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Mentalrobics™

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!

For each item in the list below, close your eyes and try to get a mental picture of the object. Try to make it as clear as possible. Are there any sounds, smells, or tastes associated with this item? Once you are done, grade yourself on how clear each object appeared in your mind (clear, vague, nothing). The next time you see one of these items, pay special attention to it and try to memorize its features. Then repeat this exercise and see if you've improved. There are some items in the list that you are certain to have never seen before. These are designed to flex your ability to put several memories together into one visualization.

1. A tennis ball
2. Your best friend
3. Superman
4. A human heart
5. A two-headed tiger

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People tend to classify a situation quickly, which causes us to think and respond to it in predictable ways. A creative thinker will think about situations from different angles.
Try this exercise to think of these situations from the opposite point of view.

1. You just found a $10 bill on the ground. List five reasons why this is unfortunate.
2. You just had a fight with your best friend. List five positive things about this.
3. Your sink is full of dirty dishes. List five reasons why this is good.
4. Your significant other surprises you with a romantic dinner. List five reasons why this is bad.

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Criticism is a comment or judgment made to find fault in an idea. This can be bad for creativity, especially when it comes from a boss or a spouse. When someone produces a new idea, it is likely that they are already a little insecure about it. Criticism often feels like a personal attack. As a result, most people become defensive when criticized and will stubbornly defend their idea even if the criticism has merit.

Criticism has no place in a brainstorm, but once you have selected an idea to pursue, it is a valuable tool. Accepting criticism and using it to improve your ideas are critical to producing quality solutions. Remember that the criticism is not about you; it is about the idea. Try to divorce yourself from your idea and pretend that it just fell out of the sky. This will help you look at it objectively and recognize if the criticism is valid.

Avoid being defensive. Instead, ask lots of clarifying questions and find out what changes the critic would make. Be sure to refer back to the goals so that you aren't solving problems that you do not need to solve. Once you fully understand what the critic is trying to say, you can decide if they have any validity.

A supportive environment that gives good criticism and encourages wild ideas will help people become more comfortable with creativity.

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Nobody wants to hear all the things that are "wrong" with their idea. A bad criticizer uses any opportunity to make themselves feel smart or superior by pointing out everything that they think is bad about an idea. They take advantage of the fact that early ideas will inherently have many flaws and imperfections and they assume that they are in possession of the only "correct" idea.

Good criticism serves to give perspective and help the creator evolve the idea into a better solution. A good criticizer knows that early ideas will always have flaws. A good critic asks lots of questions to try to fully understand the situation before they give their feedback. Additionally, good feedback must avoid the use of negative energy. It is certainly possible to be very critical about an idea without using negative remarks that disrespect the creator and put this person on the defensive.

Instead of pointing out what is wrong, try to offer suggestions. For example, instead of saying, "That knob is way too big!" try saying, "Do you think a smaller knob would allow people with smaller hands to use it more comfortably?" Remember that what you dislike is not the same as what is bad. Try to keep personal opinions to yourself.

Another useful technique is to alternate positive and negative remarks. Point out something that is good for each thing that needs changing. For example, "This button is just the right size and shape, maybe we should think about adjusting the size of this knob to match it." It's like Mary Poppins sang, "A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down."

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Icebreakers are little exercises that help relax tension and loosen up a formal atmosphere in a meeting where you want to have creative ideas and group participation.

This icebreaker will have everyone laughing:

Break everyone up into small groups of 2 or 3. Give each group a made-up punchline. Each group now has 5 minutes to come up with a joke or story that uses that punchline at the end. The crazier the better! Here are some example punchlines:

1. And that is why you never let a cat go fishing!
2. That proves that elephants don't like hot dogs.
3. Finally he said, "Sir, your computer doesn't have a cigarette lighter."
4. The moral of the story is, "Always wear socks!"

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