical and linear to always dominate.

One method to escape the imprisonment of logical thinking is a version of the writer’s technique of Free Falling, which was adapted from the exhilerating and freedom-inducing periods that parachutists experience after they’ve jumped from a plane and before they pull the ripcord.

Anyone who has ever written knows the dreaded blank page syndrome – where you stare at that blank page without a clue as to how to begin. Free falling gets you over that frozen state. It forces you to just start writing. Anything and everything. Eventually insights, images, and themes start to emerge.

Creative Free Falling has a similar purpose in that it frees the subconscious mind from the bindings of the logical, which always wants to order things. In that sense it’s like meditation or self-hypnosis in that it allows the subconscious to rise to the fore. It’s also similar to the old psychic’s trick of automatic writing, in which one was supposed to  commune with the “spirits” through writing.

When free falling, remember the objective is not to come up with a cogent argument, a perfectly crafted piece, or an orderly plan. Free falling results in a jumbled mess of images and thoughts, much of which will seem silly and inconsequential. But there will also be insights and idea nuggets that your logical mind can that work on later.

To engage in Creative Free Falling

  1. Sit down at a table or desk with a pen and a piece of paper. (Don’t use a computer! It blocks the process). Close your eyes, take a few deep and slow breaths to put you in a relaxed state, and imagine a situation. It could be an incident from the past, or, for those who insist all actions must be useful,  it could be a problem you once faced. It could be joyful or sad – it doesn’t matter, although funny and joyful is usually better than misery and gloom. The point is to take your mind off the issue that’s blocking your thought flow.
  2. Write every thought that pops into your head. They may be emotions, arguments, or visuals. Don’t judge, don’t analyse, don’t order, don’t look at what you’re writing. Just let it flow. Keep your eyes closed and write as fast as you can. You’re connecting your writing hand to your subconscious, and you want a torrent of thoughts.
  3. After a while, you may reach a blank moment, where it seems there’s nothing left. No problem. Leave a space. Take a couple of deep breaths and start again. If you need to imagine another situation, go ahead.
  4. After 10 or 15 minutes, stop. Leave it. Go get a cup of coffee, or move around a bit. Clean your desk. Sort your books. Whatever. Do something completely unrelated for about 10 minutes. Physical action usually works better than tasks such as reading your email.
  5. Then go back and examine what you’ve written. Don’t worry that much of it might seem like utter gibberish. In there somewhere will be insights that will form a platform, or foundation for a solution to your problem. You’ll start to see some directions.
  6. Practise this often, even daily, because the more you do it, the easier it will get. After a while, you’ll see less gibberish and more useful thoughts that require only a little touching up to be exactly what you need. The subconscious likes to perform, and by practising this, you’ll train it in what you want it to do.

Recession Biting? Reinvent!

April 7, 2009

Although all the noise so far has been about large organizations collapsing like houses of cards, the economic downturn is now also affecting entrepreneurial and small businesses.

Yes, this can hurt. But small businesses have advantages in troubled times. They’re more resilient than large organizations that carry massive superstructures.  They’re more agile, and so can creatively move faster away from declining areas of business and into opportunity spaces.

As a reinvention coach, I see examples of this resilience and agility regularly. In fact, I saw it long before the recession became a daily headline. Entrepreneurial businesses, especially in the early years, are always in recession mode.

Every day in a small business is a challenge, which is why creative entrepreneurs are reinventing constantly.

But that’s not always as easy as it sounds. To reinvent, you have put aside all the standard advice, the grand strategic plans, the five and ten year BHAGS (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), and concentrate on the immediate.

There’s a way to do this reinventing, which is really a matter of solving several problems. But instead of trying to solve them all at once as most entrepreneurs do, you break down the overall problem to a series of smaller problems, and tackle them one at a time.

As with any creative problem-solving method, you have to first define that single problem. Then you narrow your focus to conquering only it. If you let nothing else intrude in your thinking, you will be successful.

In a sense it’s much like taking a journey. You don’t think about the five miles you have to cover; you think about the first mile, in particularly, the first quarter-mile. Then the next one. Then the one after that, etc. While you might know your destination, you take your eyes off the horizon and work only on what’s right in front of you.

Because this is also a method of reinvention, my company Knowpreneur, is co-sponsoring a North American tour by the consulting company Silver Lining Limited. Silver Lining’s dynamic and creative young leader, Carissa Reiniger will show entrepreneurs in free seminars how to create quarterly targets that will produce quick results in the first year.

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The touring seminars are being held in Staples stores in major cities. The tour is crossing Canada first and lands in my own back yard, Vancouver, April 22, where it will be offered from 6-9 pm at Staples, 1322 West Broadway, Vancouver.

Then it’s moving down to major cities in the US.

More information on the tour and the methodology can be found at Silver Lining’s website


Dreamtime: You Need It To Grow

February 20, 2009

You’re a marketer, a manager, a small business operator trying to handle a dozen different chores, or maybe you’re toiling in some corporation and hoping to climb the ladder.

No matter what you do for a living, I bet I can describe your day: Rush in, fire up the computer, check your schedule for the day’s tasks; have a meeting or two; get rolling on the stuff that’s piled up since you last left. Grab a quick lunch. Maybe read some back stuff that’s been untouched for a while. Back to work.

Suddenly it’s over and you’re joining the commute back home.

Any dream time in there? Not likely.

The result is that you’re a kind of drone, spending all your time on tasks, instead of creating or thinking. This has always been a problem with industrial society, but it’s become even bigger in the modern world with all its gadgets that can occupy your time.

But if you want to grow as a person, a business operator, or in your career, you’ll need to take some time each day and spend it dreaming.

Ideation, problem solving, thinking, mulling — dreaming — is what your job is really all about. It’s the strategy part of your life: The rest is mostly just implementation and follow through.

Here are several tools to use when you want to build dream time into your daily life:

Self hypnosis: This isn’t the stuff of stage shows. It’s really just extreme relaxation — a flow state, or “being in the zone” that allows the subconscious mind to go to work, usually in a very visual way that’s almost like a movie running in your head. But instead of simply watching the movie, you can be the director, using it to address a specific problem or subject. In self hypnosis, you carry on a conversation with your subconcious, which is always working, whether you realize it or not. Often this subconscious is a kind of mental avatar that helps you work out a solution to a problem, or simply lets you be creative. If you decide to try this, it’s best to be hypnotized first by a professional so you can get into a hypnotic state quickly.

Meditation: Many people like this, especially now that yoga’s popular again. Meditation is in a sense the opposite of self-hypnosis in that it lets you “empty your mind” so that thoughts can just bubble up to the surface. You’ll never completely empty your mind, of course, because the mind doesn’t like to be empty: it’s wired to solve problems, so will immediately work on anything that’s bothering you. But meditation allows those thoughts to rise to the surface and often dissipate. It’s a way of clearing the mind of negatives or clutter.

Exercise: Many people pick a time during the day when they can run, walk, work out, or whatever they do for exercise. But not many convert it to dream time. It’s suited to it though, because in most exercise you are going through repetitive actions that don’t require thought, which frees up your mind for other things. I’ve known several poets, writers, and others who do their best work when they’re exercising: all have shared one thing. They direct their mind to a specific task. So stop watching others while you’re working out, and start dreaming.

Creativity techniques. There are many creative thinking techniques that can be employed if you simply let yourself use them in quiet moments, or dreamtimes. To do so, you have to put yourself in a creative state: calm, uninterrupted, and open minded. This is what the athletes call in the zone, or what cognition experts call a state of flow.

The main thing with any of these methods is consistency. It’s difficult to dream at first because you’re not used to it, but like any muscle, the brain responds much faster if it’s used regularly. So, yes you’re probably busy, but you have to keep using your dreaming muscles if they’re going to work optimally.

You’ll find after a while that it responds quite rapidly when you’re ready for your dream time.