Want To Be More Creative? Here’s a Plan That Really Works

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Photo by tanialee gonzalez on Unsplash

“It is my belief, you see, that thinking is a double phenomenon like breathing.” – Asimov

If you have watched the classic television series House, you’ll find that every medical mystery is solved in the most unusual of moments. Without fail, House’s uncanny ability to problem solve kicks in while he sits in the hospital cafeteria, is mid-sentence while talking to a team member or when he doesn’t outwardly appear to be focusing on the problem on deck.

It is very intriguing to watch.

But, we shouldn’t be surprised as to why this happens.

You see, our brains function in curious ways.

Your Brain Revealed
In the classic essay The Eureka Phenomena  (1971), Issac Asimov explores why these moments of inspiration occur when we least expect them. Asimov’s theory is quite simple, posing the notion that thought includes both voluntary and involuntary components. Moreover, opportunities for both types of thought must be present to become highly effective. Essentially, we can be thinking about one thing on the surface, yet ruminating on another topic below — the involuntary part of the equation.

The Eureka Phenomena sheds an interesting light on how we might become more effective in the workplace. As we all have experienced, if you are focusing too long and too intently on one topic or issue, you can be unsuccessful. Asimov would say that involuntary thought was not allowed to flourish and that contributed to the failure.

He recollects that when he was in the midst of a problem he could not solve, he shifted his focus and “shuffled” off to the movies. This action ultimately, allowed him to work through his challenge. He also tells the story of Archimedes — and how a visit to the public baths helped him to discover the concept of volume.

Of course, you may find that taking a walk or baking does the trick, but the process is of no less importance. You must give your brain the “down time” it needs to succeed.

Office Life and Involuntary Thought
There are millions of individuals who have the responsibility to process information concerning people, places and things for a living. Many attempt to accomplish this in an office environment. Of course, working in a traditional office does have merit. There are opportunities for collaboration and serendipity — yet obstacles to productivity abound. As discussed by Jason Fried in his classic Ted Talk, many aspects of office life (such as interruptions), can prove to be huge offenders, curtailing deep, meaningful thought.

During the course of a typical office work day, an individual may complete a multitude of activities and appear outwardly productive. However their brain power may not be maximized, as there are few opportunities to rest, reflect and digest information.

The Eureka Phenomena Applied
You must remember that while thought doesn’t require physical output, your brain is still hard at work. So, while you may not perceive that you are fatigued, your brain may actually be exhausted. As studies have shown, allowing the brain time to rest is critical. In this way, the brain finds the fuel it needs, so that energy can be funneled to the involuntary mechanisms that promote deeper thought. If we can learn anything from Asimov — it is that the brain cannot be bullied into becoming effective. It must be respected and nurtured.

Be mindful to offer your mind a bit of rest and identify those activities which help your brain relax and build them into your day.

Ultimately — don’t feel guilty if you feel the need to “shuffle off” to the movies. Your brain will thank you.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

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Need a Workplace Gift? We’ve Got a Few Classic Ideas

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Photo by Kari Shea @unsplash

‘Tis the season of indecision. More specifically, the season of doubt concerning what to give your valued contacts and colleagues for the holidays. How often have you thought of someone you would like to thank — yet didn’t muster the motivation to follow through and actually find the right gift.

Sure, there is Oprah’s list. However, its contents are not always office friendly.

Well, we’ve been thinking about this holiday problem — and we are going a bit retro. We’ve settled on a few classic ideas which are not only nifty gifts, but are likely to be used.

Here we go.

The Coffee Table Book.
I received Ocean Worlds, by Jacque Cousteau as a holiday gift from my first employer. (All 160 of us received the same book. This was an anticipated yearly tradition.) The books still sit on my coffee table — offering hours of enjoyment. A suggestion is below, but you can also check out our running Book List for other worthy reads. (Click on the photo for more information*)

The Classic Notebook.
Ah… the notebook! Somehow when a notebook presents itself, it unequivocally calls out to our creative side. Offering one as a thoughtful gift, shares the promise of new ideas and keen observations. Da Vinci couldn’t have been wrong, and we are following suite. The variety of choices are endless. We’ve chosen a couple of options below.

Rhodia Lined Notebook* – 5.5 x 8.5 – Fountain-pen friendly. (Click on the photo for more information.)

Find this option from Etsy by clicking here.

NotebookEtsy

The Not So Classic Pen.
Sooner or later you have to ditch the keyboard and actually hand write. These roller ball versions from Anthropoligie seemed a stylish alternative and made our wish list!
Find them here.

RollerBallPen

The Business Card Case.
We can’t count the number of times we’ve frantically searched for a business card. Enough said. Find these by Yarrow here:
Businesscardcase

The Gift of Organization.
It’s a Weekly Desk Planner — with 52 handy tear-off sheets. It’s just great!
(Click on the photo for more information*)

Yes, Oprah.
Ok, we aren’t daft. Here are a couple of office-friendly choices from Oprah’s list.
(Click on the photos for more information*)

Chai Tea Private Reserve Sampler. Relaxing during the holidays is priority for everyone — and everyone has time for a warm drink.

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Sauce Bucket. 5 Jars. A bucket. Who doesn’t grill? There’s your answer.

Let us know how they solve your gift-giving dilemmas. If you have more suggestions, please leave them in comments.

Live.Work.Think.Play shares observations concerning a wide array of topics. It is designed to share lessons learned from a variety of perspectives.

*LiveWorkThinkPlaycom is an affiliate of both Amazon & Awin — Etsy’s linking partner. That means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we receive a small commission. We only recommend products that we believe bring value to our readers.

Granting the Freedom to Create

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Most organizations would like to innovate or disrupt. However, it is the culture that needs to be re-aligned, not the employees.

If you unleash competent individuals on a new task, you must offer more than a timeline to foster creativity. Few people will take a risk (and waste your time and theirs) if they aren’t first offered the freedom to explore that proverbial limb.

Instead, they will likely transfer what has worked successfully for other tasks to your project. If real change is desired — offer a reprieve from the fear of risk and/or possible failure. Be upfront. Communicate that the risks have been acknowledged.

Lend them the freedom to create.

If you truly want to see something new, take of the handcuffs and offer permission to explore.

When you say “Give it your best shot.” — mean it.

Read more about it:

Please note: I’m sharing more frequently — 30 Thoughts for 30 Days!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Seeing Ourselves in Context

Myopia

One of the most challenging thing to do is to see ourselves (and our actions) in context. This is particularly difficult when we work within an established organization. We can become distracted from our mission by so many long-standing biases, including “the way it’s always done”.

When organizations reach an impasse, functions often express that they cannot work together. To be certain, there is myopia operating. Groups are too close to their own work to see how they affect others. Or they simply don’t have the time or inclination to examine what might really be happening.

The art of blame is mastered — however they haven’t considered the larger picture. We cannot fully understand things until we back off and see things from another perspective.

We often think of clients or customers, but rarely think of how we affect our peers. Most of us do not fully understand the demands placed on those in roles that touch our own.

If we took the time to do this — we might see our own actions in context.

Silos hurt all of us.

It’s a start in the right direction.

Great things can follow.

Read more about it:

Please note: I’m sharing more frequently — 30 Thoughts for 30 Days!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

The Everyday Guide: Personal Branding in a Noisy World

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We all possess some form of a personal brand, whether or not it is actively constructed. If you desire to be noticed for the right reasons — that brand must be clear and concise. If it is muddled, you might be lost in the shuffle.

That brand can also be stretched beyond recognition. You may not even recognize it.

(It’s a noisy world out there.)

When people consider you (or your work) it conjures up a certain “gestalt”. While you may think your brand is clearly written in your resume or LinkedIn profile, much is invisible. It is what you do, share and say everyday.

However, it is vital to be noticed and understood. It is devastating to be misunderstood. (I’ve personally experienced this.) What you stand for as a friend. As a colleague. The type of work you envision. The roles you are aiming for. What you wish to accomplish. As, Tom Peters declared in his now classic article — we each must accept the indisputable existence of the personal brand.

It follows that building this brand requires thought — and action — and more thought.

That must begin with you.

You are person 0.

If you could conjure the ideal personal brand that represents you in the future — what would others say? How might that compare to what others would say in this moment?

You have an opportunity to impact that brand. To choose its components and even utilize it as a compass for your career. To delineate the value you bring and to decide the channels that broadcast value.

However, you must first build self-awareness.

You must ask the question again (and keep on asking).

Who are you?

Please note: I’m sharing more frequently — 30 Thoughts for 30 Days!

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Read more about branding here:


Find Your Audience

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Social media is a great tool.

It is quick and nimble.

However, it can never take the place of carefully considering your audience. If we share a message and it gains no traction — we not only have to examine our content, but who it might be reaching. The conversation could be right. It’s the listeners that are all wrong.

Personal branding can also prove useful.

There is ground to be gained by refining our image, resume or developing our personal “pitch”. However, if no one is responding — we have to wonder who is really noticing that crafted presentation. We have to examine where our efforts are landing. To whom are we speaking? Under whose umbrella do we fall? Who needs to hear us?

If we have no audience, no takers — we haven’t shifted a single mindset.

We are just talking into thin air.

With all the hard work that goes into developing our message, a product, a white paper — the effort deserves an audience.

Take another look around. (Whether you aim to affect a school, your workplace or a project’s direction.) When someone truly responds to your message, who are they? Their challenges? Goals? What are you affecting?

Your audience wants to be discovered.

Be sure to find them.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.

Being a Mentor is About Seeing Yourself as a Mentor

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Please note: While the opinions below are my own, I was compensated by Johnson & Johnson for this post.

In the United States more than 50% of the work force is women. Yet, less than 15% hold corporate board seats within global companies. Organizations that embrace women on their boards enjoy a number of potential advantages, including financial performance and problem-solving capabilities. However, the numbers remain dismally low.

It is clear that we are missing something vital — an unsung element that could possibly help more women reach their potential.

One such element that may be vastly underutilized is mentoring.

Without mentors, meeting our potential can elude us. We might fail to build the mastery and confidence we need, or envision our own potential. While there is ample research to back up the merits of mentoring, we need to pause and reflect on the topic.

Why are so many women seeking mentors — yet cannot find them?

It is time to pause and openly discuss this question.

One great example of elevating the mentorship conversation is Johnson & Johnson.

At Johnson & Johnson, they have a steadfast commitment to the role of mentoring in women’s careers — as they are committed to igniting the power of women to create a healthier tomorrow.  More mentors are stepping forward. Two ideas are central to this initiative. Firstly, mentoring is a valid tool to increase the number of women in management (at Johnson & Johnson this is 43% in the U.S.). Secondly, reaching out to young women in their formative years is critical. Through Johnson & Johnson’s mentorship partnership with Girls Inc., women executives are being paired with high school students who would like to make an impact within their own communities.

Why are mentors so scarce? While we often offer support to initiatives that seem worthy, our directed energy may not fully match our commitment. Not because we do not believe in what we are supporting, but because we are unsure how to move forward.

Check out their video, “Igniting the Power of Women & Girls Through Mentorship,” here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NKs-IMDDL0.

Why are mentors so scarce? While we often offer support to initiatives that seem worthy, our directed energy may not fully match our commitment. Not because we do not believe in what we are supporting, but because we are unsure how to move forward.

Becoming a mentor can feel like a daunting task. However, it doesn’t need to be. We can all do more.

The bottom line is this: We hesitate to step forward and mentor women. Yet, mentoring relationships can alter someone’s life and career — serving as a loud, positive internal voice in an often noisy environment.

Strong, empowered women are raised by many.

Addressing the reasons behind our hesitation is vital. Research has pointed to the reluctance concerning time commitments and concerns about appropriate expertise. We need to collectively move past these thresholds. Move beyond our fear of a misstep, when we can do so much that is right.

Let’s pose a collective challenge.

Mentor another woman — a young girl, a student. A less established co-worker. Another woman’s daughter. Your niece. Your neighbor.

Someone who might truly benefit from your knowledge and experience.

A few things to consider:

  • You may not see yourself as a mentor — but you do have that capability. Every time a contributor reaches out to you, it is a signal. A signal that you may be viewed as a mentor. Explore the following questions: How can I help or support this individual today? Is there something I have learned in my journey that may help another woman evolve positively? To help them grow?
  • Mentoring is about small steps. We tend to think of mentoring as an overwhelming, grand commitment. However, it takes a community of people to build a strong career. Small moments can matter. They sum to a notably stronger foundation on which to build a career.
  • Be honest about your own journey. Although it may not feel entirely comfortable, reflect on the moments where you needed guidance and received it (or did not). Use these moments as a guide to help others.
  • Consider sponsorship as well. If you remain hesitant to make the mentorship commitment, consider sponsorship as an alternative. Shine the spotlight on another’s work. Make an introduction. Encourage productive collaboration. Help build stronger networks of expertise.

We do not need justification to nurture another’s talent or recognize a job well done.

Mentoring is about seeing ourselves in a supportive role.

It is about being generous.

Sharing what you know.

Supporting the same inflection points, where you may have needed a boost.

It is about building someone up.

Helping someone see their own potential.

Mentoring is the right dynamic.

You are perfect for the role.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She is a charter member of the LinkedIn Influencer Program. Her thoughts on work life have appeared in various outlets including Talent Zoo, Forbes, Quartz and The Huffington Post.