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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!

People have a natural tendency to pick the first solution that comes to their mind and go with it, without thinking about any of the alternatives. This is dangerous because better ideas can be overlooked simply because you have not properly defined the problem and thought about the solutions. A much better approach would be to select the best solution from a large collection of ideas.

Too often a problem is poorly solved because it is poorly defined in the first place. Care should be taken not to constrain the problem too narrowly because your chances for creativity will be limited. A broader problem statement will often give you more room for unique solutions, but don't go too broad otherwise you risk getting lost or distracted. Our exercise for working on the right level will help you properly constrain your problem.

Once you have a statement that you think properly defines your problem, try out these two exercises to help you clarify it further.

1. Problem Statement Morphing
2. One Word Problem Statements

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Stereotyping is an inescapable habit of the human mind. You are constantly making stereotypes without even knowing it. The mind simply cannot store every detail about everything that passes through it, so it tries to simplify things by sorting them into groups that are consistent with information that already resides in your memory.

For example, without looking at it, try to imagine what the face of your watch looks like. Does it have numbers for the hours or is it just implied? Are there any words printed on the front? What color are the hands? Chances are you cannot remember every detail of your watch even though you look at it several times a day. This is because your mind knows how to deal with watches so it stereotypes your watch and forgets about all the inconsequential details.

Topics that are important to you are unlikely to be heavily stereotyped, whereas unfamiliar topics will be heavily stereotyped. If you are uninterested in mountain climbing, it is very likely that you have a bunch of stereotypes about that particular sport. However, an avid mountain climber knows so much about the topic that few stereotypes remain.

Stereotypes can also affect the way you unconsciously feel about something. If you are allergic to bees, it might be difficult for you to think of them as beneficial insects that you might want in your garden.

Just being aware that your mind is full of stereotypes will help you look at things with an open mind. The next time you are trying to solve something, ask yourself if there are any stereotypes that are constraining your thinking.

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For each of the following statements, come up with at least two plausible reasons why they are true. Now, come up with at least two plausible reasons why they are false. This exercise will help you to see that issues often have different sides to them.

1. Guns are dangerous.
2. Traveling by airplane is safer than traveling by car.
3. Water causes brain damage.

You can repeat this exercise by using any subjective statement that you can find.

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

The "Visual Puns" game is a fun activity that gets people thinking creatively. Pick an ordinary object such as a stapler or trashcan. As you pass the object around the room, each person must think of something that the object looks or acts like. For example, a stapler could be an alligator, some castanets or a catapult. A trashcan could be a hat, a soup bowl or a swimming pool for a beetle. Let your imaginations run wild and encourage wild ideas.

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Many people think of creative ideas as popping into the creators head like a light bulb turning on. In reality, this is rarely the case. Creative ideas are usually the result of much hard work over a long period of time. Even Edison's light bulb, which is so often used as a symbol for the creativity, was only invented after thousands of experiments and over two years of research.

Because creative ideas are often the result of hard work, it can be difficult to teach people how to think more creatively. Often, it is more productive to change the working environment and make the conditions more conducive to creative thinking. Obstacles such as risk and deadlines or a lack of opportunities to explore areas that spark our curiosity can easily suppress creative behavior.

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