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Posts tagged as: Brainstorm

By Ashely Goldberg

“One must have the liberty to fail… because without being able to try and experiment and fool around and tinker, you’re not going to be able to bring the elements of your influence to a new place.” – Joy Garnett

Brainstorming – that unpredictable, sometimes elusive way in which we conjure up ideas that occasionally grow into brilliant concepts. You’d think by now we’d have a tried and true formula, considering all the time we’ve spent in brainstorming sessions. But it seems to be anything but an exact science and really more about a subtle chemistry.

Have you ever wondered why the same group of people can have a wildly successful brainstorming session one day and a complete dud the next? While both groups generate a list of ideas, the creativity, uniqueness and quality of thinking is most likely very different. While there are countless factors that come into play, the magnetism or chemistry of the group is one that’s often overlooked.

Creative minds can come together with the best of intentions, but if the general feeling or mood is off within the group, you’re probably headed for 90 dismal minutes of just going through the motions. In hopes of creating more inspired, in-the-moment brainstorming sessions, here are a few tips to better encourage and maintain a fresh flow of creative thinking.

Initial Brainstorming Do’s and Dont’s:

  • Don’t hate: no sighing,  interrupting, or eye-rolling; if people are too afraid of saying something dumb, it’s pointless.
  • Suspend judgement: at this point, all ideas have value and are potentially good.
  • Can’t criticize and create at the same time: instead of instantly evaluating someone’s idea, let one idea give rise to another.
  • Drop preconceptions: work hard to see the problem with fresh eyes; think beyond what is known or thought to be known.
  • Encourage the absurd: effective solutions often emerge from silly, impractical places; a random thought can inspire something all together new.
  • Create an open atmosphere: encouraging others with attentive listening, smiles, etc.; a lack of freedom and openness inhibits discovery.
  • Promote a collaborative culture: one of mutual respect and teamwork; without ego or one upping.
  • Set a fun, relaxed tone: if the weather’s gorgeous, go to the park; bring art supplies, snacks or music; make it more of a hang out, less of a meeting.
  • Cultivate genuine enthusiasm: if you want to be there so will your ideas.
(illustration by Ashley Goldberg)

Lateralization [lat′əral′īzā′shən] is defined as the tendency for certain processes to be more highly developed on one side of the brain than the other, such as development of spatial and musical thoughts in the right hemisphere and verbal and logical processes in the left hemisphere in most persons.

I came across an article with a really interesting animated .gif that supposedly can show you your hemispheric dominance.  It also breaks down what functions of each side of your brain.

Around the office, some people saw it going clock-wise and others saw it going counter clockwise.  One of my coworkers said it was going both directions?  I can’t see it going any other direction but clockwise. Weird.

The Right Brain vs Left Brain |

Here is a review of some of the processes of each hemisphere:

Left Brain Functions

  • Analytic Though
  • Logic
  • Language
  • Science & Math
  • Rationality
  • Objectivity
  • Reality-based
  • Small Picture (Details)
  • IQ
  • Processing Information
  • Conscious Actions

Right Brain Functions

  • Thought
  • Intuition
  • Creativity
  • Art & Music
  • Risk-taking
  • Impetuous
  • Fantasy-based
  • Big Picture
  • Large Motor Control
  • Sense of Taste/Smell
  • Social Skills
  • Spatial Awareness

I usually hate surveys, but I thought this one was pretty interesting. I found this on the Art Institute of Vancouver’s website.  Not only does it attempt to figure out your hemispheric dominance, it also gives pretty telling descriptions of your strengths and weaknesses.  I recommend you try this for yourself, that way you can figure out if you are more of a “right-brained” or “left-brained” person.

Right Brain vs Left Brain Creativity Test at The Art Institute of Vancouver

Why is this important?

“Synaptic Pruning”  As we gain new experiences, some connections are strengthened in our brain, while others are eliminated.  Neurons that are used frequently develop stronger connections and those that are rarely used eventually perish.  This may be the cause of our hemispheric imbalance.  “The mental patterns that get the most attention get stronger and more persistent.  As you get older they become more ingrained, habitual, and fixed, and you become more and more of the same…  Craig Ramey of the University of Alabama states that the brain and education are synonymous.  Children acquire new skills by rehearsing again and again until they do it automatically.  We need to practice regularly, or else we lose them.”

With proper practice and exercise, we can rebuild all those neurons that we lost as we became more comfortable in our everyday way of thinking. This process of regrowing our brain is referred to as brain plasticity. “Brain plasticity refers to the capacity of the nervous system to change its structure and, its function over a lifetime, in reaction to environmental diversity.”

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Brain Plasticity, Cognition & Neurogenesis

So if the Art Institute of Vancouver’s Creativity Test, shows a stark imbalance between your right and left brain, then you might want to think about getting a membership at your local brain gym for a mental workout (if they even exist yet).  Maybe you could research some acivities that exercise certain parts of your brain!  I recommend Betty Edwards, “The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” This book contains a bunch of different activities that will help you exercise your right hemisphere. Some activities include drawing an upside-down image and drawing without looking at your paper.  The book does a great job explaining how exactly these activities are stimulating your mind.  Maybe with some practice, you can achieve a 50/50 balance between your right and left brain; therefore, you will be equally logical and equally creative. Or maybe, if you are daring enough, you could focus on exercising one hemisphere of your brain.  You could be like one of those guys at the gym with the huge arms and upper-body, but with really skinny, weak legs.  It’s all up to you.