In the film Lucy, Scarlett Johansson’s character gains supernatural powers as a result of being able to use nearly all of her brain’s capacity. That may just be a slice of science fiction at its finest, but the truth is the human mind is in fact more capable than what we regularly use it for.
The geniuses that have changed our world have the ability to use whole-brain thinking, which involves the use of logical left-brain thinking in concert with their creative right mind. While not everyone has the capacity to become a genius, every human has the ability to unlock powerful (and creative) thought processes, through brain exercises they can do alone and in groups.
Creativity is the use of imagination to generate original ideas. The right-brain is a pivotal contributing factor of creativity. Some people are naturally inclined toward creativity for a number or reasons. Creative people were likely faced with creative-boosting scenarios early in life including:
And although there are people in the world who are more creatively inclined, we all have the power to unlock our right-brain and make it work in conjunction with our left-brain. If we do that, we can, in fact, trigger creativity.
Creativity occurs when a person goes against his or her own expectations. Take, for example the following joke:
A Frenchman walks into a bar with a duck on his head. The bartender asks: ‘Where’d you get that?’ The duck responds: ‘In Paris. They’ve got millions of them.’
The pun is the opposite of what we’d expect, which is why it works as a joke. The same goes for creativity. In order to come up with original ideas that drive innovation, you need to go against the grain and fight the status quo.
These exercises can help:
This exercise can be performed alone, and can be repeated over and over again with new words.
Begin by writing a word (any word, so long as it’s handwritten). Examine the word carefully. Then write the word while looking in a mirror. Then write the word upside down. Continue this order of writing until the process becomes easy from start to end.
Why it works
Writing is ingrained in our lives from an early age. We’re taught an A is an A, and so on down the line. Writing is as much muscle memory as it is communication, to the point where we can write sentences without truly focusing on what we’re writing.
By changing the way we write, we’re forcing our brains to take notice. We’re rewiring the act of written communication, which is a good precursor for rewiring how we approach any other obstacle we’re trying to solve innovatively. It won’t be easy at first, which is why you have to stick to it. But if and when you master it, you’re creating the foundation for persistent creative thinking that’s engaged.
This is another exercise you can do on your own (although by the time you’re done, you may not feel that you’re on your own).
Start off by using your right hand (regardless of if you’re left-handed or right-handed) and writing “It’s a nice day today, isn’t it?” on a piece of paper. Now switch hands and answer the question. Go back and forth having a conversation between both hands (neatness does not matter here at all).
Why it works
Your left-brain controls assessment of feelings and offers logical solutions to problems, while your right-brain is more free-spirited. When you write with your right hand, your left-brain is primarily in use, so logic is at play. When using your left hand to write, people often write down what feels right, or what inspires them to write.
This conversation between your two hemispheres will help you to develop new and improved solutions to problems and will improve the communication between both sides of your brain.
This is a great exercise to do with groups of people of any age. It was developed by Bob McKim, but popularized by Tim Brown’s 2008 TEDTalk: Tales of creativity and play.
What you’ll need is a sheet of paper with 30 circles (use a template if possible), a pencil and 3 minutes.
Each participant has a writing utensil and a piece of paper with 30 circles drawn on them. When the timer starts, they have 3 minutes to fill in as many of the 30 circles as they can, with the goal being quantity, not quality. Drawings can be of patterns, doodles, shapes, animals, words, and nearly anything else, as can be the use of more than one circle for a drawing.
The key is to not give any suggestions as to what to draw. You should encourage your participants to draw anything and everything they can imagine within the 3-minute period.
Following the exercise, debrief and reflect on the exercise. If one person has a page with pumpkins, ask if anyone else drew pumpkins. Try to find commonalities, and encourage your participants to collaborate to discuss who came up with the most unique design.
Why it works
This serves as a great icebreaker for any group activity, but it also introduces a common starting point (the circles) from which your group can unleash their creative ideas. Individually they may come up with innovative concepts; however, by collaborating afterwards they may discover newfound inspiration. This is the type of process you want to occur in your brainstorming sessions as well.
Many of the exercises mentioned above are designed to unite the two hemispheres of your brain, so that you can unlock creativity like never before. But they also force you to look at things with a new perspective, which is key to creativity. Conventional thought does not drive innovation, and doesn’t deliver the ideas that change the world. Only when we think outside the proverbial box can we truly tap into the limitless potential of our minds.