Blog : Brain Science

Why we do the things we do and how it impacts business

Why we do the things we do and how it impacts business

In this 3-minute video, Dayna of ic3 consulting, explains why you need to understand brain integration – for you and your business.

A healthy, integrated brain is how you access higher-order mental functions and better-quality decision making. Brain integration can lead to 1) body regulation, 2) mental attunement, 3) emotional balance (the ability to pause before you react), 4) flexibility in responding, 5) the soothing of fears, 6) insight, 7) empathy, 8) morality, 9) and intuition (“the joining of heart and gut”) (Daniel J. Siegel, M. D., 2010). (It is important to note that all nine of these integrative functions can be obtained through mindfulness training!)

Results of over 200 scientific studies with a total sample size of nearly 275,000 people (APA 2005) found that every key business outcome improves when people are emotionally regulated and happy – aka responding by means of an integrated brain. These improvements can dramatically better the bottom-line of businesses, and include:

  • Increased productivity (up 31%), improved creativity (3x) and superior sales and customer service (Lyubomirsky, 2005 &George, 1991).
  • Greater employee engagement (10x!) and highly-collaborative teams (Achor, 2012 & Barsade, 2002).
  • And, lowered health care costs for companies (APA,2002).

Companies can leverage these positive traits of employees that support the ongoing growth of the company. However, the converse is also true. In many companies – unfortunately – there is an exponential loss of brain power that negatively impacts business.

What do you mean by “brain integration”?

Within each division of the brain, there are certain needs that must be satisfied before we can think and act from the more advanced, thoughtful and evolved parts of the brain.

brain integrationAs we evolved, so did our brains. A human brain has parts that are similar to reptiles and other mammals. The brain didn’t begin again with each evolutionary hurdle but rather built upon what was.

The most ancient part of our brain is located at the base and includes the brainstem (in blue). It controls automatic functions such as heart rate and breathing and is concerned with safety and survival. If we are consumed with trying to satisfy our need for safety, we can never function fully from our higher mental states such as abstract thought, language, empathy, and imagination.

As the brain evolved new layers were, essentially, added to the top. These additional “layers” include the limbic system (area in pink in the image) and frontal cortex (in green). The limbic system includes a variety of structures such as the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus. It is the part of the brain we share with other mammals and is responsible for deep-seated emotions, learning, and memory. Its basic need is satisfaction, beyond the survival of self to the rewards found within groups.

When we traverse our way up the brain, we move from the limbic system to the frontal cortex, which is divided into two cerebral hemispheres, the right and the left. The cortex is responsible for higher mental functions such as abstract thought, language, humor, empathy, self-awareness, and imagination. The basic need of the cortex, beyond survival and satisfaction, is a sense of connection (from Me to We). If we are able to consistently operate from this area, we can maintain thriving teams that systematically innovate and collaborate with one another.


ic3 consulting is an employee engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve engagement. ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing trainings, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices.

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Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? You Need Lasting Employees

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? You Need Lasting Employees

ic3 consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

The consequence of the aforementioned steps (#1 -#4) in How to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work, is lasting employees.

The ACE Model

awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + creativity = innovative collaboration
(lead to lasting) employee engagement = intentional culture

Businesses are complex systems that have human beings at their core. People are the alpha and omega of business and are the true X-factor. By focusing as carefully on people as they do on products, systems, and org charts, organizations can humanize and create sustained success.

However, only 33% percent of leaders are extremely confident in their organization’s ability to motivate employees at an emotional level (Northhighland White Paper, 2018). The emotional commitment an employee has to your company equates to their level of engagement.

Engaged employees don’t just work for a paycheck, bonus or promotion; they believe in the company’s values and work toward its success.

Disengaged employees can cost your company a lot of money.

  • Decreased productivity
  • High turnover
  • Absenteeism
  • Fiscal costs of stressed-out workers (illness, etc.)
  • Poor customer service

You might not always notice that you have an “engagement” problem, but you will definitely notice the effects of disengaged employees.

Conversely, actively engaged employees are three times more productive (Rapid Learning Institute 2017). And, companies with a formal engagement strategy in place are 67% more likely to improve their revenue per full-time equivalent on a year-over-year basis (Aberdeen 2016). In today’s new economy, long-term market success is less about what you do, but who you are as a company: your mission, values, beliefs, culture, and your people. The companies that get this win.

Difficulty retaining good employees in this current competitive workforce? Quick Tips for reinforcing lasting employees in your workplace:

  • Learn how your employees feel rewarded and incorporate what you learn into a regular acknowledgment tradition (e.g. announcements in meetings).
  • Administer regular employee engagement surveys, either written or interview style, so you can get a pulse on your employees level of engagement.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to share both their personal and professional goals and brainstorm ways they can achieve those goals inside and outside of the office (e.g. professional development).

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • What is it about your employees that sets your company apart?
  • How are you going to share the knowledge of that differentiating factor with the world?

 

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ic3 consulting is a staff engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.  ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices.

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? Try Creative Collaboration

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? Try Creative Collaboration

ic3 consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

Creativity is #4 in How to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work.

The ACE Model

awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + creativity = innovative collaboration
(lead to lasting) employee engagement = intentional culture

You might be asking yourself why is creativity one of the cornerstones?

By 2020 creativity will be the third most important skill in the job market according to the World Economic Forum, and of CEO’s polled, 60% agreed that creativity was the most important skill to have in a leadership role (Fast Company, 2017). Creativity and imagination are the drivers of innovation, the keystone to differentiation.

If you remember back to #1, safety and trust and how the brain is divided, you will recall that as the brain evolved new layers were, essentially, added to the top. These additional “layers” include the limbic system and the frontal cortex, which are divided into two cerebral hemispheres, the right and the left.

Creativity targets both the right hemisphere and limbic system of the brain – bypassing language and “rational thought and logical assumptions” (left brain attributes). Therefore, creativity gives expression to that which cannot be spoken, due to the structure of the brain.

This provides the opportunity to re-imagine concepts – the very core of innovation. However, as a leader, you need to be prepared to sustain the creative process in its various stages, some of which look very different than detailed gantt charts or profit and loss statements.

Quick Tips to increase creativity in the workplace needed to differentiate and harness your competitive edge:

  • Encourage doodling at your next meeting. Yes, doodling! Be the example. Draw or sketch ideas at the whiteboard. It doesn’t matter if you are an artist and if your circles don’t even look like circles. Just the act of sketching your ideas will engage a different part of the brain, which will foster new ideas!
  • Find times and ways to “zoom out”. For instance, go outside and go for a walk. Insights, those “aha moments”, occur when we relax our focus and become receptive to see the whole. (Brain tidbit: Insights are associated with the right hemisphere of the brain that can detect anomalies and occur when not highly focused on them.)
  • Welcome opposites. The tension of opposites is part of the creative process and can produce results that are greater than the original parts! (Brain tidbit: The right hemisphere has the ability to hold dichotomy. It does not categorize things as opposites, but rather sees them as connected and in relation to one another.)

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • Refresh your understanding of the creativity cycle.
  • How do you practice creativity in the workplace?
  • Do you feel it is important to do so?

Imagine for a moment, if you could unleash and realize a fully-engaged and innovative company culture. What would be different in your company culture, what would be different in productivity and motivation and what would be different in your ability to use innovation and creativity to make the best services and products for your clients?

To transcend a current situation, we have to be able to imagine it differently. To understand and change the way we think is to change the way we form our lives – and businesses.

 

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes.

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ic3 consulting is a staff engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science to the workplace to improve employee engagement.  ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices.

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? Effective Communication is Key

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? Effective Communication is Key

ic3 consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

Our teachings are founded in neuroscience – what we’ve come to term the ACE model of employee engagement and leadership and include: awareness, alignment, communication, and creativity, which lead to lasting employee engagement.

The ACE Model

awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + creativity = innovative collaboration
(lead to lasting) employee engagement = intentional culture

Open, respectful and effective communication, once considered a “soft skill”, is increasingly being understood as a key ingredient to the success of a business.

This type of communication and emotional intelligence are not necessarily “intuitive”. Rather, the building blocks of effective communication need to be continuously taught, modeled and practiced within a company.

Additionally, our need for safety must be satisfied before we can consistently practice effective communication. As mentioned in the brain integration article and safety video, when we traverse our way up the brain we move from the brainstem to the limbic system (area in pink in the image below). triune brain

The limbic system includes a variety of structures such as the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus. It is the part of the brain we share with other mammals and is responsible for deep-seated emotions, learning, and memory. Its basic need is satisfaction, beyond the survival of self and to rewards found within groups (Me to We).

And, let’s face it, as humans the best way to have our needs met within groups is to communicate effectively.

Here are some simple, but not always easy, strategies for both the listener and the speaker. It’s important to remember that communication can be both verbal and nonverbal (e.g. eye rolls, walking away) and even though asynchronous communication sometimes seems easier, some conversations really should be had face-to-face.

Listener

  • Listen attentively. Look at the speaker with open body language.
  • Do not interrupt. Take a breath instead!
  • Accept silence.
  • Clarify what you hear. What and how questions versus why.
  • Reflect on what you hear, including empathic responses. (What you think they were feeling.)

Speaker

  • Speak attentively. Direct communication without being harsh.
  • Use “I” statements. Versus “you”, which sounds blaming.
  • Accept silence.
  • Do not overspeak. Take a breath instead!
  • Avoid cross-examination.

Dr. John Gottman, one of the foremost couples’ counselors, identified “the four horsemen” within communication styles that can predict that end of a relationship.

It is important to identify if any of these are a familiar way of interacting so that these types of negative communication patterns can be targeted and reduced.

  1. Criticism: When a complaint about something specific becomes global/general.
  2. Contempt: Exemplifies a sense of sarcasm and/or mockery.
  3. Defensiveness: Self-protection when an attack is perceived, but the effect is to blame.
  4. Stonewalling: The listener puts up a wall between herself/himself and the speaker and is perceived to be emotionally detached.

Quick Tips for effective communication in the workplace to increase retention and detoxify workplace bullies:

  • Co-create communication norms and print them in black and white for all to see. (If you want help in facilitating this co-creation, contact ic3!)
  • Model, model, and model some more. As the leader, it is up to you to make these a part of your company culture.
  • Try rephrasing “why” questions to become “what” of “how” questions. You will notice that people immediately are less defensive and, instead, partners in finding a solution.

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • Do you currently employ any of the “four horsemen” speaking styles?
  • What communication strategies do you use that work well within your company?
  • Is there an area within your company where communication is less than optimal?

 

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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ic3 consulting is a staff engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science to the workplace to improve employee engagement.  ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices.

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? You Need Safety & Trust First

Want to Make Your Company the Best Place to Work? You Need Safety & Trust First

iC3 Consulting – a firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve employee engagement.

When you see those annual rankings of the best places to work, do you find yourself wondering what it would take for your company to make the list? In this 6-part series learn the necessary ingredients that we’ve come to term the ACE model of engagement and leadership, which include awareness & alignment, creativity & communication, and lasting employee engagement, with a foundation of safety & trust.

Each article and video is short and sweet with quick tips and actions steps so you can start implementing these strategies today.

The ACE Model
safety & trust
awareness + alignment = insightful companies
communication + creativity = innovative collaboration
lasting employee engagement = intentional culture

Why are psychological safety and trust the starting place? They are the building blocks that are needed for people to bring their whole selves to work – necessary for a fully functioning and engaged workforce.

When employees feel safe, they feel like they can share their ideas – even the ones that aren’t always implemented. Trust is established through transparency, or clearly defined expectations and established communication patterns practiced by all. These are the launching pad for happiness at work.

(Want to learn what is happening in the brain that necessitates safety being the starting place? Click here.)

Imagine a workplace bully. (Unfortunately, this usually is not too hard to conjure.) When employees start to feel threatened by a co-worker, especially if the company is small, they begin to dread coming to work for fear they will be insulted and provoked, or that their job is in jeopardy if that person is in a position of power. Suddenly, you no longer have a team that is working together. Employees do not feel safe or trusting. Rather, they are working from a place of fear and anticipation.

Take this moment and truly pause. Reflect. How many people and/or teams can you identify that are currently operating from a place of fear – not having their needs for safety met? (If this question is difficult for you to answer, click here for more information about awareness at work.)

Quick Tips for safety, transparency and trust in the workplace to address high turnover, low productivity and lack of innovation.

  • What would your employees need to feel more secure at work? Ask them. Not feeling secure often leads to a dramatic reduction in engagement.
  • Are there established methods for effective communication that are practiced and reinforced regularly within your workplace? If not, use this as a starting point.

This Week’s Action Steps:

  • Make note of what you do in your company to instill safety & trust?
  • What is one thing can you do to increase safety & trust within your company this week?

 

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes.

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ic3 consulting is an engagement consulting firm that brings mindfulness and imagination, backed by brain science, to the workplace to improve stakeholder engagement. ic3 delivers improved employee satisfaction for their clients through customized corporate retreats, ongoing training, and executive coaching. ic3’s vision is to make the world a better place, one company at a time, through facilitating the creation of human-centered workplaces and business practices. 

Your Business & Your Brain

Your Business & Your Brain

How Understanding Brain Function Can Help You Take Your Business to the Next Level

Basics of neuroleadership explained in ic3’s brain and business infographic.

 

Within each division of the brain, there are certain needs that must be satisfied before we can think and act from the more advanced, thoughtful and evolved parts of the brain. For example, imagine that before you even begin your workday, you wake up late, skip breakfast, and have an argument with your partner. It’s now 9:30am and you have to tackle a project that requires creativity and strategic thinking. It’s due by 2:00pm, but you’re feeling scattered and can’t seem to focus. That’s because you haven’t fulfilled your brain’s fundamental need for nourishment and connection. And until you do, you won’t be able to function at optimal levels.

So how does this relate to your business? Well, in each company there are basic day-to-day, or operational, functions that need to be taken care of before it can evolve to the next level. Only when those functions have been adequately addressed can the company begin to focus on:

  • creating a sense of purpose
  • cultivating genuine employee engagement
  • standing out from the competition, and
  • conceiving innovative solutions, products, and services

How does this happen? By leveraging specific characteristics and traits in its employees that, when combined effectively, support the ongoing growth of the company.

We call this the evolution from me to we.

Let’s take a closer look. Click on the brain and business infographic below to enlarge.

neuroleadership basics

 

Co-founders Dayna Wood and Jennifer Carey help CEOs and their teams create a fully engaged and innovative company culture through offsite corporate retreats, CEO intensives, and ongoing accountability services. Their diverse backgrounds make them uniquely qualified to address the critical human-element of business.

Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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Running Toward Fears Every Day

Running Toward Fears Every Day

Do you ever wonder why your employees don’t always finish their projects or get their work done on time? Perhaps you can remember a time when you yourself avoided a particular item on your to-do list. There’s a good chance that when this happens, you and your employees are trying to navigate FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real).

Fear can creep up when we are challenged with tasks like making a sales pitch to a particular client, completing a critical task for a project, or coming up with an innovative product or service. Fear makes us uncomfortable, and most of us want to avoid that discomfort at all costs. But this avoidance becomes dangerous when it gets in the way of what it is we really want for ourselves or for our organization.

In our last article, we talked about creativity and how running away from fear, rather than toward it, can actually keep you from the highest expression of your ideas and the things or experiences you really want. George Addair, a real estate developer in post-Civil War Atlanta, summarized this beautifully:

 

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

 

This article includes tips on how to use mindfulness to overcome fear-based blocks to flow, productivity and creativity. I’ll start with a quick story from my own experience.

I recently almost let my fears stop me from approaching a client that we really wanted to work with at ic3. We knew we could bring a lot of skills and expertise into their organization, and they could help bring us more clients. It was a win-win, with a tremendous amount of potential.

As you know, building any business relationship takes effort and persistence, especially in the beginning. Although we were in early talks with this client, we hadn’t yet come up with a specific partnership plan or strategy. When the moment finally came to call them directly and make something happen, I felt my stomach drop and I immediately began to search for ways to avoid making that call. I was overcome with the sudden need to scroll through my Facebook feed and thought about tackling any and all of the other (low risk) tasks on my to-do list — anything that would allow me to avoid that phone call.

But I quickly recognized what was happening. Fear was rearing its head, and I knew I needed to move toward my discomfort.

Why? Because this potential client was so important to me and to my company. Our business relationship would make us both better. And taking this step would be in alignment with our vision of serving more companies, which in turn would serve the greater community. Once I remembered that, I stopped, took a few breaths, got centered, and brought to mind our intention and goal: to create a partnership with this client. I noticed the discomfort in my body but I didn’t judge it. This enabled me to see it for what it was: fear. I looked closely at my fear, and realized that what I was really afraid of was “sounding stupid”. As I stayed with that thought, I realized that it wasn’t true. What I wanted to share wasn’t “stupid”, and it wouldn’t sound stupid. With that in mind, I moved towards the fear and made the call.

Moral of the story: I’m happy to report that the client was very receptive, and we’re now discussing lots of creative partnership options. If I had allowed myself to react to that uncomfortable feeling of fear, without bringing mindfulness and awareness into the picture, I might never have made that phone call, and the partnership may never have come to be.

Below, I’ve outlined mindfulness skills that you and your employees can use to keep fear in check. In following the steps below, you’ll learn to use fear as a prompt for moving toward all that you want to accomplish, rather than a feeling to be avoided at all costs.

The next time you feel fear, discomfort or unease about sharing a creative idea or bringing up a challenging issue, try the following:

  1.   Get Centered: Sit comfortably in your chair and take a few natural breaths. Notice your feet on the floor and notice how you feel in your chair. When we are in this quiet place, sometimes our mind starts to race or emotions come up. That’s okay. You don’t need to judge anything that arises as good or bad; simply notice what comes up and see it as helpful information.
  2.   Remember Your Goal/Intention: Bring to mind what it is that you wish to achieve, especially if progress is being blocked by fear.
  3.   Gather Information: Ask yourself the simple question: What am I afraid of? Wait for the answer, and simply notice whatever comes up for you. It may be a simple phrase, or an image or sensation. Whatever it is, make note of it. Bring yourself back to the present moment by feeling the temperature of the room, the chair beneath you and your feet on the floor. Write down any information that came to you around your fears or obstacles to achieving your goal.
  4.   Examine the Information that Came Up in Step #3: In a gentle and non-judgmental way, take a closer look at the thoughts, images and/or sensations that came to you in Step #3. Ask yourself if they make sense, and whether or not they are true. Just as important, ask yourself who you would be without that thought. (If this step intrigues you, check out Byron Katie http://thework.com/en – she offers a powerful process around confronting irrational thoughts and fears).
  5.   Reconnect with What You Really Want and JUST DO IT: Now that you’ve got a fresh perspective on your fear, and you’re willing to look at it as a signal to bring you closer to what you really want, bring your end goal to mind. Believe in yourself and your ability to obtain it. See the fear for what it is: false evidence appearing real. Respect it for trying to keep you safe, but take opposite action, so that instead of moving away from what you want, you move toward creative solutions for achieving your goal. I like to use the Nike slogan in these instances: Stop thinking and “Just do it!”

We encourage you to try the steps above — and let us know how the process worked for you.

If you would like further assistance in helping your employees overcome fear-based blocks to productivity and creativity, we can help! Contact us at  http://www.ic3consulting.comto start the conversation.

 

Jennifer Carey Employee Engagement Consultant

Jennifer Carey, EdS, LMHC

Jennifer applies her background as a Psychotherapist to help optimize company cultures through her writing, consulting and speaking on employee engagement. Some of these crucial skills include mindfulness, human dynamics, and interpersonal communication.

Jennifer is the co-founder of ic3 consulting. ic3 consulting helps business leaders re-engage, re-align and re-ignite their workforce to create highly empowered teams that communicate effectively, collaborate freely and work to realize their company’s vision. Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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The Gears of Creativity – The Creativity Cycle Explored

The Gears of Creativity – The Creativity Cycle Explored

In my previous article, Why the Creativity Cycle is Like an Outstanding Cup of Coffee, I discussed the necessary ingredients of the creative process, such as the importance of protected time, a culture that supports creativity, constraint within the creative process, and not taking the process too personally.

In this article, I’ll explore the cycle of creativity and its relationship to our current understanding of the brain. The importance of dissecting the creative process and organizing it into a guiding metaphor is manifold.

As anyone who has tried to bring a creative impulse from ideation to iteration can attest, there is a great risk of getting lost in the creative process. Understanding the cyclical nature of the process can offer perspective and clarity. It can also supply “gas” for the long haul, giving fledgling ideas the chance to come to fruition.

Different skill sets are needed in each stage. If you know where you are, you can seek assistance to close any gaps in your knowledge. You can also take the necessary measures to protect your time and resources in each phase of the process — even those in which it appears as if not much is happening.

There are a number of diagrams and stage theories that outline various steps within the creative cycle. For our purposes here, each step will be represented by a gear, in order to emphasize that the process is not a linear, but rather cyclical and interconnected. I’ll also describe each step in relation to the structure and division of the brain. (For more on this, see my previous article on imagination).

The brain can be divided in multiple ways. However, an important distinction to look at in terms of creativity is how the brain is divided horizontally.

There are two hemispheres: the left and the right. Though the hemispheres work in concert to create a unified sense of self and personality, each hemisphere attends to the world differently and, therefore, processes information in distinct ways. This provides us with great advantages, including the ability to understand a situation from many different perspectives, as each gear in the cycle of creativity allows for various vantage points. We’ll explore each of these gears in detail below.

Gear 1: Preparation

Preparation is a fundamental part of the creative cycle. Although it’s not the “sexiest” part of creativity, this is the stage in which you are doing your homework and setting the stage, defining the constraints and framework (link to the previous article), for your project. Here, you are elbow deep in research and working primarily from your left brain. The left hemisphere is the great “unpacker” of information; it breaks information down by sorting, categorizing and analyzing.

Gear 2: Incubation & Insight

While the left hemisphere specializes in language, logic, and facts — which are imperative during the preparation phase — the incubation and insight stage requires a letting go of linear and conscious thought processes. Insights, or “a-ha moments”, happen when we are not concentrating specifically on the project. In these moments the right hemisphere is activated, and you need to allow time and space for your ideas to percolate. This is how you allow the web of interconnected ideas — however incongruent they might seem — to surface as a cohesive insight.

You might be asking yourself, “How do I stop consciously thinking and allow this process to develop when I have a deadline to meet?” It’s a common question. For those who consider themselves creatives, this might be a no-(left)brainer (pun intended). However, for those who are used to thinking in a strictly analytical fashion, it will feel very, very different.

The right hemisphere doesn’t use everyday language (which is housed in the left hemisphere) to communicate. It usually communicates without words; for example, you’ll get a gut feeling, or an image or diagram will pop into your head seemingly out of nowhere. So we have to learn to listen in different ways. A few ways to begin to listen differently include:

  • Find ways to transcend language, such as with the use of imagery
  • Creativity (crafting, cooking, gardening, etc.)
  • Spending time in nature
  • Stepping back to see the whole picture (what I call “zooming out”)
  • Being embodied (practicing yoga, dancing, etc.)
  • Listening to music
  • Welcoming opposites. The tension of opposites is part of the creative process and can produce results that are greater than the original parts. (Brain science tidbit: The right hemisphere has the ability to hold dichotomy. It does not categorize things as opposites, but rather sees them as connected and in relation to one another.)

These are just a few ways you can practice tuning into your brain’s right hemisphere. As you learn to listen differently, keep in mind that bringing this information into our daily lives does take a certain amount of trust.

Gear 3: Evaluation

Here you have a chance to turn your idea back over to the left brain and sort out the logistics. Now is when you ask yourself if your project is worth taking all the way to iteration?

David Kelley, founder of the Stanford d.school, and his brother, Tom Kelley, are New York Times bestselling authors of the book Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All (Crown Business, 2013). They have a set of guiding principles that can aid in this evaluation: FIRST, with genuine curiosity, ask “What is desirable (human)?”  THEN, ask, “What is viable (business) and feasible (technology)?”

Gear 4: Integration, Imagination & Iteration

Imagination is based on the creative power of opposition, and is a result of the synthesis between the right and left hemispheres. Imagination, insight, and creativity all require this integration of the left and right hemispheres.

This stage requires you to get your hands dirty and do it! It is where head and heart, brain and body, and conscious and unconscious come together to manifest your masterpiece — or complete failure!

Remember that failure is an inevitable part of the creative process. It doesn’t mean your idea or product is necessarily bad. It just means you have the opportunity to go through the creativity cycle again, with your newfound knowledge, so you can make it even better.

It is also important to remember — especially in this part of the cycle — that fear in its many manifestations will arise. It presents itself in every stage, but as you prepare to actually create, it can become even more pronounced. Fear lets you know you are on the edge of your comfort zone, and you are about to grow. This is a good thing. So don’t run away from your fear; run towards it. (Stay tuned for my next article, which outlines how you can embrace fear through mindfulness techniques).

Gear 5: Upleveling

Gear 5 connects back to Gear 1. The left hemisphere, dissecting information in a highly focused and narrow way, offers many contributions, including breaking down tasks and learning complex sequences. However, it is essential to return this information to the right hemisphere, where it can again be viewed within the context of the whole. This is where perspective comes from, as well as the ability to attend to new information in our environments. In this phase, we start the creativity cycle anew, but upleveled: armed with our newfound learning, product, and understanding.

It is my sincere hope that this, admittedly, very left-brain dissection of the creative process will help you manifest your next creative idea. It just might be an idea that can help change the world for the better.

 

creativity and business

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

As an employee engagement consultant and professional psychotherapist and coach, Dayna combines out-of- the-box thinking with solid scientific research, so her clients get the best of both worlds.

Dayna is the co-founder of ic3 consulting. ic3 consulting helps business leaders re-engage, re-align and re-ignite their workforce to create highly empowered teams that communicate effectively, collaborate freely and work to realize their company’s vision. Want to become one of the best places to work? Learn how in this video series delivered to your inbox. Each video is under 3 minutes. 

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The Pain of Gratitude

The Pain of Gratitude

There is something fundamentally challenging about gratitude that goes beyond remembering to practice it. If I truly admit how damn fortunate I am, I usually experience a myriad of feelings: pure love, then guilt, and then sheer terror.

Guilt and terror? That might surprise you. After all, we practice gratitude to help us become more positive and serene, and more appreciative of the good things in our lives. But sometimes, when I’m thinking about how grateful I am for the people, places and things in my life, I can become paralyzed by the thought of all of it just…vanishing. And that’s a terrifying thought indeed.

I don’t believe this stems from a fear of abandonment, or an attachment disorder issue. Rather, it comes from a deep understanding that everything is temporary. My four-year old daughter, jumping up and down naked on the bed, laughing with pure glee, will soon be a memory. My almost-seventeen-year-old cat, who likes to snuggle in the mornings, will also be gone. As will my partner someday.

So, the question becomes: how do I allow myself to fully open and experience the absolute love and gratitude that abounds in these moments, while also fully comprehending that it will never be the same again?

This is not a rhetorical, philosophical question. Really, how do we receive and embrace the good, when we know it can’t last?

I’m reminded of a Carl Jung quote regarding dichotomy (the division between two mutually exclusive or contradictory situations): “But there is no energy unless there is a tension of opposites…”

When I practice tools that help me become more comfortable with dichotomy, I’m better able to sit with this tension without reacting. These reactions typically take the form of any number of distractions and unproductive behavior, including negativity.

While our brains are wired for negativity and, as I mentioned in a previous post, it kept our ancestors alive, we now know we can actually rewire our brains. Ironically, gratitude is one of the best ways to accomplish this. (See Rick Hanson’s work for more on the brain’s negativity bias).

However, if the experience of gratitude can be painful, then where does that leave us?

There are a few mind/brain hacks you can use to hold dichotomy or, as I call it, brain integration. To give an oversimplified description, our brains have two hemispheres, the left and the right, and they quite literally understand the world differently. The left hemisphere sees things in black and white, yes or no, one way or the other. But the right hemisphere allows for a multitude of shades and colors. It can tolerate the tension of division, and can begin to detect webs, or patterns, that are impossible to see when viewed only in a linear fashion (e.g., yes/no, right/wrong, good/bad, etc.).

So how do we facilitate the integration of these two parts of our brains? Well, we have to start by flexing the hemisphere that is most atrophied, which is – unsurprisingly – the right hemisphere. When we have an awareness that these right-brain experiences are 1. available, and 2. valuable, we can bring back the subtle, yet powerful, knowledge of the right hemisphere into our everyday experiences.

How do we begin to “listen” to the vast amount of information offered to us from the right-hemisphere?

First, we have to listen in a different way, as the messages we receive will “sound” different from what we’re used to. For instance, our bodies speak volumes and are directly connected to the right hemisphere. We can start to become aware of the ways our bodies “talk” to us. You might feel queasy when you’re about to give a presentation at work. Or you get goosebumps when watching a scary movie.

Our intuition is also talking to us all the time. Intuition has gotten a bad rap over the years, with many people feeling it’s “airy fairy” or “woo-woo”. However, our intuition is actually “the ability to understand something immediately”. It’s a sense of knowing. And it’s the way the right hemisphere works: by instantly taking in and comprehending the whole picture. Think about the feeling you get when you know someone is lying to you. You might not have proof, but you just know. Or when you get a really good “feeling” about an interview candidate. Eureka moments are possible in this state!

I’m not suggesting that analysis and mental dissection, which are classic left-hemisphere attributes, are not valuable. They absolutely are. However, we tend to get “stuck” in this way of knowing without allowing or acknowledging input from the right hemisphere. As a result, we miss out on the opportunity to understand the situation from a different perspective; one in which the whole (or gestalt) can be understood.

The right hemisphere doesn’t use everyday language (which is housed in the left hemisphere) to communicate. It usually “speaks” without words – you get a gut feeling, or an image or diagram pops into your head seemingly out of nowhere. So, we have to listen in different ways:

  • Making art

  • Creativity (crafting, cooking, gardening, etc.)

  • Spending time in nature

  • Stepping back to see the whole picture – what I call “zooming out”

  • Being embodied (practicing yoga, dancing, etc.)

  • Listening to music

These are just a few ways you can practice tuning into your brain’s right hemisphere.

Bringing this information into our daily lives does take a certain amount of trust. However, when we begin to consciously listen and make the effort to become familiar with what might at first feel very foreign, uncomfortable, and maybe even undefined or wishy-washy, and then implement this knowledge, more will follow.

The right brain can become a storehouse of valuable wisdom. And, it can be really fun (humor and wit are also right-brain attributes!). With a bit of practice, we can become more familiar and comfortable with the opaque and the dichotomous. And getting comfortable operating from this place can feel like coming home.

Ultimately, we’ll be able to more easily manage the sometimes terrifying feelings that can come up when practicing gratitude. And that’s something we can be truly thankful for.

 

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

How Distracted Am I?

How Distracted Am I?

In modern Western society, we often find ourselves in a permanent state of unfulfilled desire. We are offered continuous distractions and stimulations that mimic reality, such as mass leisure, mass culture, and mass media.

Constant intrusions and interruptions – now the norm in our culture – drive up stress, deplete mental and emotional reserves and shrink our attention spans.

Instead of directing our energy towards personal growth and achieving complex goals, we instead focus on the activities above, which absorb mental energy without providing anything substantive in return. This behavior can leave you feeling even more depleted and disheartened.

Bottom-up attention, in which something or someone other than you dictates what you focus on, is part of our brain’s survival apparatus. It alerts us to potential danger in our surroundings; for example, when you hear a siren or a car backfire.

Bottom-up attention kept our ancestors alive. It instantly shifts our focus to a potential threat. This issue is when our attention is continuously hijacked by these types of alerts (such as the “ding” on your phone when you receive a message).

Can you relate to this? And are you wondering what the alternative could be?

“Top-down” attention is when you set the terms of engagement. In this scenario, you are in control of where you direct your attention, and you’re able to focus on a specific, chosen set of stimuli. This is also known as concentration!

The opposite of distraction is the ability to align your thoughts, intentions, and feelings towards the same goal. This produces an experience of harmony and flow. To do this, though, you must be able to concentrate and “order your consciousness”.

Each one of us has the power to decide whether mental order will come from the outside (bottom-up, with little control) or the inside (top-down, making conscious choices based on personal skill and knowledge).

A complex self is one that succeeds in the type of mental resilience that enables one to switch between bottom-up to top-down attention. This can be achieved with training.

We all have the ability, and in my opinion the responsibility, to create ourselves. We are a direct result of how we invest our mental energy. Understanding how to create ourselves is our most important skill!

That’s why it’s vital to ask yourself, How distracted am I?” With the ever-growing onslaught of disturbances, both digital and physical, it’s more important than ever to determine the answer to that question.

To assess your current level of distraction, download the infographic here!

 

*If you enjoyed this article, you might like our upcoming Imagination Retreat, where you’ll take a deep dive into your own creativity and imagination and enjoy just the right combination of activity, personal exploration, pampering, and beach time – all in an idyllic, naturally gorgeous oceanside setting.

 

Dayna-Wood-Blog-Post

Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!