Tag Archives: emotional intelligence

The Brain: Our Creative Powerhouse

Our brain is an amazing organ.

Located in our skull, at the top of our body, this relatively small structure is our own central processing unit (CPU).  Much more intricate and infinitely more powerful than any computer, our brain works silently 24 hours-a-day, 365/366 days-a-year, from before we are born until we die, controlling organ function, thought, emotions, movement, hormone levels … the list goes on.

To help put its complexity into context, there are estimated to be more connections/junctions in our brain than there are stars in the universe; that is more than 100 billion!

But even with our extensive knowledge and intense research efforts, many areas of the brain remain a mystery.  From what we do know and without getting into too much detail, our brain is divided into different anatomical areas with different structures and functions.  A significant part is dedicated to the processing of information fed in by nerves connected to our senses (e.g., touch, sight, smell & hearing), through the detection of changes in levels of hormones and other ‘body chemicals’.  Interaction of the different areas provides our thoughts, deductions, analyses, feeling and emotions.

And different areas provide specific types of thoughts and responses: emotional; rational; sexual.

It follows that what we feed into our brain influences what we get out.  Benefits of a healthy diet, exercise regimens and work/rest balance have all been demonstrated to one degree or another.  The way in which we ‘train’ our brain influences how much information we retain, how we process the information we receive and how we arrive at the conclusions we draw.  Our life experiences also greatly influence how we process information.  All of these factors add up to a very complex series of interactions and influences.

One thing we know is that the brain responds well and adapts, even changes when we repeat actions (we call this practice).  New skills are learnt, information retained and brain processes modified.  Think of learning a new skill … very rarely do we start off an expert.  Athletes train their bodies and brains for the physical and mental battles on the track and field.  Musicians train their fingers, hands, feet and minds as they master tunes and rhythms, read music and improve dexterity.  Actors learn their parts through the repetition of words and actions.

And in our school and colleges, we repeatedly stimulate our logical, deductive faculties through repetition and the exercising of our ‘left brain’.

But if we wish to be creative it is important that we understand the need to exercise our whole brain.  The right side is important in engaging our emotions, non-logical or deductive thinking and artistic skills.  When we hook this up with our logical thinking, we arrive at creativity.

Creativity is not a gift of the few it is a talent we ALL possess.  Neither is creativity something that just happens.  Just like any other skill, we need to work at it, exercising the different faculties of our mind and intelligence, honing the skills that make creativity part of our life.

Whatever area of life we find ourselves in, creativity has a place and application.  In one of my earlier articles, 5 Simple Steps to Creative Thinking and Idea Generation, I listed some time-proven steps which help us to train our brains to think creatively and come up with new ideas.  These steps were identified by a master of the advertising industry from the 1940’s, but they are equally applicable today across a broad range of disciplines.

Our brain IS an amazing organ and the potential IS almost infinite.  How we tap into that potential often lies with the way in which engage our faculties, however good or bad we think they are.  When we engage these effectively, we are repeatedly amazed by our own creative potential.

So let’s learn how to use our whole brain, our whole intelligence, rather than just our intellect, and benefit ourselves and others from the creativity that emerges.

Creativity: The Other Global Crisis

Perhaps one of the most eloquent and engaging speakers I have heard is Sir Ken Robinson. he has this style which instantly puts one at ease whilst totally drawing us in to what he has to say. If you want an example, pour yourself a coffee and Watch Ken Robinson Talk to see him in action (opens in a new window … use the ‘Close Window’ button after viewing).

In one of his more recent appearances he continued to present some uncomfortable facts which will impact us all unless things change. Here is a sample of out-takes from his talk. Full article here (opens in a new window).

  • The world is facing a crisis of human resources … “I believe that fundamentally we have both underestimated and continue to misuse – if not actually abuse – many of our most important talents; our talents, our children’s talents, and the talents of the people who work with us. And unless we fix [this crisis], I feel we’re not going to make much progress fixing the other one.”
  • Both crises are the result of our “industrial mindset,” which is incompatible with modern society and modern business. Both manifest themselves in terms of imbalances. In the natural world it is the imbalance of gases in our atmosphere, although human activity is also disrupting many other ecosystems. In society we have legions of people dislocated from their own talents, legions of people suffering from all kinds of anxiety, legions of people in dysfunctional communities. And there is an enormous cost of handling this.
  • In California (Robinson’s new home town) spends $3.5bn a year on the state university system; it spends $9.9bn on the state prison system. Similar figures exist for other Western countries, as well as other US states. The UK spends millions of pounds a year on remedial education, to try to get kids through a system which many of them are bucking against. And we spend millions of pounds a year on career counselling, because people have not found their way.
  • The result for educators, employers and HR professionals is that it is vital to have an understanding of “the ecology of human resources.
  • As a society, we must improve our understanding of human capabilities. We believe mistakenly that creativity and intelligence vary in inverse proportion to one another. The things we take for granted as being true are the real problem; the enemy of making the best of ourselves is common sense.
  • Thankfully creativity is not dead but merely latent, in most adults.
  • Work by Land and Jarman showed that in a smaple of 1,500 children aged 3-5, 98% ranked as “geniuses” in divergent thinking. In children aged between 8 and 10 years the figure fell to just 32% and by the time children had reached between 13 and 15 years it had declined further to a mere 10%. In other words, children become less creative as they grow older. What coincides with this period of development, aside from hormonal changes and socialisation, is that they enter formal education where they have learnt a) there is one answer to every question, b) don’t look, because that’s cheating and c) don’t copy from anybody else, because that’s cheating too … even though outside of school we call this collaboration.
  • This mindset goes well beyond school and college. Land and Jarman also performed a control test of two-thousand adults (aged 25+) where only 2% ranked as geniuses. We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it, because of the ways in which we become institutionalised and socialised. Education is a big piece of this, but work is an even bigger piece.
  • Creativity is most frequently associated, in the workplace, with innovation but it is equally important in helping society cope with, and harness, technological advances. No matter what we do or where we do it, technology is going to swamp us: new information systems are going to subvert all the things we take for granted.
  • The over-25s think we’re OK, but we’re not that great. We have learnt digital technology like a second language, so we kind of speak phrasebook digital compared with our children. IT systems are becoming more and more pervasive, but they’re not fundamentally avoiding the powerful need for better and better use of human resources. To the contrary. Human resource is the only way we can engage with these things properly … and at this moment we are locked into an industrial mindset about our own capabilities.
  • Business people can help to nurture creativity and imagination by thinking of organisations as organisms rather than organisations A better metaphor is from agriculture. A farmer can’t make a plant grow. A plant grows itself. A good farmer provides the conditions for growth. And a great plant doesn’t just grow from the top, it grows everywhere simultaneously, as do healthy organisations, which have a reciprocating relationship among the parts.
  • There is a huge difference between a creative team and a committee: great creative teams require real expertise among managers and leaders to work. It’s a skill-set that we need to be teaching managers and leaders.
  • Great teams, large or small, are deliberately diverse: they have people from different backgrounds, experiences, ages and responsibilities in the organisation. The processes employed by these teams ensure that their diversity is not an impediment but a resource.
    The best senior managers are those who are not afraid to let teams congregate for specific tasks and then disband, to form other teams as necessary, perhaps one of the best ways to spread cultural information around the organisation.
  • It is essential to create the right habitat, in terms of culture and environment. Anyone who is serious about making more of people must be serious about the environment in which they work. And not just the colour of the walls: innovative organisations have a rigorous approach to questioning algorithms of behaviour and changing the environment as need be.
    Challenging stuff.

What I think is obvious is that we have a long way to go. BUT we need to make a start, no matter how small to change the inertia of creative decline. and just perhaps some of our organisations and social structures will be rebuilt into healthy living cultures.

Until next time …

My Zimbio

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