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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!

We discussed how to get new ideas by morphing your problem statement. Here is a related exercise to help you find new ways of looking at a problem.

Take your concise problem statement and reduce it to one word. For example "How can I hire qualified employees?" might be shortened to "hiring." What other words can be used? Is there a better word that expresses what you are trying to convey? Now, make a list of all the words that pop into your head in association with this word. Aim for at least 20 different associations. Do you see any patterns? Explore the patterns and ideas that come from this exercise and then re-write your problem statement.

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A useful thing to do when you are trying to solve a problem is to create a short and concise problem statement. Try to phrase it in your own words. Notice how each word in your problem statement has its own specific meaning. Try changing the key words or morphing the problem statement and see if this leads you to any new ideas.

Example problem statement: How can I hire qualified employees?

Morphing:
How can I hire excellent employees?
How can I hire qualified team members?
How can I keep current employees?
How can I attract qualified employees?
How can I train unqualified employees?

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Don't be afraid to fail at something. Whenever we attempt something and fail, we end up learning something about the process and come away from the experience with a better understanding of the problem. Subsequent trials will come closer and closer to success. Plan on making multiple early prototypes or attempts with the understanding that they are not the final solution. This "hands-on" experience is one of the quickest ways to learn the details of the problem.

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For each item in the list below, close your eyes and try to get a mental picture of the object or action. 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).

1. Peeling an orange
2. A leaf blowing in the wind
3. An alien from outer space
4. Mickey Mouse
5. The world's smallest elephant

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.

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Imagine that you are in the following situations. Make a list of the different criteria that you would use in order to make a good choice. Which features or characteristics would you look for and which would you avoid? What factors must you weigh? Think of at least 20 criteria for each situation.

1. Buying a new digital camera.
2. Choosing what you wear in the morning.
3. Buying a new car.

Whenever you need to make a decision, making a list of all the criteria can help you make an intelligent choice.

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