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Flash of Brilliance

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Unplugging from technology is a great way to find your flash of brilliance.

Unplugging from technology is a great way to find your flash of brilliance.

The current business-speak is all about innovation, innovation, innovation. Whether you’re the leader of a Fortune 100 company, an executive of a high-growth company, or an entrepreneur, innovation is likely to be key to your business approach. Yet where do these disruptive, new ideas come from and how do you dream them up?

Working with many stellar scientists and technologists, I am fascinated with how new ideas come into being. You might think that the very linear, step-by-step scientific approach is what leads to innovative ideas, but I’ve noticed that among the best and the brightest, disruptive new ideas are revealed in a flash of brilliance. This doesn’t in any way discount the planning and thinking that goes into an ‘a to b to c’ approach. Such analysis is often helpful in priming the pump for the flash. As Louis Pasteur said “Chance favors the prepared mind”. And yet, a flash is still needed. This is one reason why so many successful people attribute their success to luck. The flash of brilliance seems to come out of nowhere-when you’re in the shower, in the middle of the night, while driving, from a few words someone else said that got you thinking.

Notice these flashes happen when your brain has unoccupied time to think on its own and you’ve prepped it by giving it something big and juicy to think about. You begin using your “nonconscious resources”. You access your deeper thinking. David Rock, coach and neuroscientist says “great ideas come when the mind is quiet”. It’s tough to have a flash of brilliance if your brain is constantly occupied with electronics, multitasking, and to-do lists and never has a moment of peace. The surface noise of daily life blocks the deeper insights from surfacing.

So get off that technology and give your brain free rein with the problem. Begin to access your deep, non-conscious, below the surface thinking. An applied physicist told me recently, he sometimes can’t even talk when his brain is working a problem. Clearly texting is out of the question!

Next time you want a flash of brilliance, prime the pump by asking the big question and then, give your brain some rest by playing, relaxing, or exercising so the problem is working in the background using the resources in your brain that aren’t under your conscious control. And await the flash.

About the Author

Lori MazanLori Mazan is the founder of Leading From Center, originally started as Seventh Wave coaching in 1996. A seasoned advisor and executive coach herself, Lori also provides high caliber, hand picked and personally supervised affiliate coaches. One of the first 300 certified coaches in the US, Lori has been working for almost two decades with Fortune 100 executives in companies including Chevron, Sprint, and Roche/Genentech, as well as funded growth companies like Coverity, Intellikine, and Tapjoy. Her background includes training thousands of people in leadership skills ranging from deep listening to complex arenas of conflict resolution, motivation, and organizational and political savvy. Blending experience with theory, Lori taught 10 years of college level social psychology and group dynamics courses. Lori lives in Southern California with her son, two cats and a dozen goldfish. She has a 20+ year practice in the art of Tai Chi Chuan.View all posts by Lori Mazan →

  1. Lori Mazan
    Lori Mazan12-11-2012

    Saw this on Quora, from this TED video by Vincent Walsh. Just what I was saying above..
    Neuroscience and Creativity: How to be creative –

    What did Albert Einstein, James Clerk Maxwell, Isaac Newton, Van Gogh, Richard Feynman and Leonardo Da Vinci, all have in common?

    First, they were all creative and second, they had no idea where their creativity came from.

    James Clerk Maxwell, the Scottish mathematician who came up with the equations that unified electricity and magnetism, had a strange confession on his deathbed. He insisted that “something within him” discovered the famous equations, not he. He admitted that he had no idea how ideas actually came to him – they simply did.

    Sometimes, creative people invent causes to their creativity and how they happened to have gotten their ideas, but its a lot like a post-hoc explanation. The explanations are often not very convincing, and are most likely wrong.

    While we do not explicitly know about how the brain gives rise to creativity, we do know about the outside influences that causes the brain to be creative.

    According to the video below (which is my source), the chief component of creativity is obsession. You have to be obsessive in your domain to get creative results. You have to keep working at it, day after day, month after month and sometimes for years depending on the complexity of the problem, before you get your creative idea. Einstein didn’t come up with relativity in a month. If your problem is great don’t expect be to done in a short time.

    The component stages of Creativity:

    All creative processes seem to follow this common pattern:

    Preparation – This is the part where you work hard. If your area of creativity involves information, you have to get all the relevant information into your head. If you are going to paint, you will have to make sure that every brush stroke is perfect. Michelangelo supposedly drew 4000 paintings as practice before painting the Sistine Chapel (I can’t find the source at the moment). You have to do the preparatory work of laying out the foundation of your creativity.
    Incubation – This is the part where you relax and let the brain do its thing. The one who is creative is not you, its your brain. You have give it freedom to work away at the problem and not be bogged down by thinking about the immediate environment and everyday life. Creative people are often very absentminded. Programmers will often say that when they come upon a problem that they cannot solve, they solve it by taking a break. Most programmers will tell you that they solved their programming problems when they were nowhere near their computers. The break allows their brain to disengage from the world and work on the problem. When I say brain, I mean the unconscious brain. When you are taking a break don’t try to force your thoughts, space-out and let your thoughts go where ever they might. In this stage your brain is working on the problem incognito and making new connections, new connections you have never made before. If the problem is great and consequential, you will be making connections no one has ever made before.
    Illumination – This is the ”Eureka!” moment. This is where you go ”Aha, why didn’t I see that before?”.
    Verification – This is where you check your creative idea against the cold, hard truth of reality.

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