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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!

Picasso once said that "good designers borrow, great designers steal." Similarly, Einstein said that "the secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." There are many great ideas out there that are just waiting to be applied in new and exciting ways. Figuring out a novel way to use an idea is just as important as coming up with the idea in the first place. You should always keep a lookout for interesting ideas that you might be able to modify and apply to a new problem. Put these ideas into your notebook.

Since some people believe that all new ideas are simply elaboration on existing ideas, borrowing or stealing is unavoidable!

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Get a good notebook and start writing down all of your ideas. A written record serves two purposes. It guarantees that the idea cannot be lost, and it gives you a way to come up with new ideas via the technique of elaborating on old ideas.

Any interesting idea that you have or you hear about should be recorded in your notebook. If you can, try to organize your notes by topic. You could use notecards and file them in appropriate categories. You could use your PDA or computer to keep notes, or you could designate different notebooks or different sections for different topics. If the idea comes from a source, indicate the source in your notes so you can go back and get more information if necessary.

Don't worry about wasting paper or writing too much down. Your notebooks will be a great resource to go back to when you need some interesting ideas for a current project. Thomas Edison had over 3,000 notebooks documenting his career, so you better get started!

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Elaborating on an existing idea is a great way to come up with new and better ideas. One way to do this is by taking an idea apart and looking at its components. By looking at one part at a time, you might be able to ignore your preconceived notions about the idea and come up with some interesting improvements.

Start by listing the attributes of the idea. Just the act of listing the individual pieces will get your mind thinking about improvements or modifications. For example, if someone asked you to design a better bird feeder, you might be at a loss about where to start. It's a little overwhelming to tackle a large project all at once. To take it apart, you might list the individual attributes like this:

1. Hook for hanging
2. Container for seeds
3. Covering to shield feeder from rain
4. Perch for birds to sit on
5. Tray to collect fallen seeds
6. Device to prevent squirrels from eating seeds

Now you can look at the individual components and work on them in isolation. Maybe you could focus on making a really good perch for a certain type of bird, or maybe you would combine the rain shield and seed container in some interesting way. By taking your idea apart into its pieces, you will be able to innovate more easily and come up with interesting ideas.

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

In this icebreaker, one person is sent out of the room. The rest of the people pick a common phrase, movie title, or quote. Split up the phrase so each person in the room gets a word. For the phrase "A rolling stone gathers no moss," one person would get the word "rolling," someone else would get "stone," and so on. You can omit the little words such as a, in, it, the, etc.

Now, invite the person back into the room. They can then ask people questions, such as "What color is your hair?" The person must answer the question and incorporate their secret word. For example, if your word was 'rolling' you might say, "Well, I was rolling down the street in my car when I noticed in the rearview mirror that I had a grey hair, but normally it's brown." Be creative! The question-asker must figure out the original phrase by deciphering which words are assigned to each player.

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Thinking fluently is a key quality of a creative thinker. One way to force yourself to think fluently is to impose a quota upon yourself. Set a time limit and a goal for a certain number of ideas, and then start writing down every idea that comes to mind. The initial ideas will usually be less interesting than the later ones because all of the obvious concepts are right at the surface of your consciousness. If you go long enough to get through the obvious concepts, you will have much better results. For this reason, you should set your quota high and keep writing down your ideas until the time limit expires.

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