Can a paperclip save the world?


Can a paperclip save the world? Probably not.. but wait a minute…

Perhaps it’s because the paperclip is such a simple and yet ingenious, ubiquitous artefact that it’s used as a trigger to start thinking more creatively (well, by me anyway).

The first patent for a bent wire paperclip was awarded in the United States to Samuel B. Fay, in 1867. This clip was originally intended primarily for attaching tickets to fabric. His doesn’t resemble the familiar object we know today. That was invented in the 1870s in Britain by the Gem Manufacturing Company (and is still known technically as the Gem Paperclip) although no patent was filed, leading to many later claims and variation on the classic design.

So here’s the task:

How many non-uses of a paper-clip can you think of? Things you cannot use a paperclip for.

Most people find this quite hard which shows they are not fluid at activating the right side of their brain. This is a lateral thinking task because you have to get off the track of thinking of actual uses of a paper-clip. This tests how random you can be.

The task is actually quite easy since there are actually very few sensible uses of a paper-clip. You can use one to clip paper together (obviously) and you can use one to eject stuck CDs from computers. But not much else. So almost anything else will do, except people find it so, so difficult.

Here are a few examples:

You can’t fly to the moon on a paper-clip. You can’t marry a paper-clip. You can’t use a paper-clip to teach snails quantum physics.

One of the reasons people freeze up and can’t think of anything, especially in groups, is that someone has said something clever, witty or particlularly good so now they have to compete with that. This doesn’t help. When generating ideas you do not and can not compete with anyone, it’ll modify how you think and shut down your creative process. The point is not to outdo one another or try to be funny or clever. The point is to come up with ideas. You ned to be influenced and riff off what others come up with because ideas comes from other ideas.

So what else?

You cannot use a paper-clip to solve world poverty…. hang on, perhaps you can. If we do this…. and this… and suddenly a brave new idea has been found that changes the world. And all because judgemental thinking such as ‘that won’t work, that’s stupid’ has been turned off. Try it yourself.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Is this you: Too many ideas?


Too many ideasMost of my creativity work is involved with helping people and businesses come up with more and better ideas for their work, their lives, their businesses, to help them innovate, develop new products or new ways of working.

But sometimes I hear this: “but I don’t have a problem coming up with ideas. My problem is I just have too many and don’t don’t which to implement.”

Is this you?

From time to time, it’s certainly me. I have two finished feature film scripts, ideas for three other films, ideas for four novels, twenty finished short stories, hundreds of songs that need recording, dozens of recorded songs that need uploading to iTunes, three business ideas for Dragon’s Den, three big marketing ideas for my own business, three non-fiction books three-quarters finished, ideas for three more non-fiction books, ideas for three public events and three ideas for some big corporations that could innovate their businesses.

That’s quite plainly too much to work on today. Too much to work on this week. I couldn’t get all that lot done in a month and the fact that some of those ideas have been hanging around for ten years tells me a decade isn’t even going to crack it.

It’s obvious that I have too many ideas to do before 2022. If I could work on them all full time, maybe I’d break the back of the to-do list by Christmas 2014, or perhaps not.

Because let’s face it, developing and working on speculative ideas can never really be our full-time role. Most of the time we have to get the donkey work done, the bread and butter, sort out family life, keep the wolf from the door, pay the bills, work for the Man, please the boss, firefight, ambulance chase, deal with people, manage stuff and generally ‘get on’. Only a lucky few have the luxury to sit back and pick and choose from their creative list or religiously work through every single idea one by one without distraction.

So is it simply a question of time management, of project management and the old chestnut, goal setting?

Partly.

Those are topics well described (by me in the past and loads of others). Here’s a summary: Prioritise your projects, break ‘em down into bite sized chunks and do a little bit of work on them each day. That’s goal setting. Not much more to be said really.

But does that solve the problem?

No really, no.

Because goal setting, time and project management only work when you know what you’re supposed to be doing. The reason people don’t achieve their dreams (or even get the most humble of tasks done like reading the papers or having a break) is not through lack of time management or not having goal setting techniques.

Could it be because all of those wonderful ideas we have, we know, deep down that they’re not really that great after-all, or would require far too much time and effort to transform into a good idea worth making sacrifices for?

To put it simply, we’re right back at the start, if we admit it. We actually have lots and lots of pretty average ideas and a few very poor ones. The reason we don’t know which to choose is because none of them excites us, ignites our passions or gives that shudder of a thrill as if buried treasure has been found.

The fact of asking the question, ‘which idea should I pursue’ gives us a clue that perhaps we need to be more creative still; take the present batch of ideas as practice for coming up with something worth pursuing. If you were asking ‘which girl or boy should I marry?’ and had to weigh up the pros and cons of a group of men of women, it probably means that you haven’t found the right person just yet. It’s the same with ‘the big idea’.

Why should there be a ‘big idea’ you may ask? Because we know perfectly well that we can’t do everything. We know perfectly well that we haven’t got the time. We know perfectly well that multitasking produces multiple average results.

We know from everyone who has ever been successful that they concentrated on one thing at a time, to get it right, to power it, to complete it.

So the next time you hear someone saying ‘I’ve got so many ideas, I don’t know which to focus on’ tell them they’re just not being creative enough. And that includes me if you catch me at it too.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

The creative secret of the transition


bubblesCreativity happens in the cusps, on the skin, at the interface of transition.

Nothing much happens in the lazy heat of mid-summer or the bleak cold of mid-winter. It is in the spring of new life and in the cold air of autumn when the light changes to darkness when the moment for creativity has come.

It is the precipice between waking and sleep – the hiding place of inspiration and secret ideas.

Have a look at soap bubbles, bubbling together on the water’s surface in your bath. The bubble itself is empty; the structure and the strength is the interface between the bubbles. And as above, so below and so within – the soap bubble is a model of the universe, exactly half way in size between a galaxy cluster and an atom. Both contain vast empty space, with their stars and nebulae, or their electron shells, forming the structure, the pattern, between which is only empty space.

Life began on that cusp. On the sulphuric vents in the deep sea, the interface between earth and water. The first cells emerged by evolving a polarisation of hydrophobes and hydrophiles, by creating a unit that rejected water within and faced it without, forming a spherical cusp. Life evolved in the oceans in the interface between the cold dark of the depths and the golden warm light of Sol. It found it’s place between the wet sea and the dry land, between the dusty hot land and the cool clear skies. Each interfacial transition moved the process we call life onto new heights of adventure, excitement and advancement.

Humanity evolved on the interfaces too. Between hand and rock. Between body and mind. Between mind and spirit.

And so it is with ideas.

Ideas are born exactly half way between what was and what will be.

Transition is our moment of artistry. When old ways are understood so well that they can be implemented unconsciously, we can begin to work with new ways that are so unknown they still have the excitement of discovery and experiment. The two become fused together for a brief time – confidence and uncertainty, hope and fear.

Transition is our moment of destiny. It is standing on a solid foundation and then taking that first step off into the brink of the unknowable. It is where things happen, where genius is forged, where kingdoms are born.

But it is also a place of terror, of frustration and despair, as every artist knows. As every inventor knows. As every entrepreneur knows. The night is the darkest just before the dawn.

But the transition is not the place to stop and rest. We are only ever passing through. It’s not the place to retreat from, that only leads to boredom, self-parody, repetition and stagnation. It is the springboard to our future.

The transition can only ever be a passing place, a moment, a touchpoint. Then there is new work to be done, to fulfill the potential of what the transition promised. The world becomes flat again, processes continue again, production begins again on the new plane. That is until he next moment of transition when the dice is thrown once more, the rule book ripped up again and when the new ways have themselves become the old ways as we face the next transition.

Once more we find ourselves on the precipice, the cusp, the edge of infinity, with only the one certainty, that change is certain. The circle continues.

But do not fear, this moment will too pass. The sun will rise again and the dreams we had upon waking will become our reality once again as we deliver from the transition our most creative expressive ideas.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Click here to learn about Ayd’s Ideastorm workshops.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Brainstorming doesn’t work


Is it time to start thinking of ideas generation in a different way and sacrifice the sacred cows of old? Should we admit what people have known for sometime, that so-called traditional brainstorming doesn’t work?

Ideastorm, brainstorming, ideas generation, training workshopIf brainstorming is simply dumping a bunch of people in a boardroom and expect them to suddenly ‘get creative’ and come up with some amazing ideas then it’s no wonder it fails.

There are two key elements of the classic brainstorm that we want to examine and challenge here and they’re both wrapped up together:

  • Brainstorming is a group activity
  • There should be no judgmental, critical or negative attitudes in the meeting.

So lets get stuck in on some clear and simple facts on the matter: Firstly, let’s admit that it’s individuals who think of ideas, not groups. But we all know from personal experience that one of the things that can inspire an individual to think of a great idea is being in a group. But it has to be the right group.

…Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, has summarized the science: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.”

– Johan Lehrer in the New Yorker, January 2012

Large groups or groups that contain political or power plays will not work. People will feel inhibited or too much pressure to perform or conform. All those things ruin the creative process in the mind.

This is why the original brainstorming condition is to have no negative or judgmental attitudes in the meeting. This is the main mantra of idea generation practitioners because most people are so lacking in confidence in their own creativity that one harsh comment will shut them down.

But there’s another reason to get the group dynamic right. Think about yourself for a moment. It’s really annoying to be in a group that doesn’t ‘get’ where you’re coming from or doesn’t let you speak. They might not have the inside track on the issues or they may not be as engaged in the theme as you are. They may not listen to your valuable insight, preferring the sound of their own voices. In any large group there’s bound to be some arrogance or envy and let’s face it, people you don’t like or don’t get on with.

This leads us to that brainstorming rule. The only way to deal with this problem is to level the playing field by bringing in the ‘don’t be rude and don’t be negative’ instruction. It creates the democracy to allow everyone equal say and have equal value. Sounds good in principle but in practice something else happens.

Research has been done that ‘proves’ that by not having debate, criticism and argument, a soft and fluffy nice meeting is manifested where too many diverse ideas are generated that cause ‘cognitive fixation’ . The mind gets blocked and fixated on those multitude of ideas and fails to break out into something innovative. Everyone is too busy being nice.

Too many organisations are running their sessions under these wrong conditions. They may have too many people, too many of the same type of people or too many disparate people.

By fixating on the democratisation of creativity are we mixing up the different types of contributions that individuals and groups can bring?

Perhaps we expect too much from an ‘idea’ meeting. Do we expect great original idea after great original idea? Perhaps what we should be aiming for is smaller quantum jumps from ideas put forward. Perhaps the role of a group is to fiddle with ideas put forward by individuals, who have already made intuitive leaps, and to improve those ideas?

Throughout history, groups and teams have out-performed individuals in the elaboration, expression, development and manifestation of an idea. Yes, an individual may be remembered as the one who ‘thought of it’, the the combined group mind always improves and builds on it.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney ink drawingWith the Beatles the main ideas generating group for their songwriting was John Lennon and Paul McCartney, working together to create all those hits. So here we have a brainstorming group of just two. They didn’t even let George in on the songwriting meetings, he and Ringo would have to wait until the songs were more or less finished and presented to the group to arrange and embellish.

But Lennon and McCartney didn’t run a ‘let’s be nice to each other’s views’ songwriting brainstorm. It’s well documented that their differences and disagreements would cause arguments and fights. And yet it was these differences that made them great (and the same differences would eventually pull them apart).

We have the stereotypes of McCartney singing the optimistic, “It’s getting better all the time” and Lennon add the sardonic, cynical, “couldn’t get no worse”.

They’d do that with each other, face to face, opposite each other with guitars. With McCartney being left handed they would have appeared as if looking into a mirror.

Paul would sing, “She was just seventeen, you know what I mean” and John would stop and say, “I LOVE that!”. In Hey Jude, Paul sings a line he was unhappy with, “the movement you need is on your shoulder” and John retorted, “don’t change it, that’s the best bit!”.

We now know that although all those Lennon-McCartney songs were credited as equal compositions, they were nearly all instigated by one of the pair first and then worked up afterwards, together, then further developed with the other members of their team.

Paul McCartney may have thought of the ‘idea’ for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper. But it was the team of the four Beatles, their producer and engineers that embellished, elaborated, enhanced and manifested that idea into the record.

This should be our new model for brainstorming (or Ideastorming as I call it). Here are the new guidelines:

  • get a small group of two to five people who you trust. Could you bare to be stuck with them in traffic for eight hours? Could you bare to be stranded overnight with them?
  • each prime mover puts forward their ideas and the others help to change, embellish, enhance or reject them as an evolving debate.

Can it really be that simple? Actually yes. The secret to making brainstorming work was not to leave your brain at the door. All along we should have been using a healthy dose of common sense and realise that no strict formula or rules of ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do this’ has any place in creativity.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Click here to learn about Ayd’s Ideastorm workshops.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

I thought of that first!


You’ve heard the phrases, ‘Great minds think alike’ when you mention that you’d already thought of it. Someone probably mentioned to you the so-called ‘human superconscious’ (or is it ‘subconscious’). Some people say that ideas aren’t ours anyway, they’re gifts from God, the gods, or the Universe.

None of that’s any consolation when YOU had the idea first and then someone else comes up with it totally independently. You know they couldn’t have copied you, but somehow seem to have a version of it so close that they must have.

Is it that there’s nothing more potent than an idea that is now due? It’s certainly true in science and invention where, in 1669, differential calculus was invented both by Sir Isaac Newton in England and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in Germany.

Just one hour before Alexander Graham Bell registered his patent for the telephone in 1876, Elisha Gray patented his design. After years of litigation, the patent went to Bell. (See more famous things invented by different people at the same time here) .

We can see how that could apply to inventions computer and the television where numerous minds were, albeit independently, working on the same big problem.

But what happens when your idea surfaces for a story idea. An original, random-like idea that no-one could have possibly been working on from the same angle, surely?

Many published and famous authors have a policy of not opening mail that may contain story ideas. So don’t hand your story ideas to J.K.Rowling at a book signing. She’s had to deal with enough people who thought they’d had the idea of a boy wizard first so daren’t risk looking at anyone else’s ideas.

Russell T Davies, the writer and former executive producer of the television programme Doctor Who said that the BBC had to change its policy on unsolicited scripts and story ideas. They did this to avoid legal cases where someone may have felt their idea was stolen, even unconsciously. After all, there are only so many basic storylines and if you throw in an alien race, robots, time travel and monsters you’ve probably described a dozen Doctor Who adventures quite accurately.

It’s happened to me a number of times. I wrote a story in 1979 that featured as its premise a large ‘worm hole’ (although I called it a transdimensional black hole) at the edge of our solar system allowing the characters from Earth to visit a distant galaxy and for a fleet of aliens to invade Earth. To any science fiction fan, that’s obviously a description of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine from 1993 (and Babylon 5 I suppose, from the same time).

But I got there first!

In 1983 in anticipation of the third Star Wars film, I had a dream in which I went into a toy shop and saw in a glass case dozen of Star Wars figures of characters that I’d never seen before. When I woke, I drew them all. Not one appeared like them in Return of the Jedi, but three of them did turn up 16 years later in 1999’s Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Psychic premonition or random chance?

I don’t rate either of those as that remarkable. I won’t be seeking legal advice.

Then there’s the case that caused me to write this blog.

In 1997 I wrote a short detective science fiction story based on a premise that I’d never come across before, combining physiology, the supernatural, artificial intelligence and robotics. I re-read this week hoping that perhaps it was perhaps worthy of doing something with. I’d never shown it to anyone, let alone send it to any publisher.

It was on my archive hard drive in a version of Microsoft Word from 1992. The only way to open it was Textedit and strip out all the funny codes.

My wife then read it and questioned when I’d written it. She commented that it was superficially similar to an episode the BBC’s Dirk Gently series, written and broadcast this earlier this year on BBC4.

So is there much hope for my story if everyone who reads it thinks I’m the one who copied an idea? (You decide, click here).

So what can we do about this when it happens?

Nothing.

Or rather it’s a reminder that when you have an idea, use it, do it, get it done and finished and out there in the open, protected by copyright or patent if that’s relevant. But don’t sit on it and wait as sooner or later, another great mind might well just think of it too.

You can’t protect ‘an idea’. You can only protect and claim ownership of the execution of an idea. So when you have a great idea, don’t hoard it, execute it.

Not only will you not get the credit, glory (and maybe cash) from coming up with the idea first, but if someone did beat you too it, how annoying would it be if their execution isn’t as good as yours would have been…

Would you like to read my 1997 short story? If you’ve seen the Dirk Gently episode in question you’ll then know what I’m talking about. Perhaps you’ll think it’s not the same thing at all…

Click here to read it.

“What you can do or think you can do, begin it.  For boldness has magic, power, and genius in it.”
– W. H. Murray*

(*It wasn’t Goethe who said that by the way, if that was what you were thinking. Murray got there first.)

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Criticism? Feedback? Don’t ask people what they think


Being a graphic artist, author and speaker has meant that I’ve been enjoying more freedom than most when it comes to my daily routines and variety of work. But there is a great downside, one that most people don’t often have to deal with day to day and that is direct criticism of one’s creative work.

If you’re doing a process job and you get criticised, certainly it can hurt, but it’s easier to see that you got the process wrong. Perhaps you rushed it, did something in the wrong order or missed something out. Perhaps it was the weather’s fault or the customer’s. It’s easy to point the blame partially at something else. You didn’t get the sale? It wasn’t quite right anyway, there are loads of factors involved and you’ll no doubt do better next time when luck and better conditions are on your side.

This isn’t the same with a task that uses your creativity more directly. If you’ve designed something, drawn something, written something or made something, you’ve put part of your soul into it. And then for someone to come along and say “it’s not really working for me” or “I don’t like it” or the killer, “can you just…”. It’s horrible. It’s an affront upon your very being. Your reason for existence has been attacked. Your humanity and personality, your very soul has been deemed worthless, or worse, average.

No wonder it’s a powerful reason not to do anything. It’s just too risky being creative. We’re just not naturally built to take that sort of criticism. No wonder people devolve such responsibilities and avoid putting their naked soul on display where it can be jeered at and tormented.

The award winning writer Issac Asimov said that when he handed his manuscript to the editor it was, as far as he was concerned, totally finished and sacred. He refused to change one word, not one comma. That didn’t mean that it was perfect by any means but he just couldn’t face someone else getting into his artistry and messing with it. He couldn’t bare it. J. R. R . Tolkien was similar. He was the author, the artist. What could these other people know about it? How dare they suggest this wonderful world that he had summoned into existence be made better by some external reader, some punter, someone who hadn’t created one line of text in their lives.

If these giants of literature can’t take it, it’s no surprise we can’t. There are of course ways of giving feedback that doesn’t hurt or offend (and it’s not ‘constructive criticism’ by the way), but we’ll save that for another time. Here I want to deal with the receiving end.

First of all we need to get used to telling people to, well, clear off. Poking their noses in, who do they think they are? We need to get control back of our creativity and re-establish that it has value in itself no matter what anyone else thinks. If the value of your art is dependent on other people’s opinion you’ll either stop creating altogether or begin a downward spiral of depression and low self worth that can, like in the case of so many artists; painters, musicians, singers and writers, end in death.

The genius scientist, artist, musician and safe-cracker Richard Feynman was told so many times, “what do you care what other people think?” that he used it as the title of his book. He didn’t care what people thought of him so he felt free to indulge in his crazy ideas and experiments that earned him the Nobel Prize. Please note this is not saying we shouldn’t care about people. I’m saying we shouldn’t care too much what they think about us, or at least shouldn’t worry about it to a point that disables us from operating. We shouldn’t second guess our moves to accommodate what other people might think of what we’re doing.

Then must first re-establish the joy of the act of creation, no matter what the discipline we work in, as an end in itself, separate from whether people will like it or whether we can sell it. Monetising our creativity is important but that has to come second. If you don’t enjoy and feel free to create what you create without thinking someone is breathing over your shoulder, you will stop doing it.

With my design clients over the years and especially with my author clients, some have a tendency to doubt their work and feel the need for peer review (and often stranger review) to the work before it is competed. Some authors post the draft cover or the title of the book on their Friendface sites. Why do they do this?

If it’s to say, ‘hey, my new book is coming out soon, get ready, it’s going to be great’ that’s a good thing. If it’s ‘what do you think, please give me some reassurance because I’m not confident’ it’s a bad thing.

If it’s an impasse of ‘I can’t decide between A and B, please help me decide’ for example than that can be useful. But asking people ‘what do you think?’ allows a load of pig ignorant, out of context irrelevant people to offer their destructive comments, which they think, erroneously, are actually helpful.

How dare you! I hear you say. These are my friends! Well, I love my mum but I’m not going to ask her what she thinks of my book cover. What does she know about it book cover design? She’s not even in the target market. She’s certainly not going to buy a copy. I bet your friends won’t be buying a copy either. They’ll probably expect one for free. After all, they contributed to the book didn’t they, by telling you you’d done it wrong and needed their help to get it right. That deserves a copy doesn’t it. They probably won’t read it though.

There’s room for market research. It can be very important. But is has to be done scientifically with controls in place, with a sizable target market or all you’ll get is random, worthless opinions.

The opinions that you get from so-called friends are never offered in a caring way either. (They think they are, but they’re not). This is because most people are not trained in offering feedback. They simply fluff up their feathers, proud and empowered that they’ve been asked to give their opinion on something and then look hard to see what it is about your work that they can hate. They don’t realise that their opinion is always subjective. “I don’t like blue. Blue is the wrong colour to use” and phrases like that are worded in a global way, as if their subjectivity is objectively true under all conditions. This is wrong. All phrases that are offered that take a global form should be ignored.

Anyone who offers the phrase “I’m being devil’s advocate here” can get right out of town. The one thing that’s worse than an irrelevant opinion is someone irrelevant offering their guess on what someone else, who doesn’t event exist, may think.

It’s lovely when people say, “I love it!”. But that too is irrelevant and should be ignored. We should not need our friends, associates or strangers opinions to validate our creative work. No-one contacts the film company to say “love the new Harry Potter film poster”. No-one even contacts the author of a book and says “saw your book in the bookshop. Love the cover. Haven’t bought it or read it. But love the cover”. How offensive is that? It’s out of context, that’s why. The cover or the poster isn’t there to be validated on it’s own. It’s integral to the wider work and can only be judged in that context.

What happens when you get all these conflicting irrelevant, out of context opinions is that you freeze. You can’t move forwards or backwards. You lose all power. Do you you change it, scrap it, give up? Doing nothing is the only option. Perhaps time will make decisions easier to make. Perhaps the pain of criticism will go away. It will not, and it does not.

This all adds delay and perhaps a greater failure of the work not being finished at all. What a disservice to the real target market (who so far haven’t even seen the work) and now will never get it, or get it late in a watered down state.

Thank you ‘friends’. Thanks for wasting my time and letting us all down.

But it’s not their fault. It’s our fault for not having faith in our convictions. It’s our fault for not believing in our ideas.

If you have specific doubts about the creation, ask the relevant trusted expert a specific question. But never ever ask anyone “what do you think?” because until that moment they didn’t think anything. Now you’ve given them a knife and said, “see how deep you can cut”.

Instead, present your works to your network as a done deal. Say, “Here it is, my new book, available in September. I’m taking advance orders now”. See how many of them buy it. There’s YOUR feedback on whether you’ve got the right target market.

If there is something wrong, like a spelling mistake and someone points it out, that’s fine. That’s useful to know. It’s not an opinion, it’s an objective fact. But imagine someone saying, “I see you new book is coming out. I’d love to buy it but I can’t because it’s got blue on it”. Now it’s clearer that the person who says that is a moron. But of course no-one will say that because no-one in your network is a moron.

Unless of course you allow them to be.

More on criticism here: “Using the C-word in business”

Book Ayd to speak about Creativity and Innovation Mind-flow at your event.
For more interesting info see:

www.aydinstone.com

The Battlefield of Ideas


‘Ideas’ seems to be such a positive word. We all like ‘ideas’ and yet there’s a dark side to the concept. You just need to take a look at the news to see that there are plenty of problems caused by different ideas. It’s never religion that causes war, but the difference of ideas (See more on that here).

Ideas are like electricity, fire or money: they can be used for good or evil.

New ideas move the world forward. Powerful ideas shape the future. But dangerous ideas, of which there are far too many, damage the future.

We need more ideas, not because there is not a shortage of ideas in the world but because there is a shortage of new, powerful and positive ideas. There’s an even shorter list of people with enough confidence and opportunity to take those ideas forward and act on them.

We need those new, powerful, positive ideas and the people to carry them through. We need them to combat the noise of bad ideas and the threat of dangerous ideas and those powerful people who proliferate them.

There is a war of ideas going on right now in the battlefields of the minds of the young, the old, across different cultures, at home and at work.

Dangerous ideas of division and hate appear to spread like weeds through the field while beautiful ideas like the flowers of reconciliation and positive change need to be tendered, fed, watered and protected.

Let’s turn the field into a garden, by planting and nurturing the ideas we want to grow, for ourselves and for the future.

Book Ayd to speak at your event.
For more interesting info see:

www.aydinstone.com

Never ever try to think of a great idea ever again


GolfIf I was to play golf, never having played it before, and made the statement, “If I’m going to play this game, I only want to get hole-in-ones'”. What would happen when I teed off?

If I was going to be a photographer, having just equipped myself with an expensive digital SLR camera and I made the statement, “I’m only going to take great photos.” How many photos would I take?

If I was going to train as a research scientist and made the statement, “I’m only going to engage in ground-breaking research.” What new discoveries would I make?

The answers are of course that the odds are stacked incredibly high against being successful in any of the three. I wouldn’t hit a hole-in-one. I’d take one or two photographs before realising that my photos were rubbish and I’d feel a massive sense of under-achievement in the laboratory as I worked on mundane run-of-the-mill tests.

In each of these examples you have to do things badly to start with and then you get better. It’s obvious. So why, when it comes to generating ideas do we expect and somehow think we’re capable, of having great ideas without having lots of not-so-great ideas first? It’s like trying for the hole-in-one, you’re basically relying on random chance – you’re not playing the game.

Never, ever, ever, ever try to think of a good or great idea ever again. Unless you want to waste time and fail, that is. We need to understand that to be creative and generate earth-shatteringly brilliant ideas we need to set off trying to think of IDEAS, not great ideas. There is a subtle difference. By trying to think of great ideas you are starting off with judgemental thinking. To know that you’ve just thought of a great idea means that you’re verifying, critisising and evaluating the idea as soon as it is formed. This means you’re still locked into critical thinking, which we know, doesn’t have access to your full potential. You’re cutting out the creative driver of the process.

It’s hard to cut out critical thinking. We’re programmed to think that way. This means we’ll find it very difficult to just think of ‘ideas’ instead of ‘great ideas’, postponing the evaluation till the brainstorming session is over. To get over this, the secret is to deliberately think of bad ideas. By bad ideas I mean really, really bad ones.

Think of your most pressing problem at the moment. Can you think of 21 stupid, bad, rubbish and surreal ways to solve the problem? Think of ways that could make the problem worse. The aim here is to deliberately be unconstructive. This will help keep judgement and analysis at bay and will also open up the mind to possibilities (giving your mind permission to ‘think out of the box’). Your critical thinking brain will eventually just give up, allowing right brain possibility thinking to take over and start making some really unusual connections. You’ll find this tough too. I don’t think you’ll be able to do it, you’ll be so locked into left brain critical thinking mode.Try to prove me wrong and list 21 really bad ideas. Some people censor their thoughts so much they won’t be able to even attempt this. Remember, I’m not asking you to actually DO them – just think of them.

Then go back over the list. Notice what further ideas are triggered from the bad ones. Perhaps by ‘inverting’ a bad idea it becomes an idea so wonderfully good that you would never have considered had you not freed yourself from critical thinking.

Keep thinking the impossible and the ridiculous. If you think only about sensible ideas and search only for the perfect idea then you’ll also fail to come up with anything new. The route to genius does not lie on the often travelled path. Keep deliberately thinking of stupid, preposterous and truly ridiculous ideas (and write them all down). These open up new routes for your mind to explore and find new answers.

See if you can do it.

Book Ayd to speak at your event.
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There has never been a better time to do business than right now


“But times are hard, the economy’s slowing and inflation is up” say the little voices all around us. That may be the case, and that’s precisely why right now is the best time to do business.

Many small businesses think they’re in the business of selling their products or of supplying their services. Successful businesses, those that thrive in more trying times, are those that realise this is not quite the case. In reality, every business is a problem-solver. They exist to solve their customers problems. They exist to make the customer money by driving up profits, save the customer money by reducing costs, or to make the customer look and feel good in some way.

These are all problems that our customers have, and in trying times these problems do not go away, in fact they often increase. So to a keen problem-solving business there’s plenty to be getting on with. We have to work out ways that we can be more creative in selling, marketing and positioning our problem-solving products and services. Can we turn our troubleshooting skills in on ourselves to hit upon the ideas that will reduce our own costs or increase our own profits? How can we become expert, flexible and creative problem-solvers?

We must understand and unlock our individual and our company’s collective creativity. In affluent times, creativity and innovation are often seen as soft skills, nice to toy with, but not really taken very seriously. In more troubled changing times, your creativity and the creativity of your team become your biggest asset. Creativity has become a hard skill. Fortunately it is one that can be enhanced through training and practice.

Here’s a tip to start you off.
Get a piece of paper and write at the top your biggest problem right now as a question, e.g.. ‘How can I increase sales’, ‘How can I use the internet to drive business’ or ‘How can I improve cashflow’. Then write on the sheet twenty-one answers to the question. Do not stand up or do anything else until you have twenty-one answers. (You’re allowed to shout across the room for help from your colleagues!)

To complete the list, some of your ideas will have to be fanciful or even silly. If you fail to complete the list it is because you’re trapped in judgmental thinking and that is what is holding you back. Be more open and think of some ridiculous ways to answer the question. Just doing this exercise will open your mind to possibilities. You may even find that your stupid ideas are actually inverted good ideas. Do this every day and you will soon become an expert problem solver. Who knows, on one of those lists you just might find the big idea that will change everything and take your business to the next level.

If you want something entertaining, motivational, unusual and highly relevant in today’s climate for your conference or company training have a look at a clip here and visit my keynote page here.

For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk

We love stupid ideas


Stupid, idiotic, bad ideas are great. Think of bad ideas. Think of very, very stupid ideas. I challenge you – think of five stupid ways you could improve your business or lifestyle right now. Five rubbish ideas.

Bad ideas are good because bad ideas lead to good ideas. If you wanted to be a photographer but didn’t take a single photograph until you were sure that every photo you were going to take would be a good one – you wouldn’t take any photos. Creativity seems like an illusive mist to most people who think that creativity is some sort of gift. It is not a gift, it is a skill. Like any skill it has methods that need to be mastered. Like any skill the methods need to be practised. Just knowing the lines of a play aren’t enough. It’s the rehearsal that makes it work.

You can learn how to negotiate, how to project manage and how to sell. There are courses on all of those. You can practice those in your field of work. But don’t leave out creativity from the mix. Learn the techniques and use them to get the ideas to get ahead.

We need to think new thoughts. Find better ways of doing things. Find better things to do. That’s what people overlook. That’s what creativity is.

So when you have a problem and you need a solution don’t be concerned with convention. Don’t be concerned with what’s expected. Don’t be concerned with what people will think. Don’t even be concerned with what’s possible. If you put constraints like these on your ideas or if you judge your ideas during the brainstorming phase you might as well give up and join the legion of mediocrity because these things will prevent you from having the best ideas at best, but will more than likely totally kill the process at worst.

Work out what is actually possible and allowed later, in the planning phase, not in the creative ideas phase. Learn to play, to make new associations, swap things around, wonder, be silly, experiment. These are the attributes that will enable you to solve the problem with a unique solution and to think of that elusive winning idea.

Where do good ideas come from? From Bad ideas. So don’t be a fool, think of foolish ideas. Get them out and get them out of the way. Don’t judge them or analyse them, just get them flowing out. It’s from associations connected to these bad ideas that the really great ideas will come.

For more see:
www.aydinstone.com
www.sunmakers.co.uk