Coming up with your own solutions before checking up on Google or with experts can vastly improve your results, dispel worries, and increase your confidence in your own creative powers.
By relying on your own knowledge reservoir, your own subconscious mind, you might dig out nuggets no one else has found.
If you are lucky, you get to explore areas of the solution space (the set of all possible solutions) no one has looked at. Everyone else might have sniffed around in just one corner.1
Whether you are looking for a solution to a problem or want to write an article or blog post, I suggest you look inside yourself before you check up on solutions on the Internet.
I would go so far as to say, it is often (not always) best to not read anything before you have not described the challenge in writing and written about it yourself.
If you want to get your head around something, just start writing. That way, your writing comes from you and isn’t yet clouded by the most prominent public opinion or scientific expertise. Empty everything out.
The Road most Traveled
Many people, when trying to solve a problem, go right to Google and ask “How can I do such and such…” Continue reading →
Meditators are often advised to focus on a meditation object, and when they realize that their mind has started wandering, to just bring it back to the object of their meditation. The standard advice is not to follow any thoughts and emotions that may arise.
This, however, is often easier said than done. As soon as I am trying to quiet my mind, thoughts and reminders start coming from all directions.
Like a monkey of whom I have limited or no control, “my” mind bounces around, jumping from the cup of coffee I had before the meditation to yesterday’s cookies, and from there to the chat I had with a friend last night.
Quite appropriately so, they call it the “monkey mind.”
But is this monkey mind good or bad news? I have been contemplating this for quite a while and over time have come to appreciate it. Why? This state of mind can be used to harvest plenty of good ideas. I let the mind loose and it turns into a treasure trove of creativity.
How do I use meditation for creativity? How do I harvest ideas and gain insight?
Brutethink can help you to overcome a blank mind and unleash a river of ideas for any challenge or question you may have.
In a previous post, we introduced classical brainstorming as a technique to come up with new ideas. We posed a specific question, problem, or challenge and tried to list as many ideas as possible on how to solve this challenge. Usually this technique leads to more ideas than we can possibly implement.
Sometimes, however, our mind goes blank when faced with a question. At other times, even after having brainstormed on a challenge for quite some time, we are still not happy with our ideas. Somehow, we need some fresh sparks.
Brutethink in a Nutshell
In this post, I would like to introduce you to a simple yet highly effective creativity technique to overcome a blank mind and an empty sheet of paper. “They” call it Brutethink. In a nutshell, this is how Brutethink works:
As in brainstorming, start with a specific problem, question, or challenge.
Choose a random word or any other random stimulus (e.g., a photo) and think about its attributes. Write these attributes on a sheet of paper.
Concentrate on the random word and your challenge. Your mind will automatically create connections between the word and your challenge.
List all ideas that come to mind.
Support step 2 by going through the attributes one by one and asking yourself how they can help you to solve your problem.
A friend recently asked me, “How can I get more customers for my café restaurant?” This makes for a perfect example for Brutethink.
The challenge: How can I get more customers for my cafe?
We found “choirboy” as a random word.
So we have a choirboy and “How do I get more customers?”
Here is the list of attributes plus some of the ideas we came up with for our choirboy when focusing on his attributes and the challenge:
Ad in the local Expat forum
Engage with fans on my Facebook page
Distribute flyers with vouchers in town
Ten stamps, get one cappuccino free
Sings in a choir among peers
Cannot sing alone, needs other choir boys
Cooperate with other businesses
Flyer or name card exchange
Joint discount program
Link exchange with hotels
Music events, jam sessions
Post beautiful pictures
Present the food in more appealing ways
Create a menu with photos of dishes
Has a choir master, a leader
Choir sings every Sunday at church
Advertise outside the church
Weekly movie night
Reaches the hearts of many elderly people
Organ to amplify the sound
We diverted a bit from the order given above; that is, we thought about an attribute and right away asked ourselves, “How can this help us to get more customers?”
Depending on your mood and personal preference, you could first list all attributes and then start brainstorming or dive right into brainstorming after each attribute.
Questions to help you list attributes for a random word or other random stimulus
What are its characteristics?
What does it do?
What can we do with it?
Where is it used?
Where can you find a random word or other stimulus?
Take a dictionary and open it at an arbitrary page. Point your finger anywhere on the page (without looking).
Look around you. Pick whatever first catches your eye.
Draw a random photo out of a shoebox filled with photos.
Use a random word generator, such as http://creativitygames.net/random-word-generator/randomwords/3.
Random words that can be visualized work better than words describing abstract concepts.
In his book Thinkertoys, Michael Michalko offers a list of words, which he describes as “simple, visual, and connection-rich.”
Who invented Brutehink?
I learned about Brutethink in Michael Michalko’s excellent book Thinkertoys. According to his biography, Michael, as a U.S. Army officer, headed a team of NATO personnel and academics that was responsible for researching, collecting, and categorizing all known creativity techniques. Thinkertoys is a book full of creativity techniques, tricks, and small, entertaining puzzles.