You exercise your body to stay physically in shape, so why shouldn't you exercise your brain to stay mentally fit? With these daily exercises you will learn how to flex your mind, improve your creativity and boost your memory. As with any exercise, repetition is necessary for you to see improvement, so pick your favorite exercises from our daily suggestions and repeat them as desired. Try to do some mentalrobics every single day!
Synectics is a problem solving technique similar to brainstorming, but with more complexity and structure. A leader is chosen to facilitate the session. The leader is not allowed to contribute to the solution; they are there only to facilitate and record what the group produces.
The leader asks the group for a goal or problem statement to define the session. The leader chooses a keyword from this phrase and writes it down so everyone can see it.
The leader now selects a topic that is completely unrelated to the discussion topic. The group is now asked to come up with examples of the keyword that relate to the new topic.
For example, lets say that the goal is to build a better toaster and that the keyword is "food". The leader might choose the topic of "music" and ask the group to come up with analogies and examples of how "food" and "music" are like.
The leader instructs the group to ignore the goal for the moment and to focus on the examples produced by the "analogy" step. They are to work individually and write down any associations that they have with any of the examples that were produced about the unrelated topic.
The group is now asked to work in pairs and use these associations to come up with an idea that address the original problem from the "define" stage. This idea will likely be impossible, impractical or silly. Present these ideas to the group.
In this step, the group takes the absurd ideas from the previous step and combines and refines them to make them more practical and applicable to the goal. This step often produces some surprising and creative solutions to the original problem.
Close your eyes and try to recreate the following smells. This exercise helps improve your ability to form concrete impressions from memory.
1. A rotten egg
2. Pumpkin pie
3. Wet dog
4. Freshly cut grass
5. A new car
How well did you do at recreating the smells?
For more of these exercises try Mental Smells I.
Earlier, we talked about how thinking about alternate solutions to a problem can help find creative solutions. Here's an exercise to help you practice this technique.
Imagine that you are a detective. Try to come with at least 10 different possible causes of the following situations:
1. You return to your car to see the windshield broken and an apple sitting on the seat.
2. You pass a man on the street that is wearing two different shoes.
3. A perfectly healthy tree has fallen over.
4. A pile of precariously stacked stones is discovered in the park.
According to Freud, the mind is made up of the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is concerned with satisfying our needs, the ego is aware of the self and the world, and the superego is concerned with morality.
Creative ideas originate in the unconscious id and must be filtered through the ego and superego before they can be expressed to the world. The ego may reject an idea because it is unrealistic or impractical and the superego may reject an idea because it is against our ethics.
For example, an idea to genetically engineer a purple cat might be rejected by the ego for being impossible. The idea to throw a cat into a vat of purple paint would be rejected by the superego for being cruel.
Very few creative ideas will get past an overly restrictive ego and superego. At the same time, an excessively passive ego or superego will result in the expression of many impractical or immoral ideas. Through exercises such as brainstorming, we can train our ego and superego to be more or less selective depending upon our needs.
"Groupthink" is a term used to describe a process whereby a group can make bad decisions even though each individual in the group may realize that the result is going to be bad.
People have a strong need to feel accepted in a group. Whenever an individual participates in a group, it causes the other participants to react in some way. People want to be liked, so they tend to participate in a way that gains them acceptance. One way to gain acceptance is to be very agreeable and not rock the boat. When a bad or bland idea is introduced, very few people may challenge it. If nobody proposes a better idea, groupthink can result.
Proposing a creative idea that differs from the group exposes the person and puts them in a vulnerable position. Nobody wants to fail in front of their peers or superiors. As a result, wild ideas are frequently self-censored or toned down to a level that is easily assimilated by the group. Unless there is a process that encourages wild ideas, they will seldom be introduced and groupthink can result.
Groupthink can also occur if an idea comes from higher up in the corporate ladder. Nobody wants to disagree with their boss, even if they know that the boss's idea will fail.
Brainstorming is a process that encourages wild ideas. This is one way to avoid groupthink.