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Boost Performance with Creative Insights

 

Leaders may inadvertently suppress their people’s creative insights. While bragging about their innovative, out-of-the-box thinking, these bosses may fail to notice that company systems discourage creativity. This ingrained, often invisible problem has an adverse side effect: It can diminish profits.

Improving performance for long-term success requires a two-pronged managerial approach: Focus on reducing errors while increasing creative insights.

Most managers concentrate on reducing errors: the obvious half of the equation. They know mistakes are visible, costly and embarrassing.

But many managers forget about the second step. Businesses cannot surge ahead in the marketplace without creative insights

4 Stages of Creative Insights

“When we put too much energy into eliminating mistakes, we’re less likely to gain insights.” ~ Gary A. Klein, PhD, Seeing What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights (PublicAffairs, First Trade Paper Edition, 2013)

Research into how the brain solves problems and generates “aha” moments has helped us understand the best ways to stimulate creative insights.

British psychologist Graham Wallas proposed a four-stage process in his 1926 book, The Art of Thought. He asserted that creative solutions appear sequentially:

Preparation => Incubation => Illumination => Implementation

Psychology professors John Kounios and Mark Beeman tweaked the formula in The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight and the Brain (Random House, 2015):

Immersion => Impasse => Diversion => Insight

We must step back and painstakingly observe a problem (immersion), examine perspectives and context, reinterpret the familiar, become aware of unfamiliar and unseen relationships, and question assumptions and biases.

If you reach an impasse, stop seeking answers. Seek a change of scenery, and give your brain a rest (diversion). Your subconscious will continue to make remote associations and connect ideas during an incubation period. Insights will materialize, accompanied by feelings of certainty and an emotional thrill.

7 Places to Find Creative Insights

A November 2014 Harvard Business Review article (“Where to Look for Insight”) defines insight as “an imaginative understanding of an internal or external opportunity that can be tapped to improve efficiency, generate revenue, or boost engagement. Insights can be about stakeholder needs, market dynamics, or even how your company works.”

Most of us can adopt a mindset that facilitates creativity and insights. The authors of the HBR article urge readers to explore seven key areas:

  1. Anomalies: Examine deviations from the norm. Do you see unexpectedly high or low revenue or share in a market or segment? Surprise performance from a business process or a company unit?
  1. Confluence: Find macro trend intersections. What key economic, behavioral, technological or demographic trends do you see? How are they combining to create opportunities?
  1. Frustrations: Pinpoint deficiencies in the system. Where are customer pain points for your products, services or solutions? Which organizational processes or practices annoy you and your colleagues?
  1. Orthodoxies: Question conventional beliefs. Are there assumptions or beliefs in your industry that go unexamined? Toxic behaviors or procedures at your company that go unchallenged?
  1. Extremities: Exploit deviance. What can you learn from the behaviors and needs of your leading-edge or laggard customers, employees or suppliers?
  1. Voyages: Learn from immersion elsewhere. How are your stakeholders’ needs influenced by their sociocultural context?
  1. Analogies: Borrow from other industries or organizations. What successful innovations do you see applied in other disciplines? Can you adapt them for your own use?

Fixation Thinking

Albert Einstein is reported to have said that if you gave him an hour to solve a problem, he'd use the first 55 minutes to consider if it was the right problem.

A problem typically leads to an impasse because you’re asking the wrong question. When you focus on misleading features, you risk going down rabbit holes. We need to become aware of the mental traps that cause us to fixate on the wrong problem.

Mental Training

Studies have shown that even thinking about unusual people or events primes the brain for creativity. On the other hand, thinking about conformity, rules and the way things are usually done enhances analytical thinking.

Achieving psychological distance—even if it’s only imaginary—increases insightfulness. Try to think about the big picture, the 30,000-foot view.

Environmental Influences

Kounias and Beeman believe your environment can promote a brain state that’s amenable to “aha” moments.

Creative insights and valid intuitions are characterized by:

1.  Remote associations

2.  Broad, flexible attention

3.  Abstract thought

4.  Positive mood

5.  A sense of psychological distance

6.  A promotion orientation

Some studies show that expansive surroundings (high ceilings, a view) allow greater creativity and broaden attention. The ideal environment for creative thinking is open, airy, rounded and calm.

Change everyday routines. Interact with diverse people and situations. Nonconformists can be strange, but their creative thinking is contagious. Being around them primes the brain for enhanced insightfulness.

8 Tips to Enhance Insightfulness

The threat of a deadline narrows your thinking and restricts ideas. Frequent breaks and long periods of incubation are likely impractical, but finding ways to maintain a creative mindset is paramount.

Try the following strategies to enhance insightfulness:

1.     Periodically consider your larger goals and values, and how you can promote them.

2.     Reserve time for long-range planning and creative daydreaming.

3.     Cultivate a positive mood by thinking about the people and things that bring you joy.

4.     Schedule vacations that will stimulate creative thinking.

5.     Do something new. Take up a new hobby, or delve into a topic unrelated to your occupation.

6.     Walk, run or engage in another physical activity to promote brain growth.

7.     Meditate and disengage periodically.

8.     Get ample sleep to rejuvenate brain cells, improve associative thinking and consolidate memories.

Are you working in a company where executive coaches provide leadership development to help leaders put strengths-based leadership into action? Does your organization provide executive coaching for leaders who need to build a company culture built on trust? Transformational leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to create a more fulfilling future.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Am I a transformational leader who inspires individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential, flourish at work, experience elevating energy and achieve levels of effectiveness difficult to attain otherwise?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching to help leaders create a culture where respect and trust flourish.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-i 2.0, Hogan Lead, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help leaders nurture strengths-based conversations in the workplace. You can become an inspiring leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

Working Resources is a San Francisco Bay Area executive coaching and leadership development firm helping innovative companies and law firms develop emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders.

...About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman

Consulting Psychologist and Executive Coach|
Trusted Advisor to Executive Leadership Teams
Mindfulness & Emotional Intelligence Workplace Expert

I coach leaders to cultivate clarity, creativity, focus, trust, and full engagement in a purpose-driven culture.

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies select and develop emotionally intelligent leaders. 

Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica.

“Maynard Brusman is one of the foremost coaches in the United States. He utilizes a wide variety of assessments in his work with senior executives and upper level managers, and is adept at helping his clients both develop higher levels of emotional intelligence and achieve breakthrough business results. As a senior leader in the executive coaching field, Dr. Brusman brings an exceptional level of wisdom, energy, and creativity to his work.” — Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., President, College of Executive Coaching

The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded rare "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

Are you an executive leader who wants to be more effective at work and get better results?

Did you know that research has demonstrated, that the most effective leaders model high emotional intelligence, and that EQ can be learned? It takes self-awareness, empathy, and compassion to become a more emotionally intelligent leader. 

Emotionally intelligent and mindful leaders inspire people to become fully engaged with the vision and mission of their company.  Mindful leadership starts from within.

I am a consulting psychologist and executive coach. I believe coaching is a collaborative process of providing people with the resources and opportunities they need to self manage, develop change resiliency and become more effective. Utilizing instrumented assessments - clients set clear goals, make optimal use of their strengths, and take action to create desired changes aligned with personal values.

I have been chosen as an expert to appear on radio and TV, MSNBC, CBS Health Watch and in the San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time, Forbes and Fast Company.

Over the past thirty-five years, I have coached hundreds of leaders to improve their leadership effectiveness.

After only 6 months, one executive coaching client reported greater productivity, more stress resiliency, and helping her company improve revenues by 20%. While this may depend on many factors most of my clients report similar satisfaction in their EQ leadership competence leading to better business results.

You can choose to work with a highly seasoned executive coach to help facilitate your leadership development and executive presence awakening what’s possible. 

For more information, please go to http://www.workingresources.com, write to mbrusman@workingresources.com, or call 415-546-1252.

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