I’ve just stolen your best idea!

Elizabeth Gilbert

“How come?” You might ask. “Is it even possible, simultaneously, but independently come to a pretty much same idea?”

It’s a tough question. Yet through history there are many evidences of multiple discoveries, especially in science, where researchers independently came to same conclusions and results. For example, the case of electromagnetism: Joseph Henry, lesser known American scientist and engineer, discovered the electromagnetic phenomenon of self-inductance. He also discovered mutual inductance, independently of Michael Faraday, but Faraday was the first to publish his results. In later years, two scientists did meet and collaborated but in the scientific world Faraday reaped all credits and praise.

Oxygen, chemical element was discovered independently by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, in Uppsala, in 1773 or earlier, and Joseph Priestley in Wiltshire – yet the Priestley took the credits since he managed to publish his work first. Antoine Lavoisier, a French chemist, also discovered oxygen in 1775, was the first to recognize it as an element, and coined its name “oxygen” – which comes from a Greek word – meaning “acid-former”.

But this kind of phenomena is not limited to scientific work only. In her newly published book, Elizabeth Gilbert shares her own experience – when two people come to pretty much same idea – even when it comes to writing a novel. She had an amazing story for a novel and she wanted to write it for years. During that time a lot of personal and family changes happened in her life and it simply kept her from completely devoting to writing. And all the time she struggled. One day she accidentally finds out that a friend of hers and a fellow writer, Ann Patchett, came to pretty much same idea about the novel (the plot and geographical location just resembled too much). Her friend manages to publish the story with noticeable success and at that particular moment she new that somehow it wasn’t ‘her novel’ and that idea simply found other and better conditions to flourish. She further notes:

The worst and most destructive conclusion I could’ve drawn was that Ann Patchett had stolen my idea. That would have been absurd, because Ann had never even heard of my idea…People convince themselves that they have been robbed, when they have not, in fact been robbed. Such thinking comes from scarcity  – from a belief that the world is a place of dearth and that there will never be enough of anything to go around.

And I completely agree with this point of view. We do live in the ocean of ideas. Especially in the Internet era we have almost limitless access to acquired knowledge and information resources. And every one of us is a fishermen. Each day, each minute we try to catch new ideas and make them work for us. But like with every fishing process:

  • are we patient enough to wait for the right catch?
  • is our ‘fishing rod’ strong enough to sustain even the biggest catch?
  • and do we have a developed plan what shall we do with our catch – if we are not fast enough it might just jump over the deck back to the sea!

In other words – even coming to a good idea is usually the easy part. But the conditions, our skills, our determination and devotion to a process will ultimately determine if our idea is going to fruition into something valuable or maybe somewhere, in the other part of the world, someone else has invested more energy, time and other resources to implement similar idea. Each idea has to be welcomed, nourished in such conditions that it has all that it needs to grow.

What I truly believe is that the idea cannot be stolen.  Actually that exact fear that we might not be the first is keeping us from our ‘best creative self’. What we can do is to try strategically to position ourselves and our idea and prepare in advance for the work ahead: along the way reexamine our objectives  – it will help us stay on the course with our creative project and make important decisions.

 

 

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3 tips to skyrocket your creativity at work

shaw

There are many ways how companies try to encourage creativity at work. Office furniture and desk organizations with thinking areas and “green zones” with fountains  aim to offer relaxing atmosphere for employees to jump-start their innovative thinking. But sometimes that’s not enough. You know those days when  you simply get stuck and nothing new comes out? You have a deadline and work just piles up and you don’t manage anything to finish?

Innovation is the building block of any business and as we nurture our bodies with food and drink we need to nurture our mind with adequate thought food. In order to awaken our hidden talents and bring forth our skills that can be beneficial both to us and our company, what our mind “consumes” can be of key importance for sparking our creativity.

These are three tips that can help your creative mind to work:

1.Get visual

Colors, shapes, perspective – can literally influence how you perceive your ideas and work. When feeling uninspired and discouraged, disrupt your thinking with some relaxing photos of different landscapes, displaying different colors, locations, architecture, cultures. For instance, exposure to both blue and green in the study performed by Ravi Mehta and Rui (Juliet) Zhu  has been shown to enhance performance on tasks that require generating new ideas. However, the color red has been linked with superior performance on tasks involving attention to detail.

2.Get verbal

In an intriguing book (What poetry brings to business – which also inspired this blog) Claire Morgan argues that language and different perspective on the value and purpose of language can boost surge of creative ideas.

She proposes looking, for instance, at the phrase colorless green ideas sleep furiously conjured by language theorist Noam Chomsky.

The phrase itself has no meaning or value. Some people would consider it’s pure nonsense. The words colorless and green oppose each other – creating notion of irrationality in the mind.

But in the game of language and poetry the phrase could make sense.

Think in the realm of series interlinked questions:

Is the green colorless?

Can sleep have a speed?

Can idea sleep?

Does idea have a color?

Maybe we can analyze the phrase green ideas like something new, yet to be born, to mature, but still invisible to us, colorless?

Furiously, breaking their path towards us, to be revealed and captured, but they are still sleepy in some corner of our mind, or ideas are keeping us awake, furious, while we try to sleep?

Interpretations are endless, with two opposing things, excluding each other, yet forcing us to find meaning, logic, purpose, connection, conclusion.. These associations evoke emotions and images that generate ideas.

So next time try to formulate your problem in the form of a riddle, searching for non-existing meanings. New ideas will begin to flow in and this is a fundamental way how poetry works.

3.Get physical

Engaging in any physical activity can help us generate more creative ideas. In the study “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking” conducted by Stanford University authors document that creativity is improved by physical exercise. The study found that walking indoors or outdoors similarly boosted creative inspiration. The act of walking itself, and not the environment, was the main factor. Across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting.

In your next search for inspiration, go for a brisk walk, do some stretching or light yoga for work. Giving your neurons more space and time to breath, you will feel more relaxed and eager to solve any problem.

 

 

How poetry inspired Tesla to design one of his most important inventions

tesla image

No matter how much we dwell on the nature of creative process, there are still a lot of uncertainties how creative part of personality develops. Usually it fluctuates between states of exquisite thrill and inspiration and extreme, deep introvert isolation. We have documents about creative processes of highly creative people like Michelangelo, Mozart, Picasso and even Tesla stating that these people managed to sustain prolonged periods of creative display, but one that was often triggered by some depressive mood or trauma, ending also with some distorted thoughts.

Tesla’s descriptions of creative process in his autobiography give important insights into the phenomenon. Right on the first page we read:

…for many years my life was little short of continuous rapture.

Nikola Tesla was, no doubt, a remarkable man, an extraordinary scientist and inventor. If we look more deeply into his habits, infatuations and things he was attracted to, we can observe more clearly his sources of inspiration.

He was born in Smiljane in 1856. in the family of an orthodox priest. Even in his early age he showed inclinations towards science. As a young boy he got ill, infected by cholera. While still fighting with death, he begged his father to let him study technical sciences. A firm promise that his father made, gave strength Tesla to get better and later, in 1875. he enters technical school in Graz. Even during studies he contemplated the idea about alternating current.

It’s interesting to note that while working on new inventions Tesla had visions, images and even could hear strange voices – rather then expressing his thoughts in numbers or terms. He writes:

In my boyhood I suffered from a peculiar affliction due to the appearance of  images, often accompanied by strong flashes of light…When a word was spoken to me the image of the object it designated would present itself  vividly to my vision and sometimes I was quite unable to distinguish whether what I saw was tangible or not.

One of the lesser known facts about Tesla is that he was also a great fan of poetry. It was an excerpt of Goethe’s Faust that inspired him to finalize his invention of  the alternating current-motor. The term “world-changing invention” certainly applies to this innovation.

tesla motor

Around 1881., Tesla goes for a walk with his friend Antal Szigety in Budapest. While walking through a park the young Tesla recites a poetic passage by heart:

The glow retreats, done is the day of toil;
It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring;
Ah, that no wing can lift me from the soil
Upon its track to follow, follow soaring!

I’d see in that eternal evening beam,
Beneath my feet, the world in stillness glowing,
Each valley hushed and every height agleam,
The silver brook to golden rivers flowing.
The mountain wild with all its gorges
Would hinder not the godlike course for me;
Before astounded eyes already surges,
With bays yet warm, the open sea.
And yet at last the god seems to be sinking;
But new impulse awakes, to light
I hasten on, eternal brightness drinking,
Before me day, behind me night,
Above me heaven, and under me the billow.
A lovely dream, while glory fades from sight.
Alas! To wings that lift the spirit light
No earthly wing will ever be a fellow.

What verses described, he was actually experiencing himself at the moment. And as the sun set that day, it is believed that Tesla have drawn the design for the induction motor in the sand.

The passage Tesla quotes is about a dream of flying beyond the sun, the heavens, in eternal daylight. And Tesla finds the metaphor, the parallel between the dream and the priority for human kind. He further writes:

If we want to avert an impending calamity and a state of things which may transform the globe into an inferno, we should push the development of flying machines and wireless transmission of energy without an instant’s delay.

Tesla was also a talented poet himself. A lot of his thoughts and musings he would write in the form of poem that would later serve him as a reminder or a guidance in his future work.

What we can learn from Tesla is that any innovative thinking, being scientific or otherwise, is nourished by diverse influences, conditions and environments and that we should keep our senses always alert.

Sources: McLean, A. ed. 2006 Goethe’s Faust (from 1.act, 1. scene to 2. act, 2. scene)

Tesla, N. 2005, My Inventions; The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla, Wildside Press, LLC

 

Excercise your creativity through poetry, part III

kintz

Extensive research in area of cognitive science and intellectual skills suggests that intuitive understanding of seeing problems in new ways, analytical ability and effective communication of ideas to others are strong precursors of innovative thinking. Sternberg, R. J. (1986). in “Intelligence applied: Understanding and increasing your intellectual skills” in detail covered this topic.

In other words, sometimes is easy to come up with a good idea, but how we formulate idea, how it “goes into the world” and becomes persevered by the environment, strongly influence the possibility of the idea to become viable.

In the part I and part II of these series, I offered some suggestions on generating new ideas. Hence, writing poetry makes use of all three previously mentioned intellectual skills. Poetry can help us not only with writing and coming up with new ideas but also how to present our idea, make it more attractive to our audience or clients. That’s one of the reasons why I love poetry so much: it really help us work on our confidence, on our belief that we can contribute to something greater than ourselves, that we can provide value by sharing our knowledge and passion.

So for boosting your creative flow I have a little exercise to propose:

Next time you work on new idea, project, script – write like a small presentation of your idea in the form of a poem. Then read it out loud and imagine you have to present (“sell”) your idea to someone (agent, customers, managers ext). How does it feel? Is it empowering or you sense your idea lacks something? Pay attention to your posture: does you body naturally straights up while you read and present? Or you are quailed, with shrugged shoulders, impatient to finish your reading? Are you satisfied with the outcome or you are uncomfortable and insecure? Is your idea understandable? What else you could include in your poem? What kind of reaction you would like to provoke?

Your intuitive guidance, that inner knowing will tell you are you on the right track with your idea. If it doesn’t work try again. Between the verses is your hidden treasure to perfecting your idea.

You can go step further and organize a real audience for pitching your idea-poem. Listen and watch them. Did you capture their attention, how did they react? Your idea, transmuted through poem has to provide experience, to be uplifting, different from already seen and heard.

Note down your observation and work on the refinement of your idea. It will get you closer to your desired result – where both you and your clients enjoy the fruits of your work.

Take back this virgin page

by Thomas Moore

Take back the virgin page,
White and unwritten still,
Some hand more calm and sage
The leaf must fill.
Thoughts come as pure as light,
Pure as even you require:
But oh! each word I write
Love turns to fire.

Yet let me keep the book;
Oft shall my heart renew,
When on its leaves I look,
Dear thoughts of you.
Like you, ’tis fair and bright;
Like you, too bright and fair,
To let wild passion write
One wrong wish there!

Haply, when from those eyes
Far, far away I roam,
Should calmer thoughts arise
Tow’rds you and home;
Fancy may trace some line
Worthy those eyes to meet,
Thoughts that not burn, but shine,
Pure, calm, and sweet.

And as, o’er ocean far,
Seamen their records keep,
Led by some hidden star
Through the cold deep;
So may the words I write
Tell thro’ what storms I stray,
You still the unseen light
Guiding my way.

Uncharted waters of poetry-based learning

franBG

Arts-based learning is a different way of acquiring new knowledge about non-art topics like leadership, innovation and management in business. It can include any type of art form such as painting, performance, storytelling, music or poetry.

Art is that invisible force that inspires us to pause, to slow down racing thoughts and explore other sources of information. By putting a side our rational thinking we open doors for higher realms of awareness and wisdom, giving us insights we couldn’t recognize earlier.

One of the most beneficial attributes of arts-based learning is that it fosters co-creative spirit, where with joined strengths is much easier to find a solution or accept change in responsive way. This type of activities can accelerate the process of finding shared values and creating trust among co-workers. Arts-based learning has been also seen as a vehicle for enhancing intercultural communication, with more than 400 of America’s Fortune 500 companies using artistic skills, processes and experiences to foster creative thinking and strengthen innovation processes.

If you approach life like an artist you are developing skills:

to observe the world in different light; to better use available resources;to follow your instincts; to pursue your passion; to explore your own innovative thinking; to find connections among unrelated events and elements;to take risks and become more empathetic and understanding.

In my previous posts I gave a glimpse on how poetry can help us in strategic thinking, storytelling, intercultural communication, building business ethics, decision making, advertising and how it fosters innovation, leadership and creativity. But there are ohter ways how poetry can enhance our learning abilities. Monika Kostera in her paper “Performatives: Collecting Poetical Definitions of Management’, Organization, 4(3), p. 343, 1997, examines the relationship between feelings and organizational skills through the lens of poetry. She argues that we can use poetry to learn more about the subversive and subjective experience of talking about management topics. In her opinion, poetry is particularly powerful in that it does not avoid passion and it is disruptive because it is inconclusive.

In another very interesting paper, “Voice, Verse and Va va voom: Illuminating Management processes through Poetry”, Grisoni and Kirk (2006) explored the power of using poetry as a critical analytical tool. Two members of organization have written poems about their experiences in relation to decision-making critical incidents within the life of organization. They reported that writing in the form of poetry enabled them to find a voice, increased personal learning, and new insights in relation to roles, management processes of decision-making, and interpersonal dynamics in the organisation.

But this is not where the power of poetry-based learning ends: it can help us further in learning about:

  • Systems thinking;
  • Values creation and contribution;
  • Managing change;
  • New product development;
  • Branding;
  • Acquiring tacit knowledge;
  • Improving collaboration and teamwork;
  • Role-playing and improving communications,

which all these topics will be further explored in the posts to come.

For now I will live with some thoughts by Jose Rizal:

Education Gives Luster To Motherland (an excerpt)

Where wise education raises a throne
Sprightly youth are invigorated,
Who with firm stand error they subdue
And with noble ideas are exalted;
It breaks immortality’s neck,
Contemptible crime before it is halted:
It humbles barbarous nations
And it makes of savages champions.
And like the spring that nourishes
The plants, the bushes of the meads,
She goes on spilling her placid wealth,
And with kind eagerness she constantly feeds,
The river banks through which she slips,
And to beautiful nature all she concedes,
So whoever procures education wise
Until the height of honor may rise.

 

Let your senses guide your creative spirit

That is beautiful which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul.

                ~ Wassily Kandinsky

The idea for this creativity prompt was inspired by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) a Russian painter. He is one of the founders of Expressionism movement and he became famous for his abstract art. Most of his paintings were influenced by the music he was listening to. Kandinsky was on quest to break the barriers between different arts and actually tried to connect them in his work. “Concerning the spiritual art” is the most influential piece that left its mark on the abstract art of the 20th century.

So, as Kandinsky was painting his music, you can go step further and write a poem influenced by the kand45music you hear. The idea is not to describe the music, but rather let yourself feel the music -take you to different place, different time. In this post, I in length elaborate the importance of finding time and place for your creative activities. Secure that peaceful moment when you are not disturbed and with calm and ease pursue your activity. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and imagine what you hear, absorbs you like sponge and you are like water: liquid, flexible, traveling through different sounds, shapes, colors and words. Let music guide you and write without censoring, without limitation. Along the way you can sketch, you can develop your visual story…what ever feels right at that moment. There is no goal to achieve, except to escape the rational and let your inner creativity shine.

For this exercise I propose three classical pieces:

  1. Four seasons by A. Vivaldi
  2. Adagio by T. Albinoni
  3. Bolero by M. Ravel

Each piece will evoke different emotion. Don’t fight it, just let it be and surrender to it. Your creative spirit will find its way for most appropriate expression. I chose classical music with purpose, because it is believed that classical music makes you more honest with yourself, improves communication, memory and in general improves our stress levels, which is crucial for creative thinking.

You can choose other musical pieces according to your taste, as well. And please, share your experience in the comments below.

A Violin at Dusk by Lizette Woodworth Reese

Stumble to silence, all you uneasy things,
That pack the day with bluster and with fret.
For here is music at each window set;
Here is a cup which drips with all the springs
That ever bud a cowslip flower; a roof
To shelter till the argent weathers break;
A candle with enough of light to make
My courage bright against each dark reproof.
A hand’s width of clear gold, unraveled out
The rosy sky, the little moon appears;
As they were splashed upon the paling red,
Vast, blurred, the village poplars lift about.
I think of young, lost things: of lilacs; tears;
I think of an old neighbor, long since dead.

3 creative ways to improve your customer’s experience

Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.

~ Blaise Pascal

The most important image that your business projects is customer service. It relates to your company’s culture, how you communicate to your customers and how you re able to satisfy customer’s needs. Customer’s experience reveals so much about the business, especially the underlying truth: how are you committed to your business and customers; how eager you are to improve your business relations; how customer support is agile in solving problems.

It’s normal to have “now and there” sporadic, unsatisfied customers and complaints, but if it turns into habit, a regular event that you have repeatedly to deal with, your business focus and direction is lacking something.

When you try to meet the customer’s needs, you can incorporate some fun and interesting things, that will refresh your company’s communication with customers, make them smile and mostly – talk about it! They will certainly share pleasant experience with others and not will you only see your customers coming back  –  most importantly you’ll gain new ones.

So today, I’ll share three tips for more creative and engaging communication with your customers:

1.Make it fun!

About year ago, two students, after finding out at their local Tesco that their favorite popcorn is no longer stocked, they turned to Tesco to find out the truth – but not with regular letter, but in the form of a poem:

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You would probably expect such a huge corporation not to have time to bother with such things, but with great surprise for both students in question, Tesco responded also with poem and awarded students with some card money:

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Tesco has dealt with this situation in fun and creative way, taking customer experience to a totally different level. And we can learn a lot from their example.

2.Make it persuasive!

One real estate company that has 12 hotels, uses poems in order to motivate guests to share their experience and write reviews. Simple poem cards with the most accessible verse of poetry simply invites the guest to follow the rhyme:

“Roses are red
Violets are blue
…Fill in the rest…

In the article is further explained the result:

Ïn June of 2013, our overall average review score was a 3.0 out of 5.0 with a total of 77 reviews. We had been using generic review solicitation cards for the past five years. Then, we implemented the poem cards in July of 2013. Our overall average review score jumped to 4.2 out of 5.0 with a total of 201 reviews, more than double the amount of input.

3.Show that you care!

You should never take your customers for granted. It’s a relationship that is build over time with trust and commitment. Thehaikuguys, came to a very interesting idea for you to show your gratitude, appreciation and overall kindness in your business.

As they state:

Ideally, one could incorporate individual, customized haiku-writing into relationship-building with customers. A way to tap into their passions, connect with them in a new format outside of email and project management software, and acknowledge that they are first and foremost humans, not customers. Maybe haiku gifts could deepen and refresh customer relationships in such a way that they wouldn’t even be customers anymore; they’d be friends.

And here are some examples:

“we want to give you

everything you could need,

then a little more”

 

“we apologize

for our software exploding-

we think it’s fixed now”

 

“if you cancel now,

will you always wonder what

good could have happened”?

So poetry can be stimulating and showing our good intentions and that we actually care – no better way then through poetry.

And what are your thoughts on this topic? Are there any other ways to incorporate poetry in your business communication? Please, share in the comments below!

Lean leader is a poetry reader

Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.

               ~ Vera Nazarian

It’s interesting to note that many of the great contemporary 20th century poets were business professionals,. For example T.S. Eliot worked for Lloyds of London, and Wallace Stevens was a vice president at an insurance company.

Also, James Dickey that worked in advertising,  left his mark in the corporate world. So, it’s evident that business somehow has shaped and influenced last century poetry. What we often forget is how reading the verse of aforementioned professionals can enhance our own business qualities and can contribute to our well-being and self-development.kids on books

In one article of New York Times, C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success

Sidney Harman, founder of Harman Industries says:

I used to tell my senior staff to get me poets as managers. Poets are our original systems thinkers. They look at our most complex environments and they reduce the complexity to something they begin to understand.

Unfortunately, business people are reading nowadays far more less. Life is running at such pace that reading material unrelated to business is almost impossible. The digital world is shortening our attention span and our patience to read and contemplate some abstract thought is almost nonexistent. But wide scope of reading is often a remarkable characteristic of many leaders and can initiate innovation, empathy, deeper understanding.

And how that relates to lean leadership?

An “old school” of leadership promotes the form of leadership where the notion is that leader holds the key of every knowledge and “his way of doing things” is the only way.

On the other hand, “empowering leadership” follows the crowd, doesn’t pay much attention to the rules and implies “let’s do it your way”. It’s true it can generate many innovative ideas, yet sometimes it leads to chaos and lack of responsibility.

And “lean leadership” allows for spontaneous solution to appear while focus is not that much on the leader as much on “let’s figure this out – together”.

For a successful lean leader is important to develop social skills, foster encouragement and compassion. Lean leader is able to seize the meaning and purpose  in dynamic and at surface unrelated events.

Research findings, published in the paper Does reading make you smarter? Literacy and the development of verbal intelligence, suggest that reading makes you smarter through

a larger vocabulary and more world knowledge in addition to the abstract reasoning skills.

It can enhance leader’s efficacy through improved vocabulary intelligence that comes from reading more abstract topics and genres.

So, every day try to incorporate reading some poetry in your hectic schedule, join a reading club or attend some poetry evenings – and watch your business skills improve for the better.

Tenacious Persistence by Orison Swett Marden

The force that is going to carry you to your goal,
Is coiled up inside of you , in your energy, your pluck, your grit,
Your originality, your character, and your possession of a strong,
Persistent, tenacious purpose.
Whatever you do in life, keep in an ambition –
Arousing atmosphere.
Keep close to those who are dead in earnest,
Who are anxious to do something in the world.
You will catch the spirit of your environment.