Topics we cover:
- 00:01:18 The Imagination Network in the Brain
- 00:03:34 Creativity is about Inhibition as well as activation
- 00:05:48 Brainstorming
- 00:08:22 Convergent and Divergent Thinking
- 00:10:58 Educating People out of Creativity
- 00:12:29 Organisations and Creativity
- 00:16:39 Creative Exercises like de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats
- 00:22:22 The Von Restorff Effect
Find Helena here:
Transcript done by AI:
brain, creativity, people, creative, thinking, divergent thinking, ideas, organisations, hat, elena, book, called, important, learn, exercise, convergent thinking, frontal lobe, part, helena, bosque
Helena Boschi, Aidan McCullen
Aidan McCullen 00:00
Stay hungry, stay foolish. Part three of Halina. Bosque is why we do what we do. Focusing on creativity this time is coming up. But before we get into that, I want to thank our sponsors, ZaI boldly transforming the future of financial services with a suite of embedded products and services, enabling businesses to manage multiple payment workflows, and move funds with ease checkout Zai. And HelloZai.com. Let’s get into this part three, where we focus on creativity, a shorter episode as requested by so many of our audience, let’s get into it. Okay, we’re back after our break, which is really important for creativity. By the way, take breaks. So important, as Helena might tell us about. So Elena, I thought, I tee you up with a quote by Picasso, the one that you opened this chapter on, one of my favourite quotes is every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up. And of course, that’s from Helena’s book, why we do what we do over to you, Helena, tell us about creativity, maybe starting with the structural aspects of the brain, because there’s certain parts of the brain that are responsible for creativity,
Helena Boschi 01:07
Creativity is a fascinating area, because it actually isn’t, it’s almost a whole brain process. It doesn’t just happen in the right hand side of the brain, it actually activates so much of the brain. And there’s a 2001, there was a theory that came out called the imagination network. And the imagination network proposes that there is a there’s an interaction between if I hold up a brain, here, you’ll see this is the frontal lobe here,
Aidan McCullen 01:38
that’s not a real brain, just just to let our audience know that’s not real, it looks. It’s drifting.
Helena Boschi 01:46
So the frontal lobe, and you might remember from the first discussion Aiden, and I had, this is very good. At synthesising information making. It forms the part of the brain that’s involved in executive functioning, rational judgement and decision making. And you might remember, I also explained that teenagers, this part of the brain in the teenage brain is still growing, it’s underdeveloped. So this is your, this is the part of the brain that really looks at solutions and suggestions and synthesises information. But the temporal lobe which is right here, this is good for storing specialised knowledge. And then you’ve got the parietal lobe here, which is involved in taking in sensory information, spatial awareness, maths. And so these three areas really comprise the imagination network. So when we are thinking creatively, we are actually using a lot of the brain to do that. And there are so many things we say erroneously about creativity, which is, you know, I’m not creative. They’re the creative ones, creative people do this. And other people do that. And the truth is, we all have the capacity to be creative. We just learn not to be creative, as we become educated, as we specialise, as we become expert in a certain field of knowledge. And of course, when we narrow our focus down, certain connections, and neurons just die off. So we have to learn as adults to reactivate this imagination network. Again,
Aidan McCullen 03:34
I was telling you, we had Steven Kotler on the show before talking about getting into a flow state. So getting into that state of just oneness with the universe. It’s not just about activation. It’s importantly about deactivation. And you were telling me about some of the exercises you run in your corporate events, for example. And I also focus on this letting people know that one of the biggest blockers is, oh, what will they think? What will the other person think, and importantly, when you’re in a creative state, without those parts of your brain, the activates, which is really important to understand,
Helena Boschi 04:10
research is a fascinating study on rappers. And they wanted to see they asked them to improvise, creatively improvise under a scanner, an fMRI scanner, which looks at brain function. And what they found. So if you think about the brain, again, you’ve got the, you know, this is the, in a way, this is our braking system. So this, this makes judgments about the ideas we have. So when we’re creating these areas of the brain switch on and off. And we when we’re when we’re in a situation where we are in that flow state when we’re letting our brain explore and diverge and imagine we have to allow the areas of the brain that do this to come online. And we have just which have the judge and jury the frontal lobe. So this part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex here right at the front, this has to switch off until such time as when we need to bring it online. Again, two ideas select with the rapper’s, what they found was that the, when they were creatively improvising, this part of the brain was deactivated. Because this is the braking system, this is the monitoring this is the the area of the brain, which plans but this week to activate this too early would have meant that the creative improvisation would have been limited. So we bring that on later when we need to. But when we’re truly improvising and creating, this needs to be switched off and off and deactivated. And so of course, when we’re brainstorming, especially if we’re brainstorming, and we’re being observed by others, were worried about being judged. Brainstorming is a terrible way of generating ideas. Brainstorming is very good for IDEA selection. But our most creative thinking happens when we’re in that flow state. When we’re relaxed, when we’re allowing ideas to float through our head. We’re not really doing anything with them. They’re just coming and going. And some ideas are leading to other ideas. Only later, do we then bring the frontal lobe back into action back into play, to select and to pick out the ideas that we think might mean be most valuable and relevant at that time.
Aidan McCullen 06:39
It’s really interesting. I’m being selfish here with this because I in my workshops, I use a Disney technique. So Walt Disney had this concept called the the dreamer, critic realist rooms, so they were actually separate rooms. So he’d bring everybody into the dreamer room, it would be painted a certain colour designed a certain way. And it’d be like, there’s no gravity, you can do whatever you want, what would you do? And then the critic room was like the opposite. So it was like, rip it to shreds, you know? And then the realist room was the was one minus the other it was like, well, out of all them, what can we do? So when I read this about the brain of a turning parts off, like the rappers, and then I thought about, maybe I’ll bring us through divergent and convergent thinking, because what’s really important is that they can’t be operating in that state at the same time. And maybe I’ll just share this with you as well, Elena, because we had a brilliant guest on the show a couple of times. And John Zahra, and she’s written a book about writing to be understood. She writes about writing, she helps me write my book as well. But she talked about the brain in kind of like neuro writing. So she said, in the brain, you have the scribe, and the muse, the Muse is like, get it all out there, all these great ideas, etc. And then the scribe edits. And they’re not the same part of the brain work. And so she didn’t look into the neuroscience of this as per se, but this is just her theory. And I was like, these all work together with what Halina talks about. So this is really important, I love you to take us through this.
Helena Boschi 08:21
So convergent and divergent thinking, I think first came into being as concepts. And as words, really, through the work of a scientist, George land, George land was working with NASA. And he was used using a number of tests with nurses, engineers, and mathematicians and scientists. And he decided to use the same test or very similar test with children 1600 Children over a 10 year study. So this was a longitudinal study. And these children, they’re at a very young age at the age of, I think, five, he wanted to see whether they could think divergently. So divergent thinking is when we, we have a problem, or we have any kind of situation. And we let our brains launch out of that situation. So we allow that situation to take us on a lot of different journeys. And we entertain all kinds of possibilities, we let one idea connect to the next to the next to the next. And creativity is really about connecting idea with idea with idea with idea. And the more that we can plant these seeds inside the brain, the more the brain becomes this fertile ground for all kinds of ideas. So when we have that eureka moment when we have that, oh, my goodness, I got it. It’s actually the results of a brain that’s been fed this really rich diet of connections and ideas. So one of the one very commonly used divergent thinking exercise is, imagine as many uses as you can for a paperclip, a shoe a tennis ball, and you get people to come up with really random ideas. without judgement, just let the brain explore and meander away. That’s divergent thinking. And children, at five years old and below are very good at divergent thinking. In fact, he found that 98% of them could think divergently, which is fantastic. The problem is 10 years later, he found that this number had reduced significantly, and out of the children who had been able to think divergently a very small proportion, around 30% 20 to 30%. Could now think divergently, and the late Ken Robinson, who very sadly died last year, he speaks about education as educating people out of their creative creative capacities. And you know, and non creative behaviour as George lanceerde is learned. So, Picasso was right, you know, we’re all, we’re all creative until we stop being children. And then we have got to try and find ways to learn to be creative again. Now convergent thinking is what we’re used to doing. And this is where education really drives us convergent thinking is when we have a problem, and we converge on one solution. And this is what brainstorming is all about. We’re put in a room and we sit on, we’re told to think of a solution to this problem, challenge or issue. And the minute we find an answer, we stick with that. And we don’t let ourselves think beyond that. And so we learn to come up with one solution one way, one answer. And we don’t imagine any other possibility. This, of course, is not creative. This is what we call problem solving, problem solving. And the ability to problem solve is very important for creativity. But it’s not the only thing we should be doing. But when we become so used to coming up with one way, the correct way, that we forget that there might be other alternatives out there that we haven’t yet entertained.
Aidan McCullen 12:29
It’s really interesting. You mentioned again, in the book that when when we go to an organisation, for example, we suggest an idea, the idea when it’s rejected, or when it’s overlooked as well. We often just revert to what successful behaviour so we’re animals, so we’re going okay, well, I, you know, I got I got a slap on the nose for that essentially, psychologically, so I won’t be doing that again. And then we wonder why our organisations are not as creative or innovative, despite being one of the most sought after skills supposedly, on job specs are on the World Economic Forum, as you say,
Helena Boschi 13:09
organisations are very good at saying we want increased risk taking, we want more innovation. We want people to think outside of the box. And then they limit people trying to do new things. They limit people to talk trying to take a risk that might look very different to what they’re used to. They criticise each other for doing something and having it fail. They cover up their own mistakes. I mean, Amy Edmondson who talks about psychological safety, she says that the the most psychologically safe teams are the teams that that have more mistakes, because they’re reporting more mistakes. They feel safe enough to do this. And they’re obviously experimenting, but all experimentation all learning all trial and error. All creativity and creativity is messy. It’s not a linear route. It’s it’s it’s a path that has myriad of networks and different branches and trying to work something out here and finding it that has taken us on that direction there. So we’ve got to allow for that process. To to be able to work in organisations, we have got to celebrate people trying new things. We have got to not stay stick rigidly to processes that we know have worked in the past. But perhaps there’s another way of doing it. Perhaps we have to give up that previous success in order to try something new. Perhaps we need to keep learning and reinventing ourselves. And the very worst thing we should be saying is why fix it if it ain’t broke, if we waited for something to break is too late. The time to learn. I think John F Kennedy said this The Time to mend the roof is when the sun is shining. Always, even when you’re successful, this is great opportunity to find new ways, better ways of doing what you’re already doing well, because if we don’t do that, then out of nowhere, we will find that someone has come has arrived and started to eat our market share, do what we do even better than us. There are always people behind us even if we’re at the top of our game, there will always be people who could come out of nowhere, who could shock the hell out of us.
Aidan McCullen 15:36
Beautiful. I thought we’d end with one last thing which would be okay, what can you do about this on an individual level because we are going to talk about change organisational change at a later date, Elena and I are going to come back and do another episode purely on that because it’s so important. And at the end of this chapter on understanding creativity and innovation, you also list a lot of exercises we can do or things we can be aware of, like for example, things that we’re not allowed to do in the classroom with children, or in organisations. One of which is for example, daydreaming and pattern recognition, shifting connection, thinking like a child, you know, you’ll be cold called childish if you do that. And it will affect your career, persistence, and under your nose, which is all about olfactory senses as well, maybe you’ll share a couple of exercises that we can do at home to enhance our creativity. So we’re not like the we’re not like the Picasso quote, we remain creative, and we keep it alive in our brains
Helena Boschi 16:38
if we want to really exercise ourselves, then, and this, this really builds on the Disney technique. And to to Bono’s six thinking hats is a fantastic exercise to run. I’ve run it in organisations, I’ve had people make hats, wear them, and practice the different hats. So each hat represents a different aspect of our thinking system. And the green hat is very creative. It’s very unorthodox. The black hat is very critical. The blue hat is process driven. So it looks at organising the output of the hats, the white hat is neutral, the yellow hat is positive. And the Red Hat is emotional. So when we’re wearing this hat, we’re only allowed to think in that way to think according to that hat. And in doing that it forces us. And if you do this within a team, everyone’s wearing the same hat. This is called Parallel thinking. Because what we’re used to doing in organisations if someone has an idea, and then the very next thing somebody says after someone has suggested an idea is say the word thought and but crushes creativity. And it’s the second person often to speak, that often determines the fate of that idea. So we have to really watch the way that we communicate with each other. But if we’re all thinking in the same way, we remove that critic that’s inside all of us. And remember going back to biases, we have a very strong negativity bias, we see the bad over the good, very important survival mechanism in all of us. But it can actually impede creativity. So six thinking hats is a really nice exercise to do if you’re trying to get the best out of your team. The other thing you can do in as an individual is daydreaming is of course, fantastic because it allows us to it allows ideas to float in and out of our brain and to populate the brain with things that we may otherwise not have thought of. And lead to that is tiredness. Now, tiredness is actually very good for our creativity. Because when they’re tired, our frontal lobe has switched off. It’s exhausted, this has a very finite amount of energy and resource for decision making. It is easily depleted. So by the end of the day, we’re very tired. We’ve got a shutting down frontal lobe. But this is good news for creativity. Because what this means is that we can entertain ideas and thoughts without this inner critic jumping in and shutting it down too early. And linked to that Salvador Dali recognised the importance of this. So he would put his own brain into a state called hypnagogic. And this is a state between sleep and full wakefulness and he’d sit on a chair with a key on a plate, and he’d drift off to sleep and at the point where his muscles would relax the key and the plate would clutch to the floor, kind of waking him up, but also meaning that he was still a bit asleep. But his brainwaves were now operating in this hypnagogic way. And this is why he was able to pay to what he did. And his paintings have this lovely, dreamlike quality to them. So we can really harness our own creative potential at different times of the day, tiredness can be a friend of creativity. Another thing you can do is put you put constraint around you. So constraint can also be good. One of the things I practice doing was working without a computer charger because I wanted to see how much work I would get done knowing that my battery would die eventually. This is a fantastic thing to do. Because, as the conductor I’ve or Stravinsky said, constraints raise our performance to a higher level. When they’re teaching footballers how to play football, they do it on a smaller pitch, so that they can perfect their skills that when they go on to the bigger pitch, they can then find they find this a lot easier equally with gymnasts. They put them on a two inch beam so that a four inch beam feels big so we can really finesse our abilities through constraint. And Dr. Seuss, who wrote the book, Green Eggs and Ham this was the result of a bet Dr. Seuss made with his publisher. And his publisher said, I bet you can’t write a book in only 50 With only 50 different words. Dr. Seuss said, I bet I can. And the result was green eggs and ham and Dr. Seuss did of course, win the bet. Another thing you can do is do the opposite to other what other people are doing. Apple was very good at this. If you want to look at Apple’s first Macintosh advertisement, which was launched during the Superbowl in 1984, you’ll see that he did everything opposite to IBM, Big Blue, and IBM, IBM were very dominant at the time. So instead of having the boys in blue, the Apple Mac, the Apple Macintosh was launched by a girl introduced to the world by a girl dressed in red and orange. So do the opposite. And the brain switches on to things that are different. This is called a Vaughn rest of effect in the brain, the brain will notice what looks different. So switch people’s brains on switch your own brain on and make sure that you know you’re doing the opposite, try something entirely different. And if you are, if you’re not top of the game, if you’re not market leader, don’t worry, because you can be something called a fast follower. Learn what other people are doing and just do it even better. This is often very good for us because it helps to hone our creative thinking. And we can seek ways in which to improve on something that’s already there. And this gives us again, more ideas of how to perfect our own creative creativity and exercise that creative muscle.
Aidan McCullen 23:15
Beautiful. Everybody’s gonna be busy now. So we better wrap that one up, Elena, it’s been a pleasure. And thank you for your time, I really appreciate it. I know you have a talk to deliver now for someone else. And I’d love to come back and do some of the remaining chapters. So for example, transformation, there’s a whole chapter on their change in the brain, which is fascinating. There’s one on leadership on the brain as well, which is tightly linked to that as well. How do you create the right environment for change and to understand all your people are different as well. So there’s so much more, we’re going to come back and do Elena and I have a little project in the baking as well. It’s in the oven. They’re shorter little lapse episodes, shorter bites, because it’s one of the requests of how many times on the show. I’m a little bit reluctant to do that. Helene and maybe you have a an opinion on that. But I know people have less time than ever before. And the shows can be a bit overwhelming. So I’m going to try and break them down into more small bite sized chunks and deliver them on YouTube, perhaps also on audio as well. So maybe you have some thoughts on that because those smaller chunks seem to be easier for people to absorb
Helena Boschi 24:25
an attention span was already not great. In fact, there is a chapter on attention in the book. And I wrote this pre COVID fact it was being published just as COVID was really starting to affect the world. But in the world that we’ve had in the last two and a half years we’ve had you know we’ve we’ve worked on screen. People are used to getting the responses very rapidly immediately. Our attention span has shortened again. And so I think it’s important to give people some really quick have practical tips and techniques and how to get the best out of themselves. Using what we know about the attentional system, knowing that they’re not likely to pay attention for an hour, even half an hour might be too big and ask. But giving people some lovely bite sized nuggets might really help in this world that we’re in because we don’t know where it’s going. But the best we can do is get people some ideas of what to do about all of this as we go through it together.
Aidan McCullen 25:28
Brilliant. Well, it’s from the experts mouth that we need to do this. So I’m actually going to work out with that Halina, and we’ll plan that I’ll give away this copy of that book before that these people are like, Oh, will you ever just give us the copy of the book, don’t forget to sign up the innovation show.io And your newsletter, and you can win a copy of why we do what we do, understanding our brain to get the best out of ourselves and others. And it’s a pleasure as always to be joined by the author of the book. Halina Bosque, thank you for joining us.
Helena Boschi 25:57
It’s been a joy. And thank you so much.
Aidan McCullen 26:00
I hope you’re enjoying these shorter bites, please give us some feedback admin at the innovation show.io Is the newsletter you can reach us on, give us this type of feedback. The shows are too long, there’s too many episodes etc. Always valuable, we will work to what you can handle. I do prefer the deeper episodes obviously, it’s easier for me to be able to put them together. But the big restriction for me just so you know, is actually reading the book. So if I read the whole book, I don’t want to waste that I want to get that to you as well. And if the author is willing, even all the better. Before we finish, I want to thank our sponsors, I boldly transforming the future of financial services with a suite of embedded products and services, enabling businesses to manage multiple payment workflows and move forwards with ease checkout die and hello Zidar calm. See you very soon. Helena Bosque we’ll be back in about three weeks or so where we’ll focus on micro subjects to do with the brain. really look forward to getting stuck into that project and mites, so many others for now. I’m out of here. See you soon.