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Back in 2006, Inventium’s founder, Dr Amantha Imber was working as a consumer psychologist in a big advertising agency. The agency had put her through a lot of creative thinking training which she loved. However, when she started getting deeper into researching the field, she realised that all these training companies had done was rip off Edward de Bono techniques from the 70s and re-package them as their own. She thought that, ironically, this was pretty uncreative.

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Amantha had always been a bit of a science geek and kept reading the jargon-filled academic journals long after leaving university. She noticed that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of studies being conducted around the world that looked at what variables increased a person’s ability to think more creatively and a company’s ability to innovate. However, she realised that there was a great divide between this great research that was being done in the world of academia, and what was actually getting used in the ‘real world’. So in 2007, she had the idea of starting a company that applied the science of psychology and neurology to boosting creativity and innovation - something that had never been done before. Since Inventium opened its doors, Amantha and her team, have helped literally thousands of people across Australia, the United States, the UK, Europe, Africa and New Zealand improve their ability to generate great ideas.

Get happy to get creative

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Get happy to get creative Our emotional state has a big impact on our ability to think creatively. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University conducted a study which examined the impact of happy and sad moods on idea generation. To put them into the required mood, participants were first asked to describe a recent life event that made them feel happy or sad. Following the mood manipulation, participants were asked to write down as many things they could think of that could fly. On average, participants in the happy group came up with almost 50% more ideas than the sad group. The happiness hypothesis was also explored by Teresa Amabile at Harvard University. Amabile asked several hundred people to keep a work diary that detailed their daily activities, moods and other workplace events. An analysis of these diary entries showed that people were more likely to come up with breakthrough ideas when they were feeling happy, even if this happiness was experienced the day before the idea was generated.

When we are happy, the level of a brain chemical called dopamine increases. In the frontal lobe, dopamine controls the flow of information to other parts of the brain. When people feel happy, thoughts or images of one concept – such as ‘thick’ – activate thoughts or images of many other concepts – such as ‘paint’, ‘stupid’ or ‘makeup’. Opening up connections between concepts that are only remotely associated with one another increases our ability for divergent thinking. In contrast, when people feel sad, they become more detailoriented with their thinking which means that they often will not see the greater possibilities. In other words, they get focused on the trees to the exclusion of the forest. So if you are feeling a bit flat, chances are you are probably not performing at your peak creativity. The common image of the ‘tortured genius’ has fed the popular belief that the majority of creative geniuses were depressed and emotionally unbalanced. However, studies have shown that people are actually more creative when they are happy.

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Warm Up Your Brain To Improve Creative Thinking For those of us who exercise regularly, doing a big workout without a warm-up seems silly. Our risk of injury increases dramatically and it also makes it hard for us to perform at our best. Similarly, it is critical to warm up your brain before engaging it in a creative-thinking workout. This is to combat the fact that in general, most ideageneration and problem-solving meetings are scheduled immediately after a strategy or finance meeting, in which your brain was most likely in analytical or linear gear. Most of us can appreciate how difficult it is to come from a meeting that requires analytical, rational thinking into a meeting that requires us to think laterally (that is, thinking outside of our usual frame of reference). When your brain has been in linear thinking mode, coming up with creative solutions is very difficult. The brain naturally wants to jump to logical solutions, given the mode it is in, and finding lateral and creative solutions becomes unnecessarily difficult.

Scientific research suggests that warming up the creative-thinking parts of your brain will help you perform more effectively and efficiently at creative tasks. These exercises will make it easier to jump from a finance meeting to an idea-generation meeting. Warming up this part of your brain only takes a few minutes to shift your brain into an open-minded and lateral-thinking mode. There are many ways to warm up you brain to this type of thinking. One is an Inventium tool called Fat Chance. Fat Chance was designed with the specific purpose of warming up the creative-thinking parts of people’s brains. The tool can be used before 30-minute idea-generation and problemsolving workshops or one-day blue-sky thinking workshops in which brains need to think laterally for an entire day. Fat Chance requires no materials or stimuli other than one thing: an impossible challenge. For example, cure cancer by tomorrow lunchtime. There are two key elements to creating an impossible challenge. The first is to pick a goal or an objective that is almost impossible to achieve with technology as we know it

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today. The second is to add an incredibly tight time frame. The tighter the better. For example, Raise Paris Hilton’s IQ by 100 points by the end of the week. Give birth to an alien by dinner tonight. Marry Brad Pitt by noon tomorrow. After you have developed an impossible challenge, the next step is to divide the participants into pairs or groups of three. This gives everyone a good chance to participate. Once groups are assigned, instruct people to generate at least three solutions to the problem in five minutes. Encourage those who are finding it difficult and remind them that the solutions do not have to be logical or rational – in fact, those solutions won’t actually solve the problem. After these five minutes have passed, you can feel confident that the divergent thinking parts of people’s brains will be sufficiently warmed up. Why does this tool work so effectively? It all comes back to the impossibility of the challenge. Given that it is impossible, noncreative thinking will not lead to a solution. The problem can only be solved through taking a leap and thinking very creatively

and laterally. For example, in relation to the Paris Hilton problem, some solutions might include bribing the instructor for the answers, making the IQ test about fashion rather than general knowledge, or finding another person named Paris Hilton who happens to be very smart. Despite the ‘craziness’ of these problems and answers, groups have then gone on to generate innovative solutions to real life problems they were facing.

Eyeing off creativity In general, the left side of our brain directs our logical and rule-based decisions; similar perhaps to a stern headmaster. On the other hand, the right side tends to be more inventive and intuitive. Research out of New Jersey has gone a step further and found a way to maximise both the left and right brain hemispheres, leading to highly practical and highly creative ideas. The researchers got their participants to complete a standard creativity test then split the participants into two groups. One group was instructed to follow a target that

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moved from left to right for 30 seconds, while the second group looked straight ahead for the same time. The participants then completed the same creative idea generation test. Keeping in mind that the participants shared comparable creativity before being split into groups, the participants who followed the moving target were much more creative than those who stared at the wall.

The researchers concluded that moving your eyes from side-to-side increases the communication between the left and right side of the brain, thus resulting in more useful and creative ideas. So if your brain is still recovering from the weekend and you need a kick start, get those eyes dancing from side-to-side and feel your brain sing.

Inventium - Creative Thinking and Ideas