Category Archives: Brainstorming and Creativity

Blue for creativity, red for attention to detail: study shows effect of colors on brain

Colors influence our ability to be creative or attentiveAccording to a study conducted by Juliet Zhu, professor of marketing at the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business, colors can affect the brain, influencing our ability to attend to details or generate ideas. The study indicates that red increases attentiveness, and blue promotes creativity and brainstorming.

Remember that the next time you redecorate your mediation office.

A negotiator walks into a bar: a joke teaches a lesson on problem solving

Are your best ideas going down the drain?

A friend recently sent me the following joke:

During a visit to a mental asylum, a visitor asked the director how to determine whether or not a patient should be institutionalised. “Well,” said the director, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient, and ask him to empty the bathtub.” “

Oh, I see,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No,” said the director, “a normal person would pull out the plug. Do you want the bed near the window?”

What I love about the joke — apart from the fact that it’s actually clean and therefore suitable to repeat in the presence of clients — is how neatly it illustrates an all too common problem: sometimes, when we are presented with several options, they may blind us to other choices — including the simplest and most sensible one.

When you’re looking for solutions or preparing to negotiate, are good ideas going down the drain?

Daydreams lead to creativity, productive problem solving, contrary to popular belief

Daydreaming a surprisingly productive way to solve problems, get more creative

…proper daydreaming – the kind of thinking that occurs when the mind is thinking to itself – is a crucial feature of the healthy human brain. It might seem as though our mind is empty, but the mind is never empty: it’s always bubbling over with ideas and connections.

So writes Jonah Lehrer in “Daydream achiever: A wandering mind can do important work, scientists are learning – and may even be essential“, an article in today’s Boston Globe “Ideas” section.  Lehrer is the author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist, a book that explores the workings of the human brain by examining the ways in which creative minds — poets, artists, and others —  anticipated scientific breakthroughs through their work.

Lehrer describes the discoveries about the role daydreaming can play in creative problem solving.

Many scientists argue that daydreaming is a crucial tool for creativity, a thought process that allows the brain to make new associations and connections.

This holds implications for negotiators and mediators alike. It leaves me wondering how we can encourage our clients or ourselves to utilize this underappreciated tool. Daydreaming may be just what we need when we face impasse or consider our future.

As Lehrer writes,

One of the simplest ways to foster creativity, then, may be to take daydreams more seriously. Even the mundane daydreams that occur hundreds of times a day are helping us plan for the future, interact with others, and solidify our own sense of self. And when we are stuck on a particularly difficult problem, a good daydream isn’t just an escape – it may be the most productive thing we can do.

(Photo credit: Chris Hortsch.)

Free guide to facilitation offers smart pointers you can try at home – or at least at the office

Free guide to facilitation available for downloading

Sometimes I wonder how I lived without the internet, that seemingly endless flow of news and ideas, which, loaves-and-fishes style, miraculously replenishes itself with every visit.

While the quality of content can be uneven and its reliability sometimes suspect, the web is nonetheless a lush hunting ground for discerning information seekers. The best part of course is that so much of it is free.

Michelle Golden, who blogs at Golden Practices, has uncovered one of those gems that internet hunts can yield: a free guide to “Basic Facilitation Skills” (in PDF) available for downloading from the web site of the International Association of Facilitators.

This free 32-page booklet provides step-by-step guidelines for organizing and running productive meetings. There are sample forms to adapt for your own meeting, as well as tips for keeping meetings on track with suggested interventions for dealing with everything from personal attacks to sidebar discussions.

Liberate your creativity

liberate your creativitySince I began blogging over three years ago, one of the most delightful changes I have witnessed is the steadily increasing number of mediators who now share ideas, news, practice tips, and their best thinking through the medium of blogs. In fact, on any given day, a stroll through the ADR blogosphere is like attending a conference with none of the expense but much of the pleasure.

There are many mediation blogs I enjoy but one of my favorites is the French language blog, Réseau Médiation (Mediation Network). Published by Dominique Foucart, a Belgian mediator in family, civil, and commercial disputes, this blog stands out for its thoughtful and honest reflection on difficult issues in the mediation field and its attention to the discoveries in other professions that have special relevance to the work of mediators. It is well worth the time it takes me to read it with what remains to me of the French I learned in junior high and high school and the help of my trusty Larousse.

In a recent post, “Comment libérer votre créativité“, Dominique shared with his readers a link to an interview with three experts at Scientific American with advice on “How to Unleash Your Creativity” — ideas on tapping into and freeing up the creative powers of individuals and groups, adults and children.

It describes the four competencies necessary for creativity:

The first and most important competency is “capturing”—preserving new ideas as they occur to you and doing so without judging them. The second competency is called “challenging”—giving ourselves tough problems to solve. In tough situations, multiple behaviors compete with one another, and their interconnections create new behaviors and ideas. The third area is “broadening.” The more diverse your knowledge, the more interesting the interconnections—so you can boost your creativity simply by learning interesting new things. And the last competency is “surrounding,” which has to do with how you manage your physical and social environments. The more interesting and diverse the things and the people around you, the more interesting your own ideas become.

If you need some inspiration to revive your own creative processes, be sure to read this interview.

Raising questions: time to revive a lost art

Most important question in the worldTwo years ago I introduced readers to the web site ChangeThis, which I described as

a web site born of a radical and hopeful idealism: to virally transmit ideas through a culture medium of community, respect, and dialogue.

Recognizing that “the best discussions in science, medicine, business and politics have always been the civil ones”, ChangeThis publishes what it calls manifestos — proposals for change which serve as “a reasoned, rational call to action, supported by logic and facts”. The goal is to provide a forum for “the rational and thoughtful arguments that help people change their minds to a more productive point of view.” In the egalitarian spirit with which ChangeThis was founded, anyone is welcome to submit ideas for a manifesto.

This online experiment in changing minds has thrived, amassing in the past two years a considerable inventory of innovative thinking, and consequently I continue to stop by in search of ideas to invigorate my work.

On a recent visit to the site I was struck by the premise of a newly published manifesto, “Questionating“, by business consultant Corinne Miller. Miller celebrates the power of the question and its role in creativity and fresh thinking:

Questions have been the enablers of innovation for centuries. As Albert Einstein said, “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science”…

Questions use verbs and words that activate key areas of the brain that, in turn, increase the volume and variety of questions. The more questions, the more creativity and innovation. We like to say that questions open the innovation pipeline.

Despite the role of the question in stimulating discoveries and advancements, Miller observes that people seem to lose the willingness to ask questions as they grow older:

As we age, we disengage… from asking questions. Questions decrease as aging increases. Think about it. Why does the typical 5-year old ask about 65 questions a day, while the typical 40-something asks only about 6 questions a day? Why is it that the older we get, the fewer questions we ask? We’ve found that the most popular answers to this question have been: asking a question makes one look stupid; asking a question is a sign of weakness; and people think they know the answer so they don’t feel the need to ask.

What a sad state that we have created a business culture where asking questions is seen as a weakness. Shouldn’t it be the opposite, where not asking questions is a weakness?

How can we change this?

Indeed. How can we change this? What can any of us do to challenge the notion that asking questions displays weakness or even disrespect? What can we do to make it safe to ask questions of our institutions, of our leaders, of each other? Questions reflect, reveal, resolve; they shine light into the dark corners. Most importantly, questions give us the ability to see the world afresh. As Bertrand Russell once said, “In many affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”

Up my sleeve: body art reveals the inner life of lawyers

Lawyers with body art subject of new book Inked IncAt CKA Mediation Blog, Chris Annunziata asks, “What Is Appropriate Law Firm Attire Nowadays?

I would pose a far more interesting question: what might that attire be concealing?

We mediators are keepers of secrets. People trust us with sensitive information. We know their vulnerabilities, their self-doubt, their long-nursed wrongs, their secretly nurtured hopes. We have seen the hiding places of the human heart.

Yet it’s not only mediators to whom confidences are trusted. Designer and corporate lawyer David Kimelberg is the creator of Inked Inc., a photography project and book exploring the intersection of corporate and alternative culture, in which professionals roll up their sleeves and reveal the tattoos beneath the pinstripes.

An online gallery of photos of lawyers, doctors, and other professionals shows us images of these individuals in work clothes as well as of the body art they keep hidden from their colleagues. (There are, alas, no mediators, in case you were wondering.) It provides a candid look at individuals straddling the line between the professional and the personal, the corporate and the countercultural, as they proclaim their individuality in a conventional world.

Inked Inc. also provides an online social community.

So . . . inquiring minds want to know. What’ve you got up your sleeve?

Creativity and decision-making resources online at Air Force University

Great ideas online for creativity and decision makingYou wouldn’t expect that a military web site would be a great resource for the peace-loving conflict resolution crowd, but you’d be wrong.

Air Force University maintains on its web site one of the most comprehensive lists of creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making resources I think I’ve ever encountered. Find links to information on everything from emotional intelligence to creativity and innovation to fallacies in logic.

Happy browsing.

Two creative legal minds, two new conflict resolution blogs

Creative ideas from two legal bloggersTwo blogging attorneys, both inventive, smart, and insightful, have each announced the launch of new blogs:

Stephanie West Allen, best known for her work on Idealawg, a blog that reveals the artistry within the practice of law, has devised a new outlet for her creativity–Brains on Purpose, which will traverse the intersection between neuroscience and conflict resolution. She will be joined by research psychiatrist Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D. Knowing the thought-provoking content of Idealawg, I will look forward to discovering the fresh ideas that Stephanie and Jeffrey will be bringing their readers.

Meanwhile, Victoria Pynchon, who publishes Settle It Now Negotiation Blog, announces both a new blog and a new focus to her work as an ADR professional. She has joined forces with patent and antitrust arbitrator and mediator Les Weinstein; IP litigator and mediator, Michael Young; and international commercial and IP arbitrator and mediator, Eric Van Ginkel, to launch the IP ADR Blog, an intellectual property blog that examines the cutting edge of technological, commercial, and legal issues, from the perspective of seasoned dispute resolution professionals. This is a blog that likewise I will be following closely.

My best wishes to my friends Stephanie and Vickie–congratulations to you both!

Without facilitators and structure, brainstorming a waste of time, experts say

Best ideas come out of structured, well organized brainstorming sessions led by a facilitator who knows what they're doingAs anyone who has attended one knows, brainstorming sessions can be productive or they can be an utter mind-numbing waste of time. To prevent an organizational brainstorming session from degenerating into “coblabberation,” experts suggest that a skilled facilitator together with a well-designed process is the best way to get the most out of brainstorming, according to a recent article from the Wall Street Journal–something which mediators know from their own experience.

(Via Boing Boing.)