Tag Archives: Aha Moment

Improve the Creative Result by Goofing Off

Originally posted February 24, 2015

In our present culture in which multiple jobs are held by most people just to keep up with their latest Jones, and in which Acceleritis™ necessitates massive multitasking, the creative process tends to become shortened into a two-step process of absorbing information (never enough), and implementation. In other words, no Aha! Moment.

Pfeiffer Beach at sunset in California courtesy of Craig Colvin Photography

Take a break, a mini-vacation at the right moments in your creative process, and the Aha! Moment reveals itself. 

The absorbing of information part was easier before the Internet. One saw the logic of not going too far because it would cost too much time. Now one can keep drilling down further and further without an apparent end in sight.

Finding information however, continues to be the major complaint of executives and their teams. You know you have it somewhere and you can go searching for it but it is so boring and annoying given the time pressure. Give me a dashboard where I don’t even have to remember what it is called and yet can still find it in a second. Until then, just send that thing to me again, please.

When you break down how much time goes into the absorption (including searching) and other aspects of the process, the two middle stages — turning away (“sleeping on it”), then the Aha! Moment — take almost no time compared with absorbing and implementing. And yet those two middle processes account for the quality of the outcome or creative result. With only the bookends and no middle the result may be passable but it does not rock. Are we here just to do stuff that’s passable, without the satisfaction of Flow state-level outcomes? No way — makes no sense. Life is about living large, not just robotically coping.

Are you letting your mind go wherever it wants?

The creative process goes through four stages: absorbing information, turning away, the Aha! Moment, and implementation.

A third of a second before the Aha! Moment — a type of Flow state experience happens. Daniel Goleman explains it as a burst of gamma activity, signifying the rapid creation of a new network of neural connections in the neocortical right temporal cortex of the brain. Simply put, the Aha! Moment is a scientifically measurable event, i.e. it’s real.

However, this only occurs if your mind is in a certain state receptive to the sense of Aha! That state can be described as the indirect observation of undirected mentation. Let’s break it down.

Undirected mentation is when you let your mind go wherever it wants. Indirect observation is (by my definition) the alert watching of something as if seeing it for the first time.

So you get the Aha! to the degree your mind can do whatever it wants to do with no pressure to perform or achieve anything, while a very alert part of you is watching your own mind, as if from outside.

When you do this, the tendency is for the Observer state part of yourself to go to sleep. That is, your point of view tends to get reabsorbed into the part of the mind that is just playing and you forget to look at it from the detached Observer point of view. You get caught up in some attachment motivation, some feeling/emotion, which identifies you with the relaxing, playing, wandering mind. This may feel wonderful; however, it doesn’t help you if the objective is Observer and then Flow states. “Identification with” leaves the attachment turned on. “Detachment from” is the goal. Stay in, or keep returning to the detached Observer state.

So how do you increase the Aha! Moments and improve the creative outcome? Take a break, a mini-vacation at the right moments in your creative process, and the Aha! reveals itself. Trust that if you remain the scientist, the objective observer when goofing off, Aha! Moments WILL come more often.

Best to all,

Bill

Photo credit: “Pfeiffer Beach” courtesy of Craig Colvin Photography

Read the latest post at my media blog  “In Terms of ROI“ at MediaVillage.com.

Originally posted 2015-02-24 12:20:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

In Praise of Goofing Off

Or, Indirect Observation of Undirected Mentation
Volume 4, Issue 31

The creative process goes through four stages: absorbing information, turning away, the Aha! Moment, and implementation.

A third of a second before the Aha! Moment — a type of Flow state experience — Daniel Goleman explains that there is a burst of gamma activity, signifying the rapid creation of a new network of neural connections, in the neocortical right temporal cortex of the brain.

Woman multitasking

In our present culture in which multiple jobs are held by most persons just to keep up with their Jones, and in which Acceleritis necessitates massive multitasking, the creative process tends to become truncated into a two-step process of absorbing information (never enough), and implementation. In other words, no Aha! Moment.

The absorbing of information part was easier before the Internet. One saw the logic of not going too far, because it would cost too much time. Now one can keep drilling down further and further without an apparent end in sight.

Finding information however continues to be the major complaint of executives and their teams. You know you have it somewhere and you can go searching for it but it is so boring and annoying given the time pressure. Give me a dashboard where I don’t even have to remember what it is called and yet can still find it in a second. Until then, just send that thing to me again.

When you break down how much time goes into the absorption (including searching) and other aspects of the process, the two middle stages — turning away, then the Aha! Moment — take almost no time compared with absorbing and implementing. And yet those two middle processes account for the quality of the outcome or creative result. With only the bookends and no middle the result may be passable but it does not rock. Are we here just to do stuff that’s passable, without the satisfaction of Flow state-level outcomes? No way — makes no sense. Life is about living large, not just robotically coping.

And all you have to do is have more fun! Goof off. Take a break, a mini-vacation at the right moments in your creative process, and the Aha! reveals itself.

However, this only occurs if your mind is in a certain state receptive to the sense of Aha!. That state can be described as the indirect observation of undirected mentation. Let’s break it down.

Undirected mentation is when you let your mind go wherever it wants.

Indirect observation is (by my definition) the alert watching of something as if seeing it for the first time.

So you receive Aha! to the degree to which your mind can do whatever it wants to do with no pressure to perform or achieve anything. Meanwhile a very alert part of you is watching your own mind, as if from outside.

When you do this, the tendency is for that Observer state part of yourself to go to sleep. That is, your point of view tends to get reabsorbed into the part of the mind that is just playing and you forget to look at it from the detached Observer point of view. You get caught up in some attachment motivation, some feeling/emotion, which identifies you with the relaxing, playing, wandering mind. This may feel wonderful; however, it doesn’t help you if the objective is Observer and then Flow states. “Identification with” leaves the attachment turned on. “Detachment from” is the goal.

Remain the scientist, the objective observer when goofing off, and the Aha! will come more often.

Best to all,

Bill

PS — Thank you for the many positive emails about the serialized story of The Great Being. The series will continue in future issues, interspersed with other stories I am more inspired to write at the time. smiley

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Can Creativity Be Induced?

Volume 3, Issue 38

Waves booming, the expletives of gulls as they glide like white boomerangs buzzing us, scouting for handouts. I’m sitting with Lalita at breakfast on the terrace at the Malibu Beach Inn, reading The New York Times and I come across a book review reprinted from the Financial Times of London of the new book The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas by David Burkus.

According to Burkus, taking the review at face value, Plato and the other dons of antiquity were deluded and superstitious in believing that creativity was conferred only on certain humans and that moments of inspiration were given to them by the gods; that even today the popular notion that an “Aha!” moment exists is foolishness, and that creativity really comes down to hard work by large numbers of people working together to generate “creative ideas”. To which my first thought is “Why does it have to be one way and not the other, why can’t there be some truth in all of these ideas?”

The author reportedly goes on to point out that the efforts by organizations to instill increased creativity often backfire, instead causing people to conform so as to belong to a new groupthink where they hold back ideas that they fear would rile the comfort of the tribe and thus cause themselves to become treated like outsiders. This part also has the ring of some truth in it, as I’ve been in such situations, though found myself and a few others quite willing to bear the risk of contrarian creativity.

The book deserves to be read before coming to any conclusions about it, and it surely provokes useful thought if even its review does so. Yet all books that take seeming black and white positions from the title forward would in my estimation have low likelihood of portraying the complexity of the real world as it exists. I will apologize in this space if after reading it I must eat those words, for the review is not the book, the map is not the territory, as S.I. Hayakawa liked to say.

In my practice both at Bill Harvey Consulting and at The Human Effectiveness Institute I’ve often been asked to lead workshops aimed at increasing individual and group creativity and performance. My book Mind Magic is specifically tasked at doing that, and one edition of the book was even experimentally titled Freeing Creative Effectiveness. So as you can see I have a dog in this race, and a potential axe to grind.   😀

Can I prove that I’ve ever induced creativity by a book or workshop or any other means? Alas, no scientific proof yet (we’ll do A/B testing at some point), although anecdotal circumstantial evidence abounds in thousands of letters from readers, including this review from Dan Goleman:

“Highly recommended… will loosen your moorings and open you to creative vistas.” — Dr. Daniel Goleman

Science of course considers individual reports subject to placebo effect and various other biases including the desire to be nice.

In group work, there have been similarly non-definitive measurements. When Richard Zackon and I did an ARF creativity workshop last year it got good scores from the participants and many nice emails. Several people even followed up with telephone consultations. And beyond kind words there has been evidence that one day’s worth of a creativity-inducing workshop has had major positive effect on the directions that leaders of major companies took soon afterward.

I was amazed at the creativity I found in high-ranking officers of two different military branches during workshops I led. In one war game I created, a female officer in charge of a powerful group of units took the bait of my scenario to find a solution even more creative than the one I was going to reveal at the end had nobody thought of it.

The placebo effect and its counterpart in groups, the Hawthorne Effect, suggest that false effects can be caused simply by paying special attention to people. And yet why call these effects “false”? If one can remove pain with salt water and the powers of the subconscious why not use it? If one can cause creative behavior with hand waving, why not take all you can get?

Coming back to the Myth of Creativity book, one of its conclusions ascribed by the review is that creativity is best fostered in organizations where it is challenged. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, and compressing a spring or irritating an oyster analogies do apply to inducing creativity. I used to tell my team at a certain large agency that the repressive conduct of my boss at the time was an opportunity to be “creative within constraints”.

At the aforementioned ARF creativity workshop, we had the participants anonymously hand in ratings of their own organization on a ten-point scale of creativity repressiveness and siloed confusion. The range of scores we received covered practically the entire range from zero to ten. Take a look at your own organization and see what score you would give it.  🙂

Other than distributing our book and video to your team or doing our workshop, or doing similarly with other interveners from outside the organization, what else can you do? Guard against simulated creativity-inducing exercises, which can backfire. Give people autonomy within the bounds you feel each is equipped to handle and then give a bit more. Give people permission to try new things even if they might fail. When someone screws up, be kind yet honest. Don’t just simulate that, be authentic. Check the effect on target to be sure you’re not kidding yourself to make yourself feel good when you might have actually crushed them.

One way I found it easy to get bollixed organizations to be more creative is to interview the employees and get their creative ideas and then feed those ideas to the top person who can then take credit. That person was always the bottleneck and would only act on creative ideas if he/she could take credit for them. Before the intervention, good ideas had come up in meetings and been shot down, and months had passed until the top person was able to forget that the idea had been mentioned before, then putting it in new garb and “inventing” it as his/her idea. Thus the organization lurched forward, driven by organizational creativity with a delay cycle equal to how long it took the top person’s ego to forget and reinvent.

The notion that the “Aha!” moment is a fiction strikes me as funny. I have had this experience all my life, of ideas putting themselves together in a flash. Carl Jung and William James and many others define the intuition as the mind’s way of suddenly making logical connections among bits of information lying around. Saying that this process does not exist is amusing. Daniel Goleman’s description of the way the brain works at these moments would seem to add further veracity to the existence of “Aha!” moments in fact.

As to Plato’s being superstitious in considering that inspiration can come from levels above human consciousness, please see my new book when it comes out, You Are The Universe: Imagine That, which postulates that all observed phenomena including the paranormal and religious can be accounted for by my Theory of the Conscious Universe, in which we are all one Self living through many avatars, one biocomputer server networked to many clients. In that picture of reality, Plato could easily have been right.

Best to all,

Bill 

Follow my regular blog contribution at Jack Myers Media Network: In Terms of ROI. It is in the free section of the website at  Bill Harvey at MediaBizBloggers.com. 

Not Doing Can Be an Exquisite State of Being

Volume 3, Issue 18

In the prior post we offered an exercise and a discussion about the merits of balancing “doing” with “not doing” in one’s life. The object as always is greater effectiveness in one’s life, achieving emotional and higher goals on all fronts including love, creativity, and ultimately spiritual fullness. Our definition of “spiritual” is the intuitive knowing and feeling of relationship with all beings and all things. All of this is yours to enjoy in life. Hence the Jewish toast “to life” (l’chaim).

However, if one is always pushing toward targets, there are times at which one is inadvertently setting oneself back in regard to those targets. Thus the I Ching states: “Keeping still. Keeping his back still so that he no longer feels his body.” The authoritative Wilhelm/Baynes edition comments: “True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward.”

Speaking about cultivating the “Aha! Moment”, an aspect of Flow state, Steve Kotler at the ARF described a stage in the creative process in which one is wise to turn away from the challenge and do other things, for it is during this turned-away phase that the Aha! moment comes.

Certain batteries get recharged when one takes oneself temporarily off the wheel that is always driving us. This also happens during entertainment such as we get from screen devices, books, stage and other performances, spectator sports, vacations, making love, being with family and/or friends. But the subtlest batteries only get recharged when we are alone with ourselves. This can take the form of formal sitting meditation but it doesn’t have to. We can be alone in nature, alone at home, alone on an airplane, anywhere. As long as we are not working down the TO DO List, there is a greater chance that we will slip into the Observer state (the precursor to Flow state) effortlessly. To help bring this on, here are two tips:

  • Look more closely at the place from which thoughts/feelings arise.
  • Don’t add to what you observe inwardly/outwardly, i.e. stop interpretations.

These mindsets are helpful in cultivating the subtle capabilities of consciousness, the intuition as Science calls it.

The movement associated with creative energy is good. Stillness in body and mind is also valuable. Balance is optimal for maximizing effectiveness toward all goals. Here is a relevant excerpt from Mind Magic.  

Best to all,

Bill

PS — Our measure of effectiveness is results, outcomes, measurable things. Thousands of Mind Magic readers wrote unsolicited postcards, letters and emails reporting improved performance across twenty or more scales including happiness, self-confidence, creative output quality, and so on. Corporations wrote similar letters reporting improved decision making, reduced bias in perceptions, better teamwork. Military commanders mentioned mental flexibility, adaptability, fortitude. (Full battery of measures we are using currently in testing, available on request.)

Follow my regular blog contribution at Jack Myers Media Network: In Terms of ROI. It is in the free section of the website at  Bill Harvey at MediaBizBloggers.com.