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    How to Learn from the Best Creative Leaders

    Creative leadership is an evolving new domain at the intersection of leadership, individual creativity, and innovation. For more than 7 years, I have run creative leader development programs based on my Genius Journey method that teaches participants about the mindsets of top creative leaders. 

    When creative leader candidates undergo a longer, intensive Genius Journey program, I ask them to find themselves a “genius mentor”. The candidates commit to study the life, ways and achievements of their inspirational creative leader in parallel to the program. At the penultimate session of the course, all candidates give a presentation on their chosen creative leader, thus allowing the cohort to learn about the lives, success strategies and achievements of up-to two dozen creative leaders. Today, let’s understand more about how to best learn from accomplished creative role models — and why it is so beneficial.

    What is role modeling?

    A role model is a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated. Role modeling can be a powerful learning tool for learning about the knowledge, skills, values, and success strategies of top achievers and leaders in a given domain. Thereby, the idea is to adopt and adapt those attitudes and behaviors that are beneficial, while ignoring negative traits and non-conducive activities that many of those top achievers display at times, too.

    How to include role-modeling in creative leader development?

    Nowadays, many business leaders realize the importance of creativity in leading an organization successfully. Twenty-first century leaders need to be creative to effectively respond to rapid changes, mounting complexity, increasing risks, and daily surprises. Moreover, organizations need to develop more creative leaders to seize the opportunities of the fast-paced innovation economy. One way to do this effectively and creatively is to embrace the Genius Journey methodology. 

    The Genius Journey approach sends creative leader candidates on an experiential journey to learn how to adopt and adapt the creative mindsets and action routines of geniuses and outstanding creative leaders in business, the sciences, politics, sports, and the arts. Thereby, studying a role model is one of a dozen pedagogical tools I use to internalize the creative leader mindsets of the Genius Journey method.

    Why is it beneficial to learn from creative role models?

    Studying the ways and lives of outstanding creative leaders allows you to “get into their heads”: It enables you to find out how they tend to think about things (mindsets) and how they usually tend to do regular activities (routines). Equipped with these deeper-level insights into the ways of creative leaders, you may discern their success strategies and then adopt and adapt these. 

    Moreover, studying role models allows you to realize that for most famous creators, the road to success wasn’t an easy cruise on a straight highway. Instead, it was a rather bumpy ride on the path less traveled. It was a journey full of challenges, trials, twists, and turns that eventually led to mastery and outstanding accomplishments. (As such, most success stories follow Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” model that is also a conceptual framework underlying our Genius Journey approach). 

    Finally, getting intimately familiar with your favorite “genius guide” provides an opportunity to do a reality check on the creative mindsets and routines advocated in our Genius Journey model.

    How to study creative role models?

    In an ideal world, you would seek out and meet your favorite creative leaders in person and spend time with them. Unfortunately, in the real world, this isn’t normally a feasible option as most genius leaders are either difficult to reach — or, sadly, already passed on. So, what’s the next best way to study the ways of creative leaders and understand what’s going on in their minds? Reading biographies. And if you’re lucky, your favorite genius even wrote an autobiography that gives you direct access to her mind. 

    Other source materials you can immerse yourself in to learn more about the mindsets of  creative role models include semi-biographical books, videos and interviews, articles, and of course their own creations (such as books, music, movies, art pieces, videos on competitive events, products, and even organizations that they founded or shaped).

    Who are suitable role models of a creative leader?

    Creative leaders are outstanding creative personalities who’ve led an organization or a particular domain and contributed novel, original, and meaningful concepts that created significant value to their environment. What are examples of creative leaders that past candidates of our Genius Journey programs adopted as their “genius mentor”? 

    • Universal geniuses such as Leonardo da Vinci, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, or Benjamin Franklin.
    • Creative business leaders such as Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, David Ogilvy, Coco Chanel and Elon Musk.
    • Scientists like Albert Einstein, Steven Hawkins, Richard Feynstein, Charles Darwin, and Marie Curie.
    • Artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, John Lennon, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Steven Spielberg.
    • Political leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Thomas Jefferson.
    • Legendary sports icons like Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, and Ayrton Senna. 

    How to find the right role model for you?

    Many creative leader candidates already have a “favorite hero” in mind who they admire and know a bit about, and they eagerly embrace the opportunity to study the life of this person in greater detail. However, perhaps an even better way to find a fitting role model is to settle on a creative leader who has a comparable personality like you and prefers similar cognitive styles. How can find a “cognitively fitting” role model? Complete a personality assessment test (such as MBTI) or a cognitive profiling tool (such as our TIPS innovator profiling test) that link famous role models to different profile types.

    For example, in TIPS, Winston Churchill or Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton are suitable role models if you profile as an Organizer, while someone coming out with a Conceptualizer-profile may want to study Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. In the TIPS profiling report, we suggest a list of role models who exemplify each TIPS profile type.

    How do we know that it really works?

    Research projects that we conducted to test the efficacy of the Genius Journey methodology and pedagogy confirmed the value of our Genius Mentor-approach. For example, one study revealed that four out of five creativ eleader candidates (very) strongly agreed that the Creative Leader Studies & Portrait Creations added great value to the program. Although it meant a lot of work for them, still two out of three learners (very) strongly agreed that they also enjoyed creating and presenting their genius mentor portraits.

    When asked for qualitative feedback on this pedagogical tool, one learner commented:

    “I enjoy the creative leader portraits. I think it’s the best way to see and realize that the tools and methods used in the program are practical. Learning through studying the lives of real creative leaders is important.”

    Another creative leader candidate commented the following on the value of the assignment:

    “Asking us to talk about our creative leader was a relevant idea. It made me realize that even the most prominent and most influential leaders went through darker moments before accomplishing outstanding achievements. If I take the example of Yves Saint Laurent, he managed to be one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century despite several faults such as the lack of self-confidence and shyness. That’s why we have to keep dreaming and believe in our future.“ 

    Yet another candidate summed-up both his approach chosen and benefits achieved as follows: 

    “I highly enjoyed preparing the presentation on Salvador Dali. For a long time, I’ve enjoyed his art and have several replicas of his paintings in my home. I also visited his museum and his house in Spain, which both gave me good insights into his person. By doing this project, however, I was able to view him from an entirely different angle than I had viewed him before. I learned several new things about him and now see how he and I can relate to one another. Seeing how he faced different challenges in life, how he harvested his creativity, lived with his ego, etc. gave me a lot of insights into how I can become a better leader and what things I will have to focus on in the future.” 

    Conclusion: Learn from the best, forget about the rest

    Role-modeling is a powerful pedagogical tool that can legitimize the mindsets and routines of geniuses and outstanding creative leaders. Unfortunately, the candidates need to do secondary research on their chosen “genius mentors” in our role model assignment instead of going into a real-life apprenticeship with them. But fortunately, they can observe and question the creative ways of one weird creative leader while undergoing the creative leadership program — and that’s me.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019. 


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    From Effective Managers to Authentic Creative Leaders

    Many of you know that I am not only the creative leader of Thinkergy, but also a professor at various Asian universities. Over the past couple of weeks, I taught both an introductory course in Business Management and Business Innovation in the Master in Business Innovation program of Bangkok University. Interestingly, teaching these two courses back-to-back, I noticed that the former describes the dominant management perspectives of the 20th century, while the latter focuses more on the new paradigms and imperatives needed to succeed in the highly dynamic business environments of the 21st century. Moreover, teaching the said two courses also gave me a chance to reflect on how the emerging new domain of creative leadership relates to —and complements— more traditional management and leadership theories.

    A brief history of management thinking

    Management is a comparatively young knowledge domain within the social sciences:

    • Interest in the domain began around 1880-1890 with the so-called “classical period” of management thinking, which included Frederick Winslow Taylor’s Scientific Management, Max Weber’s Ideal Bureaucracy, and Henri Fayol’s Administrative Principles approach. 
    • Between the 1930s and 1950s, the Human Relations Movement highlighted the importance of also considering human needs and motivations to contribute to performance and productivity; prominent contributions here were Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y
    • In the second half of the 20th century, many other theoretical management perspectives emerged that resonated with management researchers and practitioners for more extended (e.g., Systems Theory, Contingency View) or shorter (e.g., Learning Organization, Total Quality Management, and Benchmarking) periods. 

    From managers to leaders

    “To manage is to forecast and plan, to organize, to command, to coordinate and to control”, noted Henri Fayol. For decades, these so-called managerial functions dominated the view on what managers are supposed to do. Then, in the 1970s, Henry Mintzberg contrasted this “management folklore” with the reality of what managers do in their everyday life. He created a model of ten managerial roles, one of which is the role of a leader. 

    In the 1980s and 1990s, the domain of leadership studies emerged based on the work of the “leadership guru” Warren Bennis and other prominent leadership thinkers such as John Adair, John Kotter, James Kouzes and Barry Posner. During that time period, the “management guru” Peter Drucker also defined the term leader in a simple yet powerful way: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”

    Following his studies of 90 leaders from a wide range of professions, Bennis identified four key competencies of a leader – the ability to manage attention, meaning, trust, and self. Bennis emphasized the paramount importance for a leader to first develop an ‘integrated self’ before leadership qualities can emerge. Thereby, he also identifies certain character traits of a leader, such as being persistent, self-aware, courageous, optimistic, and willing to learn in general and to learn from mistakes in particular. As such, Bennis identified certain mindsets that describe how most leaders ARE.

    How leaders differ from managers

    Based on his research, John Adair described how managers and leaders differ in what they DO (action routines):

    • The word “to manage” goes back to the Latin word “manus” (hand), linking it to the handling a weapon, a tool, or a horse. In contrast, “to lead” is rooted in a Nordic word that denotes “road, way, or path of a ship at sea”. The  etymological roots of the two words indicated that leaders give a sense of direction, while managers handle more operational tasks and tools.
    • Managers tend to care more for operational and administrative details. They think more in terms of systems and processes and have a strong sense of directing and controlling the work of other people. Managers tend to delegate and get things done through the efforts of others.
    • In contrast, leaders tend to be visionary big-picture thinkers who can envision possibilities of an exciting, more meaningful future. They have a talent for inspiring people and creating teams and often lead major efforts from the front. They use the words “we”, “our” and “us” rather than “I”, “my” and “me”. Because they often dislike “sweating the small stuff”, they are not necessarily good at administration and managing resources. Leadership also incorporates the neighboring skills such as communication, decision-making, and time management.
    • Last but not least, managers gain authority through an official appointment to a managerial position. On the other hand, to become a leader, you need to be ratified in the hearts and minds of those who work for you (over and above any formal authority).  

    To sum up: leadership sets the direction and motivates people to achieve it, while management contributes to organizational stability and efficiency. Both are needed for successful performance. However, leadership is more important in the context of rapid change and a highly dynamic business environment. Warren Bennis condensed these differences in one neat sentence: “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing.” And the American computer scientist Grace Hopper added the following important distinction: “You manage things. You lead people.”

    How exemplary leaders lead a meaningful transformation

    In their book The Leadership Challenge (originally published in 1987) James Kouzes and Barry Posner developed a model that described how to become a transformational leader. Here are the five practices of exemplary leadership that they identified in a book of the same title:

    1. Model the way: Leaders clarify values by finding their inner compass and affirming shared ideals. They talk openly about personal and shared values. Then, they set the example by aligning actions with shared values. In other words, they do what they say they’re going to do, and thus model the way authentically and genuinely. They live by the maxim of Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.
    2. Inspire a shared vision: Leaders envision the future by imagining exciting, meaningful possibilities while keeping an eye on the ‘big picture’ (emerging future trends and possible discontinuities). They enlist others in a shared vision by appealing to joint values and aspirations.
    3. Challenge the process: Leaders search for and seize opportunities by questioning the old ways of doing things, by fixing bugs that need to be fixed, and by looking outward for innovative ways to improve and being open to new ideas. They pursue meaningful challenges. They courageously take the initiative and experiment to learn from experience by debriefing failures and unexpected successes. Thanks to this process, they continuously generate small wins that reinforce shared values and propel the team forward towards the desired direction.
    4. Enable others to act: Leaders foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating good relationships. They use “we” instead of “I”. They co-create and collaborate to seize opportunities and solve problems. Leaders strengthen others by boosting their self-confidence and developing competences. They teach and coach others by being clear on their strengths and weaknesses. They share power and are open to learning from others.
    5. Encourage the heart: Leaders create a spirit of community and make work enjoyable and productive for everyone on the team. They celebrate the values and victories by giving rewards and recognition. They catch people doing “the right thing” and praise them, thus recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence.

    How creative leadership expands on traditional leadership principles

    “Exemplary leaders know that if they want to gain commitment and achieve the highest standards, they must be models of the behavior they expect of others,” emphasize James Kouzes and Barry Posner. This means that to gain commitment and achieve the highest standards, creative leaders must BE CREATIVE and DO CREATIVE things themselves. Here is where creative leadership comes in: Creative leaders must genuinely possess a creative mindset and consistently practice creative action routines.

    Prominent leadership thinkers such as Warren Bennis, John Adair, and Chris Argyris all insist that leaders can be developed. Based on research I’ve conducted with colleagues, we have evidence that the same holds for creative leaders. However, to develop authentically creative leaders who ARE creative and DO creative things, we need to transcend traditional leadership development programs. The authors of the IBM Global Chief Human Resource Officer Study 2011 put this sine qua non of creative leadership development as follows: 

    “To instill the dexterity and flexibility necessary to seize elusive opportunity, companies must move beyond traditional leadership development methods and find ways to inject within their leadership candidates not only the empirical skills necessary for effective management, but also the cognitive skills to drive creative solutions. The learning initiatives that enable this objective must be at least as creative as the leaders they seek to foster.” 

    To develop authentic creative leaders for the innovation economy, and help solve the significant challenges that humanity faces, I’ve created Genius Journey, the truly creative and effective creative leadership development method of Thinkergy. Genius Journey expands on the character traits identified by Bennis and other leadership thinkers by also including those mindset factors that specifically support individual creativity and breakthrough thinking. (These creativity-specific traits reside outside the traditional leadership theory in the domains of creativity and innovation).

    Genius Journey teaches creative leader candidates the creative success mindsets and action routines of geniuses and creative business leaders. We do this by sending them on the journey to reconnect to their inner creativity and personal ingenuity. In other words, with  Genius Journey, we teach prospective creative leaders on how to genuinely BE creative and consistently DO creative things. Only authentic creative leaders can model the way needed to build truly creative teams and outstanding creative companies that can create these bold new solutions for a more meaningful world. Again, let’s say it in Mahatma Gandhi’s words: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

    Conclusion: From management over leadership to creative leadership

    Humanity faces a set of massive challenges that we need to successfully resolve in the coming 2-3 decades, such as digital transformation, climate change, sustainability, labour redistribution, the debt mountain, and the singularity challenge, among others. If we want to rise to the occasion, we need to develop a phalanx of new creative leaders who approach these immense problems from a higher level of consciousness. As Albert Einstein put it: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” 

    20th-century management thinking has brought us the problems that we’re dealing with right now. I believe that 21st century-style creative leadership needs to create bold new solutions to effectively deal with the mess before it’s too late. Moreover, being an optimist, I believe that together, a sufficiently large group of authentic creative leaders and their teams can innovate us out of the mess again. Do you want to join us in this worthy effort by becoming a creative leader yourself?

    Contact us to tell us more about yourself so that we can jointly explore how we may help you develop creative leaders for your organization.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019

  • How to Keep Calm During a Heart Attack

    Imagine waking up at five o clock in the morning with a numb feeling of discomfort in your upper body — your chest, shoulders, and arms. What do you do? Almost four weeks ago, I was in such a situation. Here is what I did.

    An early wake-up call

    My first thought upon noticing the strange sensations in my body was: “Probably I have sore muscles. After all, I have just completed an intense working week. I ran a 5-day Business Creativity workshop at Hong Kong Baptist University, followed by a 1-day TIPS innovation training with Thinkergy in Bangkok. Little wonder that I feel tired.”

    But then I listened to my inner self and thought: “My muscles shouldn’t feel sore. I didn’t do much sport in the previous days due to my events. Moreover, even if I did, why do I feel a numb, burning sensation in my armpits where I don’t think we even have muscles?” Intuitively, I felt that something else is going on and that it’s serious. 

    Usually, I try to avoid visiting a doctor for any minor health issue. I prefer to wait until things revert to normal. This morning, however, I felt a strong urge to go to an emergency room of the nearest hospital straightaway. Both my partner and our baby girl were still fast asleep. So, I dressed and left our apartment without waking them up. I felt I needed to act quickly, and filling them into the situation would have taken up precious time.

    At that early time, I couldn’t find a taxi. So, I hopped on a motorbike taxi that brought me straight to the nearby hospital. Five minutes after entering their emergency room (ER), an electrocardiogram (ECG) revealed what was going on with me. 

    A shocking diagnosis

    “You have a heart attack,” said the ER doctor. “You need to get a heart operation right away. If you’re okay with it, we call our heart specialist now, and he should arrive here in roughly 45 minutes.” 

    Upon hearing the diagnosis, I was totally gobsmacked: “A heart attack? How come? I am fit. I do sport almost every day. I eat a healthy diet. I even do regular intermittent fasting. Okay, once in a while, I have a few drinks, but I’ve never smoked in my life. So how can I get a heart attack?”

    Anyway, regardless of how much I complained about the absurdity of me having a heart attack, it was happening. I had to accept the severity of the situation and to deal with it effectively. Hospital staff put forms in front of me to sign. Fortunately, my credit card limits were good to cover the deposit required for the operation. After the paperwork, I had to wait for the heart doctor to arrive. While lying on an ER bed, waiting for my imminent heart operation, my mind was in a whirl. “So, is this it? Am I going to die here and now? What about my family? My baby girl?” 

    I realized that to avoid panicking while waiting for the heart specialist to arrive, I needed to control my fearful thoughts in this life-threatening state. But how?

    Enter Genius Journey

    To quieten and control my anxious mind, I applied a range of Genius Exercises from Genius Journey, my own creative leadership development method that I created for Thinkergy:

    • I courageously let go and detached of the outcome. I accepted that at this moment, everything was in the hands of God (and of course, a heart surgeon). All I could do was control my mind and keep calm. 
    • I repeated a mantra that connects to the first stop of Genius Journey (Stop your doubts, worries, and fears. Start to be a courageous, action-oriented believer):

    “Everything that happens to me is the best possible thing that happens to me.” 

    • I expressed gratitude for my life, even if I had died here and now. I am grateful for having lived a good, happy – if not especially long – life. I was born into a good family in a democratic, developed country at the right time at the right side of the iron curtain. I enjoyed an excellent education and even got the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. I was fortunate to land a scarce job at one of the world’s top banks that allowed me to fund my bachelor, master, and doctoral studies and to gain international experience. I lived in many countries I was lucky to experience two Eureka moments that changed my life to the better (one saved my doctoral studies, and the other gave me the idea and courage to start my own business). I have a lovely family. While feeling gratitude for an eventful life, I also expressed my wish to be able to spend more time with my family, friends, and my teammates. Still, I trusted that all would turn out right and good should God decide to call upon me soon.
    • As good as I could, I tried to entertain the prospects of having to move on to the next stage with curiosity and openness (Genius Journey Stop 3). I believe that while my body will one day die, my soul won’t, and it will move on to a new, better place. The ultimate journey. I don’t know if it will be heaven or an afterlife, and I want to approach this new stage with a curious, open beginner’s mind (albeit not too soon).
    • While waiting for the doctor, I also kept on looking at the bright side of life, and keep on thinking positive (Stop 4 of Genius Journey). One Genius Exercise that I applied is called “My Warm Fuzzies”. It’s a collection of things I can do or draw upon when the going gets tough, and that make me feel good and smile in an instant. So, I played Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”-song in my mind. I hummed the “Manamana” song from the Muppet show. And I imagined chasing my happily screaming one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, among other things.
    • As the pain in my chest started to intensify while waiting for the doctor, and later during the operational procedure on my heart, I focused on my breath and began a short meditation. I also did an imagination exercise (that relates to Stop 6 of Genius Journey): I imagined traveling to and spending time at my sanctuary, which is a sacred place that I’ve created in my imagination where I feel completely safe and at ease and where nothing can hurt or harm me. 

    Roughly an hour and a half after arriving at the hospital, a voice brought me back to the here and now. The heart specialist told me that he had already completed the procedure successfully, and all is well and good for now. He informed me that he had removed a clot that was blocking one artery in my heart, and had placed a stent to open the artery and support the blood flow. A few minutes later, I was in a room at the coronary care unit and  —after I was able to get my partner on the phone— waited for my family to arrive so that I could hug them and tell them what had happened to me.

    An unlucky event with a lucky ending

    Later that afternoon, my doctor told me that I was unlucky and lucky at the same time. I was unlucky because according to my health and fitness status, I shouldn’t have suffered a heart attack in the first place. At the same time, I was lucky that I spotted and interpreted the symptoms so early and acted right away.  So, why did I get lucky? 

    As an active sportsman, I know my body well. More importantly, however, as a creativity master who’s studied and internalized the creative mindsets of genius for more than one and a half decades, I possess a highly developed intuitive mind. My intuition alerted me that in my body, something’s fundamentally not right, and made me take action right away. 

    Living by the mindsets of genius, and practicing the related exercises regularly, helped me to get lucky in another way. It enabled me to stay relaxed, focused, and positive while coming within the Grim Reaper’s grasp.

    In short, I believe that my Genius Journey method helped me to avoid more serious damages from my heart attack and to stay alive.

    So what?

    Why do I share this story with you? One day, we all have an Appointment in Samarra, and probably when we least expect it. I don’t know if I can respond in a similarly cool way the next time around. But one thing I do know from my recent experience: Staying calm and positive, and keeping as much control over one’s thoughts as possible, is the most favorable response to a life-threatening situation. Worrying, lamenting, or even panicking will only worsen an already bad situation. 

    Knowing and applying the creative success mindsets of geniuses and creative leaders helped me survive my recent heart attack. And maybe, some of the creative mindsets and exercises that I described above may also help you one day to keep your calm when confronted with a possibly life-threatening situation.

    To find out more about our Genius Journey training courses, contact us to tell us more about how we may creatively inspire you and your colleagues. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019

  • Taking Creative Leadership Lessons From My Baby Girl

    “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm,” noted the British novelist Aldous Huxley. Unfortunately, most of us have no recollections of our early childhood. Hence, we don’t have any remembrance of our own innate spirit of genius in us. According to Albert Einstein, “There is a genius in all of us,” and we showed it as a young child.

    Infants and the very young children are still closest to their true selves. So, observe their behaviors to get a better grasp of the concept of genius. Becoming a Dad somewhat later in life, I have the privilege now to study the ingenious ways of a very young child: Zoë, our 16-month old baby girl. Admittedly, I do it with a hidden agenda: I am curious to find out to what extent Zoë’s ways overlap with the mindsets and routines of geniuses and top creative leaders. I’ve studied these mindsets for over a decade and modeled them in Genius Journey, Thinkergy’s creative leader development method. 

    Today, I share what genius mindsets of Genius Journey I’ve also spotted in Zoë,  (I share my observations solely our baby girl. But I noticed that most other babies exhibit the same ways and behaviors. And I invite you to observe infants in your family or environment to form your own opinion on the ingenious ways of very young children). 

    Lesson 1: Young children take action, and persist until they succeed

    Zoë observes her parents and other grown-ups doing certain things. If it’s exciting, she desires to do this, too. Then, Zoë boldly takes massive action. She persists in the face of —at times painful— temporary failure until she succeeds.

    Take the example of how infants learn to walk. Babies spend most of their early days laying flat on their back or being carried around. All the while, they see their parents and other humans walking on two legs. Babies seem to have an inherent belief that they too can master the art of walking. So, they take action one step at a time: First, they learn to sit. Then, crawl. Next, they pull themselves up. At some point, they stand. Finally, they begin to walk their first steps.

    In the process, they fall many times. According to some books, babies fail a couple of thousand times while learning how to walk. Like Zoë, they persist until they succeed. Nowadays, Zoë confidently walks —and often runs— around her little world. Why? Because she’s a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer. Are you?

    Very young children tend to exhibit the foundational success mindset of genius. Here’s what we teach at Destination Stop 1 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop your doubts, worries, and fears. Start to be a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.”

    Lesson 2: Young children are simply themselves

    Zoë naturally expresses her true self and her unique personality. She is original and insists upon herself. Unlike most adults, she has no desire to hide her true essence behind a mask. She has no intention to play a role that pleases the expectations of others. She confidently shows her talents, ideas, feelings, and true colors. She just is.

    No doubt about it, Zoë and other young kids live in harmony with the tenet of Destination Stop 2 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop your ego. Start being yourself.”

    Lessons 3 and 4: Young children have a beginner’s mind

    “Children are the most learning-hungry beings in the world,” said the American anthropologist Ashley Montagu. Why do babies and young children learn so much so fast? They have what Zen Buddhism calls a beginner’s mind. They are open, curious, and playful.

    Zoë is no different. She embraces her world full of curiosity. She openly approaches a person, animal, plant or other new experience with a spirit of wonder and awe. She wants to play with all other young kids without judging them based on their color of skin, nationality or religious belief. She displays an open body language. Often, she is in a “hero’s pose” with widely opened arms and legs. And very soon, she is likely to bombard her parents with lots of questions about this wondrous world. 

    “Play is the work of children“, noted the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. Like other young kids, Zoë uses every opportunity to play and often is absorbed by this. She plays with toys and stuffed plush animals, pans and pots, bottles and boxes, in short: everything she spots and deems worthy of playing. She loves to laugh and have fun with her parents, other caretakers, and other kids. She enjoys dancing and humming along with a song (in her baby language, as we expose her to English, German and Thai). She loves to run around and ride on every toy on wheels. In short, she’s immensely playful and radiates pure joy and positive energy.

    How does this curious, playful behavior of Zoë contrast with the ways of many managers? They often critique and lecture others (instead of listening to ideas and asking questions). Many go through their days with closed minds and bodies. Their hands, arms, and legs are crossed when encountering people or a new situation.. After all, many consider life and work to be serious affairs, and tend to see the glass to be half empty. So it isn’t surprising that they often use the words “No”, “don’t and “but”.

    By the way, Zoë only loses her positive mood when her Mom —and admittedly, at times her Dad, too— stop her from doing something by using the words “no”, “don’t” and “stop”.

    All these observations connect to the creative mindsets at Destination Stops 3 and 4 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop being judgmental and closed(-minded). Start being curious and open(-minded).”

    “Stop being negative and serious. Start being positive and playful.”

    Lesson 5: Young children are full of love and passion

    “Passion is the genesis of genius,” noted the American life coach Tony Robbins. Like other very young children, Zoë approaches every new day full of passion, zest, and energy. On most days, she’s the first to wake up and jump out of bed. She immediately runs to her indoor playground, where she enthusiastically greets, kisses and hugs her teddy bear. She radiates joy and love from the word go. It’s part of her essential nature. So, it’s not surprising that she also seems to love everything that she’s doing. Zoë loves playing with her toys or with other kids. She enjoys messing up the room as much as tidying it up again. She takes pleasure in giving a hand to her parents or grandparents. In short, Zoë is passionate about what she does every moment. 

    How does this contrast with how the average working adult approaches a new day? Many businesspeople drag themselves out of bed in the morning, especially on Mondays. It’s the day of the week that many adults say they dislike most because it’s the beginning of a full new week of work. These people hardly can wait for the weekend to begin. What does this tell us about their attitude towards their work? 

    The genius mindset at Destination Stop 5 of the Genius Journey captures this notion:

    “Stop being indifferent or working only for the money. Start being passionate and love what you do.” 

    Like other young kids, Zoë lives by this motto. She’s full of love and loves what she’s doing. Are you?

    Over the past months, I have observed the behaviors of Zoë, my 16-month-old baby girl.  I found that her natural ways go in line  with the foundational genius mindsets and routines of Genius Journey: 1) Be a courageous, action-oriented believer. 2) Be yourself. 3) Be open and curious. 4) Be positive and playful. 5) Love what you do. 

    Now let’s continue exploring if and to what extent the itsy-bitsy ways of our little ones correspond with the success mindsets of genius. (I share my observations solely on our baby girl. But I noticed that most other babies behave and do things in the same way. I invite you to observe infants in your family or environment to form your own opinion on whether the very young children carry the spirit of genius inside).

    Lessons 6 and 7: Young children possess a broadly interested creative mind

    Zoë is still too young to express her thoughts verbally. But observing her gives hints of what may be going on in her mind, and what interests her. So what have I noticed? 

    Young kids take an interest in almost everything. They enjoy learning broadly about the world, instead of profoundly focusing on one subject as most experts do. In their early years, young kids engage in a broad range of activities: playing alone and with other kids; running and riding wheeled toys; dancing and singing; and drawing and building things, among many others. To sum-up, Zoë and other young kids enjoy developing a broad range of skills and talents. They naturally follow Howard Gardner’s concept of multiple intelligences.

    Our little daughter Zoë has a highly-developed intuitive mind, too. In many situations, I can spot how she uses her innate creativity to have fun and get her way. When watching her playing with her doll and plush pets, I am positive that she imagines them to be real. 

    Zoë also frequently does things that surprise me — another sign of her high innate creativity. For example, one morning, she carried my mobile phone to our bed in an affectionate attempt to wake me up. After I got out of bed and —still tired— sat down on the sofa, Zoë brought me all my clothes. Then, she fetched the backpack we carry along when taking her out. Suddenly, I realized what’s going on. Zoë communicated that she wanted me to bring her to the nursery now. (Then, she can still play with her friends there before they all go for their morning nap.) So, I complied, got dressed and walked to the door, and she followed me all smiles and bright-eyed. 

    How does this all compare to the world of business? Over the past two centuries, our western education system has emphasized the development of logical-mathematical intelligence (IQ) and a predominantly rational, analytical mind. This focus equipped workers and managers with functional knowledge and skills needed to function well in the industrial and knowledge economies. 

    Moreover, the modern western education system encourages and celebrates domain expertise. Many experts are so specialized that they know everything about their tiny niche — and almost nothing about the world. In contrast, a classical education used to favor a polymath or homo universalis.

    Stops 6 and 7 of Genius Journey advocate to live and learn both deeply and broadly, and to cultivate a balanced, integrated mind: 

    “Stop being myopic and thinking with only half of your mind. Start thinking integrated with your whole mind.”

    “Stop being stuck in the expert tunnel. Start collecting and connecting the dots both deeply and broadly.”

    Lessons 8: Young children are living change

    Most parents try to establish daily routines for their little ones (e.g., when to eat; take a nap, go to bed). Why is it advisable to create such an orderly framework? Regularity counter-balances the innate drive and high energy of young kids. Infants tend to move, play and do something continually. Such sustained activity allows them to practice and learn new things. Young kids are very flexible in their body and minds, enabling them to evolve so rapidly. Babies personify continuous change. They embody the creativity-empowering mindset at Destination Stop 8 of Genius Journey: 

    “Start to move, change and flex yourself.” 

    How does this compare with a typical businessperson? Many not only do not adhere to healthy routines but rather are slaves to their daily habits. They do the same things over and over again without embracing the variety of life. While habits can simplify life, they also tend to make our bodies and minds inflexible and inert. They prevent us from trying something new in an ever-changing world. So, avoid the creativity-inhibiting, limiting mindset at Stop 8: 

    “Stop being so rigid, inflexible and inert.”

    Lessons 9: Young children are present with all their senses

    “No Columbus, no Marco Polo has ever seen stranger and more fascinating and thoroughly absorbing sights than the child that learns to perceive, to taste, to smell, to touch, to hear and to see, and to use his body, his senses, and his mind. No wonder that the child shows an insatiable curiosity. He has the whole world to discover,” noted the American psychoanalyst Ernest Schachtel.

    Very young children perceive and interact with the world using all their senses. They not only see and hear but also want to touch, smell and taste everything. (Ask any parent how often babies put things in their mouths). Young kids are also fully present in the now. Neither do they reminisce of what they did yesterday nor do they worry about, or look ahead to, tomorrow.

    In contrast, many adults often miss out on what’s going on now. At times, their minds look back into the past full of nostalgia (“These were the days…”) or with regret (“I should have …”). At other times, they look forward to the future, either full of worries whether they will still have enough money or good health, or in hopeful anticipation of what they will do when reaching a certain point in future (such as, when the kids flee the nest, or when they retire). In any case, they miss out on the present moment, on what’s happening right now. So, it’s not surprising that their sensory acuity has atrophied, too. Most adults overemphasize their visual and auditory senses, while neglecting the others.

    So, young kids like Zoë live by the motto of Destination Stop 9 of Genius Journey:

    “Stop living in the past or future. Start focusing on the now with all your senses. Be mindful.

    Lesson 10: Young children apply and then relax themselves

    Zoë is action pure and simple. She plays, runs, climbs, and carries things around until she’s completely exhausted and tired. Later, Zoë falls asleep in an instant. In downtime, she recharges and processes everything she’s encountered and learned anew. When she reawakens, she goes back to active mode right away. She applies herself to the activity of the moment until her battery runs down. Then, it’s time again to relax and recharge. 

    Our little ones seem to intuitively balance periods of intensive action and total relaxation (sleep). Thereby, complete application and relaxation alternate in a harmonious rhythm. This pattern likely helps kids to get absorbed in an activity and experience states of flow (or be in the “zone,” or find their “Mojo”).

    In comparison, modern businesspeople are busy almost all the time. They engage in countless activities at a frantic pace. Nowadays, even if they get a moment to take a breath, they glance at their smartphones. Busy-ness and overload lead to what Marshall Goldsmith calls “No-jo”: no relaxation, no rhythm, no flow, and no breakthroughs. 

    Like other young kids, Zoë enjoys the ebb and flow of total action and relaxation that produces flow. So, she naturally embraces the lesson of Destination Stop 10 of Genius Journey:  

    “Stop your busy-ness. Stop doing, doing, doing something all the time. Start balancing doing and being in a harmonious rhythm to induce states of flow.”

    Conclusion: Learn the ways of genius from our little ones

    “Grown men may learn from very little children for the hearts of little children are pure and, therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people may miss.” Take in these words of wisdom from the Native American Medicine Man Black Elk. 

    “If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses,” noted Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Being a genius himself, Goethe recognized genius in the eyes of very young kids. So, I invite you to do as the German playwright and philosopher. Openly and curiously observe the ways of babies and young kids. Sooner or later, you’re likely to spot the genius in their eyes, too. And by recognizing and appreciating the ingenuity of very young kids, you take the first step to acknowledge your genius that you exhibited as a very young child, too.  

    Are you interested in reconnecting to your inner genius?  Contact us to learn more about Genius Journey and our creative leader development programs

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019


  • What Words Reveal About A Leader's Creative Consciousness Level

    Creative leadership development is all about replacing a someone’s disempowering mindsets and action routines with empowering, creativity-inducing ones. While as a creative leadership coach, I can observe the actions of disciples, I cannot directly intercept their thoughts. Fortunately, however, I can get valuable hints about the thoughts of potential creative leaders by paying close attention to, and intently listening for, the words they regularly use. Why are certain keywords so revealing? 

    “Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny,” noted Lao Tzu. Words are verbalized thoughts that have positive or negative energy that sooner or later translate into life-enhancing or -diminishing actions. Today, let’s understand with the help of a little imaginary scenario what certain words can tell us about the creativity and consciousness levels of a leader and ourselves.

    Scenario: The introductory speech of two potential business leaders

    Suppose you work at the head office of a large corporation undergoing a leadership transition phase. Your supervisory board has asked the two shortlisted candidates to introduce themselves as potential new CEO to all head office staff at a town hall meeting. So, listen to each candidate’s introduction, and ask yourself: Who would you like to work for? Who do you think is more of a creative leader? Who’s operating on higher levels of consciousness?

    Candidate A

    I feel privileged of the chance to serve you as your new leader. I believe that we are eternal, egalitarian spiritual beings on a human journey. All of us are created equal, and all of us are significant to our future success. 

    While being patriotic to our home country from where we originate, we’re intentionally choosing to contend in a free, open, global market space full of abundant opportunities. We optimistically envision making meaning by inventing ingenious, beautiful new products that empower our customers and make the world a better place. Thereby, we want to be aware of, and responsible for, the long-term implications of all we’re doing. We optimistically believe that we can invent excellent new value offerings that are natural, essential and timeless.

    How will I strive to lead you? By being an ethical, principled, tolerant and consciously aware leader. By being self-confident and humble, unselfish and modest. By sharing my experience, educating you and being helpful to you. By being thoughtful and considerate. By treating you respectfully, fairly and truthfully. By confronting you kindly, honestly and candidly when your ego takes over, and by patiently and gently healing conflict with humor and harmony.

    By cherishing your work and appreciating and accepting your constructive opinions. By openly and impartially inviting your brilliant ideas, and then being agreeable to them and approving them as much as is possible and feasible. By encouraging you to courageously try something new, and when you fail, by not only forgiving but praising you for taking initiative. By valuing your virtuous efforts and trusting in your intuitive decisions.

    By being determined to our noble, holistic goals while staying flexible to our actions and spontaneous in our responses. By diplomatically defending our peaceful, democratic ideals and emphatically, generously and charitably caring for all of our stakeholders,

    I am grateful to leading our unified efforts.

    Candidate B

    I am proud to be your new superior. I am important and ambitious. After all, I am indebted to being part of a small, arrogant, dogmatic and luxurious elite who is entitled to call the shots and to enjoy the pleasures of life. 

    I forcefully insist on being the boss. I urge and coerce you to follow me. At times, I may be flattering to persuade you. But most of the time, I will be dictatorial, condescending, harassing and belligerent. Take note that I am rigid and hard, rough and punitive. Because I am impulsive and easily irritated, I can be critical, cynical and at times even cruel. Better beware. 

    Once I’ve made up my prejudiced and judgmental mind, I tend to be rigid, inflexible and stubborn. Expect me to reject and attack your ideas, and to resent you if you argue with me. It’s my way or the highway.

    What is my false, calculating scheme? Picture the company promoting the latest fads that persuade unaware consumers to feverishly buy our ordinary, artificial and cheap products. We immediately grab their money and use some of it to seduce nationalistic regulators to legally restrict better competitors. That way, we can recklessly exploit the local market, and I can get an excessive bonus. After all, I am a selfish, lustful and materialistic taker who hoards all I have.

    Fortunately, only a few people know why I am so serious, suspicious, secretive and controlling, and it’s none of your business. (It’s because deep down inside, I am pessimistic, confused, and preoccupied — always worrying that someone eventually sees that I am just pompously and glamorously playing a role.)

    I’m done. Now back to work. 

    So, how did the two candidates’ speeches make you feel? What candidate would you prefer as your new CEO? And who is more of a creative leader? A or B?

    What words reveal about creative consciousness

    Of course, the two speeches are fictional and intentionally exaggerated to make a point. I wrote them by using a list of word pairs from David R. Hawkins’ fascinating book Power vs. Force, which discusses the consequences of operating on different levels of creative consciousness. (I introduced you to the concept of consciousness levels in a previous blog article). 

    As you’ve realized, Candidate A uses largely life-enhancing, positive words that, according to Hawkins, calibrate on high levels of consciousness (which in Hawkins’ anatomy, includes the levels courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, and enlightenment). These powerful words indicate that she qualifies as a genuine, creative leader to successfully spearhead a company in the innovation economy. 

    In contrast, Candidate B relies almost exclusively on forceful, life-diminishing and negative words located on the rudimentary lower consciousness levels, expressing negative emotions such as pride, anger, desire and fear. (And if you couldn’t help thinking of a prominent reality-TV showman turned politician who now sits in an Oval Office while listening to Candidate B’s pitch, take comfort that I too couldn’t help thinking of him while writing this article.)

    Conclusion: Replace negative, destructive thoughts and words with positive, creative ones

    So what can you learn from this? Lao Tzu is right: Watch your thoughts and your words, as your acts, habits and destiny flow from them. Become aware of negative words you regularly tend to use. Then, whenever you catch yourself thinking the negative thought preceding such a negative word, replace it in your mind and communicate the positive equivalent. 

    Becoming aware of the negative, destructive vs. the positive, creative power of words is subject of one of the 88 Genius Exercises that are part of Genius Journey, our creative leadership development program designed towards elevating competitive, scheming business leaders into contending, ingenious creative leaders. Named “The Well is in Your Words”, this Genius Exercise invites you to: 

    • replace disempowering, negative words with empowering, positives ones (in the spirit of Hawkins); 
    • avoid the “Fatal 6” (could, would, should, may, might, must); 
    • refrain from using the most dangerous word (but); and 
    • beware of the most life-suppressing word (no) and it’s variations (don’t, won’t, can’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t), among others. 

    (These linguistic communication tips were also featured in an early Thinkergy blog article published in January 2008). 

    When are you ready to develop into a creative leader? Contact us to find out more about Genius Journey and our related creative leadership development programs

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019

  • Who Do You Consider To Be A Creative Leader?

    What creative leaders do you know and admire? What makes them special? Why do you admire them? Take a few minutes to think about these questions.

    At Thinkergy, we often set the scene for a session on creative leadership —or a full-fledged Genius Journey training course— with a little warm-up exercise. We break up the learning cohort into small groups and let them work on the above questions. The exercise and ensuing discussions create curiosity for delegates on how they may further their individual creativity and develop their creative leader potential.

    Would you rate these people as a creative leader?

    In a course in creative leadership, the delegates naturally think first of well-known creative business leaders,such as Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, David Ogilvy, Edwin Land, Charles Kettering, Nikola Tesla, Jeff Bezos, Masaru Ibuka, Akio Morita, Jack Ma, or James Dyson.

    But is the concept of creative leaders limited to business leaders only? How about leaders in other fields, such as science, the arts, in politics and in sports:

    • On almost every list of creative leaders, a few universal geniuses such as Albert Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci feature prominently somewhere close to the top.
    • Other universal and/or scientific geniuses such as Benjamin Franklin, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Richard Feynman, Charles Darwin, or Richard Buckminster Fuller are also widely considered to be creative leaders in their field.
    • How about creative leaders, top achievers and geniuses in the creative arts in the widest sense? Would you rate  the painters Pablo Picasso, Salvatore Dali, and Vincent van Gogh as creative leaders? How about the writers William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, and Ralph Waldo Emerson? Or the musical geniuses Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and John Lennon? How about the movie directors Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen Spielberg, George Lucas and James Cameron?
    • How about if we consider spiritual or political leaders, too? Do Jesus of Nazareth, Gautama Buddha, or Lao Tze qualify as creative leaders for you? How about famous political leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela?
    • How would you rate outstanding top achievers and kinesthetic geniuses in sports? Would you consider Mohammad Ali or Bruce Lee to be a creative leader?

    If you asked me, I’d loudly say “yes” to all the creative leaders listed above. You may disagree with me in some cases, and that’s fine. It’s all depends on how we define the concept, and we will come back to this point below. But first allow me to share with you what I take away from the little warm-up exercise.

    So what does this exercise teach us about creative leader?

    In the past years, I’ve asked the above questions to workshop participants from different parts of the world. The exercise has provided me with some interesting insights about the concept of a creative leader:

    1. Creative leaders abound in many fields. When working on this exercise, the groups suggest a similar selection of creative leaders from a wide variety of fields. The concept of a creative leader seems to be universally understood and interpreted in a multifaceted way. It is not limited to business leaders only, but also extends to geniuses, top achievers and extraordinary creative leaders in science, the arts, spirituality, politics and in sports.
    2. Creative leaders can be found on all levels all over the world. Most lists also include a few creative leaders that are known only locally, nationally or regionally — such as founders of innovative start-up ventures or creative agencies, renowned artists and entertainers, and the like. Do those people also qualify as creative leaders? Probably yes. Someone who creates extraordinary outputs or creatively influences others in a field at a local, national or regional level can qualify as a creative leader, too. The concept of a creative leader does not require a person to be world famous.
    3. Creative leaders stand out from the crowds through their deeds and their minds. How do people justify why they rate someone to be a creative leader? Typically, they make their case either by pointing to breakthrough ideas or the extraordinary outputs that the creative leader created, or by citing some unusual, “abnormal” creative mindsets that differ from those of normal people. Because they create standout outputs, and because they think and do things differently, creative leaders influence and inspire others to be more creative, too.
    4. Calling someone a creative leader doesn’t make them a creative leader. Do I agree to every person listed as a creative leader? Nope. In some cases, I have my reservations or even openly disagree. For example, while I admire Mark Zuckerberg’s achievements as leader of Facebook, I also take note that the original concept behind his social networking site is rooted in the ConnectU concept from the Winklevoss twins. Moreover, the assessment of why someone qualifies as an authentic creative leader may change over time. In the end, it all depends on how we argue our case, and how we define the concept of a creative leader.

    What is a creative leader?

    At Thinkergy, we define creativity as an idea, product or other concept that is at the same time novel and original and meaningful. This definition ensures that we exclude concepts that are secondhand, copied, and unethical or meaningless.

    A leader is often defined as “a person who leads or commands a group, organization or country”. However, expanding on this narrow view, some define a leader as a “person that holds a dominant or superior position within their field, and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others.”

    Let’s combine both aspects into one definition and define a creative leader as:

    “a person who creates extraordinarily novel, original and meaningful outputs in a particular field, and/or creatively leads or influences others to create novel, original and meaningful outputs.”

    Conclusion

    In many creative leadership sessions that I ran in recent years, I noticed that there seems to be an universal, almost intuitive understanding of what the concept of an authentic creative leader encompasses. Take a look at the people who you listed as creative leaders. Are some of your favorite geniuses and creative leaders on my list? Chances are that we have a couple of exact matches.

    In any case, creative leaders think and act differently. They are courageous and curious, confident and positive, inspiring and passionate, creative and all-embracing, flexible and present, focused and balanced. And because they work and live their lives creatively, they are able to come up with breakthrough ideas and create extraordinary outputs that delight and influence others to follow them in their creative footsteps.

    Do you want to become an authentic creative leader yourself? Then, check out Genius Journey, our creative leadership development method. And consider booking a Genius Journey training for your organization? Contact us to tell us more about we can help you begin your creative leadership journey.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018


  • What Consciousness Level Do You Operate On?

    Nowadays, most companies embrace personality tests and cognitive profiling methods as a tool to learn more about their people. Clearly, there is no shortage of such profiling tests that range from classic typologies (such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the DISC concept) over more cognitively-inclined tools (such as Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument [HBDI] or Alan Black’s MIND Design Concept) to more recent additions such as Insights Discovery or TIPS (Thinkergy’s Innovation Profiling System). But have you ever encountered a person with the same cognitive profile as you who nevertheless approached life in very different ways? While some of these differences may go back to a different social, cultural, educational, professional and/or generational background, they are frequently due to a factor that is greatly overlooked by business: consciousness.

    What does consciousness mean?

    Consciousness can be defined as the state of being aware of one’s surroundings, or one’s perception of something or a person, or the fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world. In other words, to be conscious means to operate at a certain level of observing awareness and a certain degree of freedom of choice when thinking, feeling, sensing and interacting with people and the environment. 

    Highly conscious people have greater levels of observing awareness. This allows them to be less automatic in their response to situations they encounter, and to rather make an intentional choice how to think about and act upon what’s going on around them and within them. As such, they are able to observe both their outer and inner worlds with detachment, and to “simply be” (as opposed to always having to do something).

    Conceptualising the levels of consciousness (1): Hawkins' Map of Consciousness

    In 1995, the US philosopher and consciousness researcher David R. Hawkins published his book Power vs. Force: An Anatomy of Consciousness. In his book, Hawkins introduced a scale of expanding levels of consciousness that he calibrated using the methods of muscle testing and kinesiology. These consciousness levels are positioned on an exponential scale ranging from zero to one thousand. On his resulting Consciousness Map, Hawkins differentiates eight life-suppressing and nine life-supporting levels of consciousness characterized by the related emotional state or mindset that predominantly underlies a person’s behavior:

    • Presented in accelerating order, the life-suppressing emotional states are shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, and pride. All of these negative states calibrate below 200, which is the threshold to the positive consciousness levels.
    • Courage is the first of the live-supporting mindsets at the entry level of 200, followed by neutrality (250), willingness (310), acceptance (350), reason (400), love (500), joy (540), peace (600), and enlightenment (700-1000). 

    According to Hawkins’ observations, 85% of the world’s population lives on the life-suppressing, negative levels of consciousness below 200. Given so much negativity, why hasn’t humanity already destroyed our civilization? Hawkins suggests that the positivity of people operating on higher consciousness levels counterbalances the negativity of thousands or even millions of other people. This explains why Mahatma Gandhi (whom Hawkins calibrated at 760) was able to convince more than a hundred million people to follow his philosophy of non-violent resistance to end the British colonial rule in India.

    Conceptualising the levels of consciousness (2): Spiral Dynamics

    Spiral Dynamics by Don Edward Beck and Chris Cowan is another theoretical concept to explain different human development states (or levels of consciousness). Grounded in the work of Dr. Clare W. Graves, Spiral Dynamics suggests that when forced by life conditions, humans adapt to their environment by constructing new, more complex conceptual models of the world that allow them to better deal with the new problems. Each new model (or “meme”) transcends and includes all previous ones. Spiral Dynamics distinguishes eight “memes” of expanding consciousness; each of which for ease of reference is given a short name and an associated color:

    • “Survival Sense” is the start level of Spiral Dynamics. In this Beige Meme, humans’ sole focus is about staying alive by following ones instincts and innate, automatic sensory responses.
    • The Purple Meme on the next level is animistic and tribal in nature. Popularly described with the name “Kin Spirits”, humans bond here based on blood relationships to jointly master a mystical and scary world.
    • Called “Power Gods”, the Red Meme describes a more egocentric approach to life by enforcing power over self, others, and nature through exploitative independence and dominance.
    • “Truth Force” is the name of the Blue Meme. It is characterized by an authoritarian system of control and order, obedience to authority and an absolute belief in one right way or “truth”.
    • The ambitious, materialistic Orange Meme is named “Strive Drive”. It focuses on making things better for oneself by emphasizing strategy and possibility thinking.
    • “Human Bond” is the popular name of the Green Meme. It focuses on the equality and well-being of a community of people and on building consensus.

    Each of these lower-level memes are linked to states focusing on “having”, while the following memes are on higher levels of “being”:

    • Dubbed “Flex Flow”, the Yellow Meme describes humans who  are able to flexibly adapt to change by synthesizing integrative, interconnected big picture views.
    • Finally, the Turquoise Meme captures the vital few people (0.1%) who want to positively influence whole Earth dynamics and macro-level actions (“Global View”).

    Just like Hawkins’ Anatomy of Consciousness, Beck & Cowan’s Spiral Dynamics can explain why people cooperate and collaborate, or come to conflict with each other over differences in values and the deep-rooted belief systems that form them. One example: In which meme of Spiral Dynamics, and at what level of Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness, would you position the former and current US presidents Obama and Trump? Where would you place the majority of people who voted for them? Can you spot how the political decisions of these two presidents reflect alternative values and beliefs positioned on different levels of consciousness?

    How can you expand your consciousness?

    In order to move to a higher level of consciousness, we need to experience certain situations and/or do certain exercises that allow us to first transform our attitudes and action routines from negative to positive, and then to advance to higher, more integrative and holistic states of conscious being. 

    One way to expand your creativity and consciousness is to travel the Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I’ve developed for Thinkergy. The method employs a journey metaphor to help you acquire ten genius mindsets that are located on gradually expanding levels of consciousness. Genius Journey can transform blue or orange executives into yellow or even turquoise creative leaders. On Hawkins’ scale, Genius Journey can work for businesspeople who are on a level of at least 100, and can show them how to gradually expand their creative consciousness to the 400-540 range that may allow them to experience Eureka moments of subconscious peak creativity. 

    What if you strive even higher and aim for a consciousness level beyond 600 on Hawkins’ scale? Then you need to become a pupil of a spiritual guru who’s familiar with these states. As a creative leadership coach, I can only confidently talk about the levels below 600. 

    Why should you bother to expand your consciousness?

    By 2030, humanity will need a third planet Earth to sustainably reproduce all that we consume (of course, we have only one). By 2050, the world’s population will have shot up from currently 7 to 9 billion people. According to Hawkins, 85% of those run on lower, life-suppressing states of consciousness and mostly focus only on getting more for themselves — and not on the greater good of humanity. Moreover, mastering artificial intelligence and digital transformation will require more members of humanity to evolve to a new level of whole-mind awareness; Beck and Cowan already see a new “Coral Meme” emerging that they characterize as “holonic” (i.e., being or involving something that is simultaneously a self-contained entity and a part of a larger system). To sum-up, humanity needs more creative leaders who operate on higher states of consciousness and make more meaningful decisions for the better of the world, their organizations, their followers and themselves. 

    Are you interested to become one of them? Then take the first step today. Contact us to learn more about our Genius Journey creative leader training courses — and maybe even about our Genius Journey creative leadership coach licensing program.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018

  • Becoming Dr. D of Thinkergy

    My name is Detlef Reis — and I am also known as Dr. D of Thinkergy. How did I end up with this personal brand as my alter ego? Today, allow me to share with you some experiences that I’ve had with my name over time and space. In a globalized world, names matter as much for people as they do for brands. What lessons can we learn when we have to name a child, or create a catchy (personal) brand?

    My German family name“Reis” translates into ‘rice’ in English, and you pronounce it in exactly the same way. I’ve always liked my family name: it’s short and crisp, and everyone could get it right away once I highlighted the commonality with the staple food (“rice like noodle”). After I landed a posting to Asia, the jokes came fast and furious. I’ve heard so many, I can now make up my own: “As if Asia needs more Reis”; “Sending Reis to Asia is like sending coals to Newcastle”; “Don’t they have enough rice to begin with?”; “Wow, Reis to Asia, how original!”

    After I had moved to an environment where (bad) English is the unifying language in business, however, I quickly found out that many people called me “Ries” instead of “Rice”. No big deal, I learned to flexibly respond to both pronunciations, and learned to appreciate those few people who bother to ask how to pronounce my family correctly. I also found out that in Asia, some locals take the letter “r” for an “l” (and vice versa), so I embraced “Leis” as a further Asian interpretation of my family name.

    Tip: Choose a name that is easy to pronounce in every language.

    Apparently, my parents first wanted to call me Dieter. At the name registry, however, my Dad had a sudden hunch to switch my first name to Detlef, which means “son of the people” or “belonging to the people”. In the 1950s and 1960s, Detlef was a popular name in Northern Germany, but was rare and unique in Southwestern Germany where we lived. which was probably why my Dad preferred the name over the more common Dieter.

    Tip: Most names have a meaning. Make sure that you investigate the historic roots of a name before you use it to name a child or a brand.

    The ending of my first name comes in two variations, Detlef and Detlev. Predictably, I regularly saw my first name misspelled with a “v” at the end. So if you were me, would you be surprised to receive your doctoral degree and see your first name written with a “v” at the end? The official document was written in Latin, the traditional scientific language of learned people in Europe. In Latin, a “v” is often used in lieu of a“f”, which is why I suppose my university switched to Detlev in my official document. I had already moved to Asia when I received my official doctoral degree, and was busy getting into business in my new job and environment, so I accepted the document as I received it.

    Tip: Ensure that the name of your brand or baby is spelled in one unambiguous way.

    As a little boy, I liked my first name Detlef because it was rare and unique. When I got older, suddenly other kids began teasing me because Detlef was supposed to be a “gay” name. As a teenager, this silly name-calling began to get on my nerves, even more so as I didn’t feel attracted to men. For example, when AIDS came into public awareness in the early eighties, one joke suggested that “AIDS: Alles ist Detlef’s Schuld”, which translates as ”It’s all Detlef’s fault”, or “Blame it on Detlef”. (Nowadays, as the leader of Thinkergy, this motto makes much more sense to me; after all, as the boss, I have ultimate responsibility for anything that goes wrong at my innovation company, so “blame it on Detlef”.)

    Despite the occasional teases on my first name, I never thought of abandoning it. Why should I? I am Detlef and always will be. I believe it’s a wonderful name for me that I am destined to carry proudly in this life. (In contrast, one of my childhood friends decided to officially drop his middle name Detlef as soon as he came of age.)

    Tip: Names may evoke surprising negative connotations over time that you cannot anticipate in advance. Shrug it off if you have a thick skin, or if you can’t, consider letting go of the name.

    So how then did I become Dr. D, and why? When I left my home country to work in Asia, I quickly noticed Detlef to be a name that many non-Germans have problems pronouncing, learning and remembering correctly; this wasn’t only true at first contact, but even with colleagues and students who I worked with for extended periods of time. So, I had the rare opportunity to collect a multitude of creative interpretations of my first name that I encountered in conversations, emails or handed-in assignments, such as: Deplet, Deplef, Detler, Deflet or Deflep, to name but a few. Clearly, Detlef isn’t an international commonplace name like Tom, Dick and Harry.

    Tip: Consider using names of one syllable that are catchy and easy to learn; in the case of first names, Tom is undoubtedly easier to remember than Thomas (particularly when paired with Jerry), Ben has a ring to it (especially when associated with ‘Big’), and Max beats Maximilian (unless you happen to be an emperor).

    Because of the problems that non-Germans had with Detlef, I wondered how I could simplify my first name to make it easier for people to learn. So why not go for one of my German nicknames? Unfortunately, “Deddy” and “Det” don’t work so well in English environments; due to their connotations, these nicknames tend to provoke answers such as “You’re not my Dad” or “Dead? You still look pretty alive”.

    Tip: Check for connotations that short names or nick names may evoke in different languages or locations.

    Eventually, I realized that I should make my first name even simpler, and I arrived at “D” (pronounced “dee”, which in Thailand, where I live, also means “good”). “D” sounded like a good start, but I felt that something is missing So, I added my doctor title in front and became “Dr. D”, which for me complied to Albert Einstein’s maxim to “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” (After all, I had worked very hard on my Ph.D. for roughly 3 years). Moreover, from a Thai perspective, I became “Dr. Good”. Finally, in English “Dee” rhymes with Thinkergy, the name of the innovation company that I founded. So in the end, I became “Dr. D of Thinkergy”, which is a harmonic play of words that took my personal brand from great to wow.

    Tip: Play with words to arrive at alliterations and rhymes, which tend to stick in the mind (think of YouTube, Dunkin’ Donuts or Piggly Wiggly).

    Conclusion: In our Genius Journey training courses, one exercise we do at the second destination stop of the journey is called “I am”. Thereby, delegates first have to introduce themselves to the group using a celebrity persona drawn at random (e.g., “I am Madonna”, or “I am Mahatma Gandhi”). While some delegates feel proud about a person they draw, most introductions look and sound awkward, unconvincing and false. Thereafter, everyone introduces themselves again to the group with their real name, and the second time around, all name introductions sound confident, natural and genuine.

    So how do I introduce myself nowadays? I use both “I am Detlef” and “I am Dr. D of Thinkergy”, as that’s who I am. While some people may regard me as having a split-personality, I enjoy all of my names — knowing that truly creative people are tolerant to how people may call or write their name, and embrace all shades of their personality. It is little wonder that most modern superheroes have an alter ego: Clark Kent aka Superman; Barry Allen aka The Flash; Bruce Wayne aka Batman; and Detlef Reis aka Dr. D of Thinkergy.

    Contact us if you want Dr. D and his fellow-superheroes at Thinkergy help you solve your next big innovation challenge. Thinkergy — know how to wow.

  • Is your mind set on a genius mindset?

    In September 2018, Motivational Press will publish the first part of my book trilogy “Genius Journey. Developing Creative Leaders for the Innovation Economy.” At the moment, I update and refresh the copy that I originally drafted in 2013-14, and I see this also as an opportunity to simplify how I present key concepts of the Genius Journey method in my creativity and leadership book. So in simple terms, what is the Genius Journey Method? How does it work in general terms, and how can it help you to transform your mindset into the genius that you are?

    What is Genius Journey?

    Genius Journey is a highly effective, experiential and enjoyable creative leadership development method that I created for my innovation company Thinkergy. The method is based on three key insights that I uncovered by reading biographies of geniuses and creative leaders in business and other domains, by studying psychological accounts on traits of highly creative individuals, and by comparing these findings with my experiences during my own personal genius discovery journey. What are these three insights?

    • First insight: Geniuses produce extraordinary ideas and results because they think and work and behave differently than ordinary people. We can also say: They deliver abnormal results because they are not normal, they are abnormal.
    • Second insight: Most geniuses share a similar set of abnormal action routines and mindsets that vary noticeably from those of normal people.
    • Third insight: Normal people can reconnect to their genius if they adopt and practice these abnormal creative success mindsets of geniuses.

    In short, ordinary people share a set of common, normal, usual, expected and conventional attitudes and action routines that disconnect them from their creative source. In contrast, extraordinary creative leaders have acquired and automatically practice a set of uncommon, abnormal, unusual, unexpected and unconventional attitudes and routines that allow them to reconnect to their inner genius and to produce extraordinary ideas and results.

    So Genius Journey is all about transforming your mindset and routines to elevate you to higher levels of consciousness and reconnect you to your creative source, to your inner genius. This leads us to another important question that we discuss in the following.

    What are mindsets and routines?

    A mindset is made of “the established sets of attitudes held by someone”. So what then is an attitude? The word attitude can be defined as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior”, or “a position of the body proper to or implying an action or mental state”. Interestingly, attitude is also an informal way to express “individuality and self-confidence as manifested by appearance or style”. Think of your favorite genius or creative leader — does this person have an individual, self-confident attitude? I bet.

    Likewise, the word routine can be defined as “a set of actions regularly followed; a fixed program”. We routinely undergo certain daily activities, and often routinely respond to a particular situation we experience.

    Note that the unified set of attitudes that forms a certain mindset relates to mental states (cognitive activities taking place in your mind, such as thoughts, beliefs, emotions), while routines are more linked to things we do with our bodies (physical actions or activities such as working, moving, exercising, etc.). Of course, body and mind are interconnected. Your body (posture, facial expressions, pitch of voice, etc.) reflects what’s going on in your mind, and vice versa: Your body can influence through certain actions what the mind thinks and feels.

    In her excellent book titled “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges”, Amy Cuddy explains how power posing can positively charge your mind: the simple action of assuming an outgoing, empowering pose with your body raises the levels of the dominance hormone testosterone in the body while at the same time lowering those of the stress hormone cortisol, which tends to make you think, act and perform in more empowered ways. (Amy Cuddy also shares key concepts of the book in a highly inspirational TED talk that I recommend you to watch.)

    To sum up, people’s set attitudes and action routines that are connecting mind and body characterize their settled way of thinking and feeling about particular people, things, situations and circumstances they encounter, what thoughts they repeatedly tend to entertain, and what actions they routinely practice while going through a typical day or responding to a particular stimulus.

    How about your mindset and routines?

    Are your attitudes and routines normal or abnormal? Common or uncommon? Do you follow the usual layperson’s way or the unusual genius way? To get your mind primed and curious to partake in this journey, allow me to ask you a few questions related to your mindset:

    How do you typically think and/or feel about:

    • having to encounter an unknown challenge, event, or situation?
    • yourself?
    • making a mistake? Or failing in a project you undertake?
    • life in general? And your life in particular?
    • your work?
    • your domain of expertise?
    • your levels of rationality and responsibility — and of creativity and empathy?
    • change?
    • events in your past?Or about the future?
    • how many hours you must work to be a successful person?

    If you were to travel the Genius Journey, you would encounter questions like these — and your answers determine your current level of genius and how common or uncommon you are. Fortunately, we’re not stuck on a certain level for good. We can always choose to upgrade our mindsets to genius level by working on transforming our minds.

    So how does Genius Journey work?

    The Genius Journey method takes you on an imaginary journey were you visit 10 destinations. At each of the ten destination stops, you learn about one mindset or routine that stops you, limits you, confines you, keeps you small, keeps you thinking inside this tiny little box, keeps you producing normal ideas and normal results. And at each stop of the journey, you will also discover the corresponding mindset that sets you free, unboxes your thinking, expands your consciousness, empowers you to become outstandingly creative and successful, and reconnects you with your inner genius. As such, traveling the Genius Journey gives you the chance to become aware of your typical attitudes and routines, and if they serve or limit you. As you progress in your Genius Journey, you gradually adopt the empowering abnormal attitudes and routines of genius that build upon each other and reinforce themselves in a virtuous cycle that expands your consciousness, thus opening your mind to reconnect to your inner genius.

    Are you ready to become and be abnormal? If yes, consider preordering a copy of Part 1 of the Genius Journey book trilogy, which is titled “The Journey to Your Self”. Or would you be more interested in booking one of our Genius Journey training courses to experience how to think like a genius and develop a creative genius mindset? Or do you rather prefer to stay a normal person, continue thinking and doing the same normal things that everyone else is thinking and doing? The choices are yours.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018.


  • Learning from the daily routines of creative top achievers

    Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I’ve created, invites candidates to go on an imaginary journey where they travel to ten destinations to rediscover their inner creativity. At each destination stop, they learn about one disempowering mindset or action routine that limits their creativity, and they also get introduced to a corresponding empowering mindset that reconnects them to their inner creativity. 

    At the 10th stop of Genius Journey, you need to stop being busy, busy, busy all the time; instead, start cultivating daily routines that balance focused doing with relaxed being. If you find a harmonious rhythm between focused work and relaxed play, you can more easily get into flow, a state of optimal experience where you perform at your peak and creative sparks fly. But in our hectic and busy times, how to get into a harmonious rhythm between focused doing and relaxed being? Today, let’s find out by studying the daily routines of creative top achievers.

    Investigating the daily routines of creative top achievers

    In his book Daily Rituals. How Artists Work, Mason Currey shares the daily routines and habits of 161 creative top achievers: Currey studied the schedules of a collection of top achievers from a wide range of creative domains: composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven or Richard Strauss; painters such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh or Joan Miró; philosophers like René Descartes, Søren Kierkegaard, or Jean Paul Sartre, scientists (in the widest sense of the word) such as Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, or Carl Jung; inventors, designers and entrepreneurs such as Le Corbusier, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Nikola Tesla or Benjamin Franklin; and many, many writers such as Mark Twain, Earnest Hemingway, Friedrich Schiller, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

    While almost all creative top achievers had their unique daily schedule and peculiar preferences, they surprisingly share many commonalities in the way they approach a typical work day. Like the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who preferred “a certain uniformity in the way of living and in the matters about which I employ my mind,” many creative top achievers are creatures of habit in the way they approached a typical workday. Why do they do it?

    Apparently, most creative top achievers noticed at some point in time that maintaining certain work routines and daily habits increases the likelihood of getting into the state of flow and creative kisses by their muse and inner genius. The French novelist Gustave Flaubert put it this way: “Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may violent and original in your work.”

    Uncovering patterns in the daily routines of creative top achievers

    RJ Andrews at Infowetrust.com visualized some of the more detailed schedules presented in Currey’s book in an infographic mapping out the hourly schedules of 16 creative top achievers. Other contributors (such as podio.com) added visual schedules of further creatives. In order to identify patterns in the work schedules and daily routines of creative top achievers, I visualized these data in an aggregated chart that shows six activity areas grouped in three main categories:

    • WORK (separated in main creative work; secondary creative work;  and drudgery)
    • PLAY (separated as time for exercising and leisure (e.g., meals, socializing, and spiritual activities)
    • SLEEP

    Please note that in the chart, the time displayed on the horizontal axis depicts time total hours committed to an activity irrespective of the precise time of the day on a clock, which are shown in infographics of the other sources listed above; moreover, for the main creative work activities, the chart shows a split of the work time into 1-3 creative phases.

    Looking at the chart above, I was able to spot the following common threats running through the schedules and daily routines of the featured creative top achievers:

    • Counterintuitive to what most laypeople expect of creatives, most creative top achievers stayed true to a precise daily work schedule, believing the routine helps them to get more easily into a creative flow. For example, the British-American writer W. H. Auden explained why he followed a strict daily time schedule: “A modern stoic knows that the surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time: decide what you want or ought to do during the day, then always do it at exactly the same moment every day, and passion will give you no trouble.”
    • Creative top achievers invested on average 6.5 hours per day in their main creative work activity. Thereby, the span is very wide ranging from two to 13.5 hours. Most writers seem to prefer one long creative phase per day (of 3-7 hours in length), while the featured artists worked in two creative time blocks and some scientists even had a third creative work phase.
    • Often, creative top achievers either commit to undergo their main creative work for a fixed number of hours each day (normally anywhere from 3 to 8 hours) or until they hit a certain output target (such as the two thousand words quota that Stephen King commits writing on every day of the year).
    • Most creative top achievers get to their main creative activity within 2 hours of rising at the start of their work day. Thereby, roughly seven in ten prefer to complete their main creative daywork in the morning; however, many of the late-rising creatives also began work as one of their first activities of the day in the afternoon or at night.
    • Apart from their main creative work, roughly four in ten also invested time in secondary work activities that supported their primary creative work (often in reading that can provide more “dots” to connect to a creative work project).
    • Three in ten of the featured artists (and here most prominently Mozart) had to invest time in other day jobs (typically teaching, but in some cases also administrative work)  that helped them make ends meet. However, most creative top achievers managed to avoid spending precious time for drudgery.
    • Interestingly, two in three creative top achievers regularly exercised (often walking, but also running, swimming, horse-riding or even chopping wood). Those engaging in exercise invested on average 1.5 hours a day for this activity. Why? It seems that exercise not only it helped them to stay productive and to deal with occasional frustrations and blockages, but is also a proven way to get creative inspirations and ideas — and to collect more and fresh dots to connect to one’s creative work. For example, for more than a quarter century, Huraki Murakami has kept up his daily routine to go for an hourly run around noon. Charles Dickens left his desk at 2 p.m. every day for a brisk 3-hour walk through the streets of London or countryside, a strategy intended to “searching for some pictures I wanted to build upon” in his novels.
    • The featured creative top achievers also invested 6.5 hours in average for leisure activities including meals, personal grooming, socializing and spiritual practice (once again, the range here varies widely from 1.5 to 12 hours).
    • More than nine out of ten creative leaders slept around 7-8 hours per day, highlighting the importance of sleep to reinvigorate their bodies and minds.

    What can we learn from the daily routines of creative top achievers?

    “We have failed to recognize our great asset: time. A conscientious use of it could make us into something amazing.” In line with the German playwright Friedrich Schiller, please find ten recommendations (that I personally also follow every day whenever possible) on how you may produce more and better creative outputs by harmoniously balancing time for focused work with relaxed play:

    1. Take your time to develop your unique schedule and daily routines that works for you and allows you to get your creativity flowing. None of the creative top achievers featured above copied the schedule of other people, so neither should you. “Be original. Insist upon yourself”, as Ralph Waldo Emerson recommended.
    2. Pay attention to your natural energy rhythm. If you’re a lark, consider starting work in the wee hours of a new day. However, as an owl, don’t feel shy in beginning your work day in the afternoon or evening when your energy levels start to come into full swing.
    3. Emulate the work-play pattern of creative top achievers to ensure a long creatively productive and happy life: Dedicate 8 hours (plus minus 30 minutes) each for work, play and sleep.
    4. Block at least 3-4 hours of time at the beginning of your work day to focus on your main creative work (e.g., writing). During this time, focus on one creative project and output that you want to produce by the end of that time. The English writer and social critic Charles Dickens noted in this context: “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”
    5. If your schedule permits, consider adding a second creative phase of 2-3 hours in the second half of your work day (either for adding more creative outputs, or for editing and improving on the outputs from phase 1).
    6. Consider adopting a firm routine of either committing a certain number of hours for creative work each day, or committing to achieve a certain creative output target (e.g., hitting a certain word count).  Complete any administrative work or drudgery towards the end of the workday (after you have completed your creative work for the day).
    7. Consider exercising for one hour each day as part of your daily routines to refresh your body and creative mind. Expect to get new creative inspirations and ideas while you sweat it out.
    8. Apart from exercising, commit quality time for leisure activities (dining, socializing and meeting with friends, meditation, reading, etc.). If creative top achievers can play in average for 6.5 hours, so can you.
    9. Don’t skimp on your sleep if you want to be healthy, productive and creative in the long run. If you travel a lot or temporarily need to do with less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, experiment with cat naps (just like Thomas Edison or Richard Buckminster Fuller did) or doing mindfulness meditation to compensate for the lost hours of sleep.
    10. Finally, find your own work-play rhythm. Experiment with different ways to schedule the day to find a rhythm that works for you and helps you to be both creative and productive. Once you’ve noticed that a schedule works and induces creative flow, stick with this trusted routine it like the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami: “I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

    This article will be an addition to the third part of my upcoming new book Genius Journey. Developing Authentic Creative Leaders for the Innovation Economy (targeted for publication in 1Q.2018 by Motivational Press). 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.


  • How Generational Shifts will Impact Business and Innovation (Part 1)

    In the coming decade, major generational shifts will take place in the workplace. Today and in two weeks, let’s understand more about the concept of social generations, how the socialization of different generational cohorts impacts the way they think, work, decide, communicate, manage and lead, and how generational shifts will affect the ways we do business and innovate.

    Background: Training a group of global nomads

    In April 2017, I had the pleasure of training a fascinating group of highly successful businesspeople in our creative leadership method Genius Journey. Led by an impressive young Briton, the training group entirely consisted of an accumulation of global nomads, who flew in from all-around-the world to Phuket, Thailand, for a joint gig and team holiday. Together, the group operates an online platform for business coaches to host an annual international online coaching conference and to disseminate quality contents for a global coaching community.

    All Millennials in their late 20s or early 30s, the fourteen delegates came from eight diverse nationalities (UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Croatia, Romania and India); with one exception, none of them actually lived in their home country. Moreover, while the group has a hub connecting all spokes, both are “moving targets”: the hub (= “head office” where the core team has pitched tents for the time being) only recently shifted from Costa Rica to Croatia, and most of the “spokes” (= individual team members) are frequently traveling between countries. Nevertheless, all collaborate together seamlessly and successfully across different time zones using the Internet and modern communication solutions.

    Why do I tell you this story? Training this group of international global nomads —and witnessing them working in the evening after our training with other colleagues who couldn’t make the offsite — made me realize the huge differences in work styles, work-life aspirations and educational backgrounds of Millennials (also known as Generation Y) compared to those generations who still tend to run or influence most businesses today.

    For the first time, I fully understood the importance of appreciating the style differences between social generations, and I began investigating and pondering how the impending generational shifts in the workplace will affect business and innovation.

    Introducing the concepts of social generations

    In social science, the concept of social generations describes cohorts of people born within a specific time period (ranging between 15 to 30 years) who jointly experience significant historical landmark events and witness the emergence of certain iconic technologies and trendy cultural phenomena during their formative years and while coming of age.

    Because the shared social marker experiences within a single generation differ from those of previous or later cohorts, generations tend to vary from each other in their values, aspirations and motivations, the ways they work, communicate, make decisions, interact with certain technologies, etc. As a result, when one generation starts to retire, other generations take over, and a new generation enters the work place, these generational shifts tend to have major impacts on the economies and businesses.

    Introducing the present generations and their sociological background

    Let’s gain an overview of what generations are presently still alive, and gain an impression of the landmark events, technologies and cultural phenomena that shaped them (here note that the time spans between different generations is indicative only and varies in the literature, and the terminology follows the most common one developed in the USA):

    • The Lost Generation (1883-1900) describes the cohort who grew up in the culturally and scientifically rich period of the late imperialistic era and fought in World War I, a traumatic experience that led to their name coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized by Earnest Hemingway. At the point of writing, there is a sole survivor of this generation.
    • The G.I. Generation (1901-1924) includes those who lived through WWI in their younger years. Because they had to master the Great Depression and fought in World War II, they are also called the “Greatest Generation” in the USA.
    • The Traditionalists (1925-1945) includes most of those who were born or growing up during the Great Depression and World War II, and who fought the Korean War and in some cases during the Vietnam War. Also called the Silent Generation (or “Silents” because they were socialized at a time of conformity to authority), they grew up with Jazz and Swing (Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra), flocked to “Gone with the Wind” in the cinema, and saw the advent of TV.
    • The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) got their name from the baby-boom following World War II. They are a large demographic cohort and due to the long time-span, they are sometimes distinguished in early boomers (1946-1955) and late boomers (1956-1964). They grew up during the early Cold War era with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, and witnessed the moon landing and the civil and women’s rights movements that challenged the established order. Rock ‘n’ Roll (Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Woodstock) and the Boomtown Disco period, the movies “Easy Rider” and “The Graduate”, and the arrival of Color TV were important cultural phenomena shaping the boomers.
    • I am a member of Generation X (Gen X, 1965-1980), the “baby bust” generation characterized by a drop in birth rates following the invention of the birth control pill. We experienced a series of negative landmark events and social markers, such as the AIDS crisis, a renewed nuclear arms race in the late Cold War era, the Challenger explosion and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but also the sensational fall of the Berlin Wall and lifting of the iron curtain in Eastern Europe. Sometimes called the “MTV generation”, we enjoyed watching pop videos (Madonna, Michael Jackson) and listening to new wave and house music. Movies such as E.T., Star Wars or Alien made an impact on us, too, and the Walkman, VCR and in particular Personal Computers (IBM PC, Macintosh) were iconic technologies for us.
    • The Millennials (Generation Y, 1981-1994) grew up during the Dot-com boom, enjoyed the turn of the Millennium and suffered from the 9/11 terror attacks. Being mostly the offspring of the demographically large baby-boomers. they are also a huge cohort that has just surpassed the number of the Baby Boomers in the US. Millennials witnessed in their youth a series of major technological shifts such as the advent of the Internet, mobile phones, email, SMS, and the DVD. Cultural phenomena that shaped Millennials were hip hop (Eminem, Puff Daddy) and singers like Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez, the movie “Titanic”, the emergence of Reality TV and Pay TV, and fancy gaming playing consoles (Playstation, XBox).
    • The Post-Millennials (1995-2010) witnessed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Asian tsunami and the global financial crisis as landmark events. Also known as Generation Z or Gen 2020, they grew up with the iPad (and other tablets), social media (Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat) and mobile apps. Culturally, Post-Millennials often have a thing with musical interpreters such as Justin Bieber, Rihanna, or Taylor Swift, and got greatly influenced by the movie “Avatar” and other 3D movies.

    Interim Conclusion: Generational shifts and developments —hopefully— never stop. Some sociologists suggest the next generation has already emerged: Generation Alpha (people born from 2011 onwards — and my newborn daughter Zoë is a recent addition to Gen α). After introducing the different generations in today’s article, come back in two weeks time to learn more about the generational differences in the workplace (work aspirations, behaviors and styles), and how the generational shifts in the labour market in the next decade are likely to change business in general and innovation in special.

    This article is one of 64 sections of an upcoming book that I am presently writing, The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.


  • How Generational Shifts will Impact Business and Innovation (Part 1)

    In the coming decade, major generational shifts will take place in the workplace. Today and in two weeks, let’s understand more about the concept of social generations, how the socialization of different generational cohorts impacts the way they think, work, decide, communicate, manage and lead, and how generational shifts will affect the ways we do business and innovate.

    Background: Training a group of global nomads

    In April 2017, I had the pleasure of training a fascinating group of highly successful businesspeople in our creative leadership method Genius Journey. Led by an impressive young Briton, the training group entirely consisted of an accumulation of global nomads, who flew in from all-around-the world to Phuket, Thailand, for a joint gig and team holiday. Together, the group operates an online platform for business coaches to host an annual international online coaching conference and to disseminate quality contents for a global coaching community.

    All Millennials in their late 20s or early 30s, the fourteen delegates came from eight diverse nationalities (UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Croatia, Romania and India); with one exception, none of them actually lived in their home country. Moreover, while the group has a hub connecting all spokes, both are “moving targets”: the hub (= “head office” where the core team has pitched tents for the time being) only recently shifted from Costa Rica to Croatia, and most of the “spokes” (= individual team members) are frequently traveling between countries. Nevertheless, all collaborate together seamlessly and successfully across different time zones using the Internet and modern communication solutions.

    Why do I tell you this story? Training this group of international global nomads —and witnessing them working in the evening after our training with other colleagues who couldn’t make the offsite — made me realize the huge differences in work styles, work-life aspirations and educational backgrounds of Millennials (also known as Generation Y) compared to those generations who still tend to run or influence most businesses today.

    For the first time, I fully understood the importance of appreciating the style differences between social generations, and I began investigating and pondering how the impending generational shifts in the workplace will affect business and innovation.

    Introducing the concepts of social generations

    In social science, the concept of social generations describes cohorts of people born within a specific time period (ranging between 15 to 30 years) who jointly experience significant historical landmark events and witness the emergence of certain iconic technologies and trendy cultural phenomena during their formative years and while coming of age.

    Because the shared social marker experiences within a single generation differ from those of previous or later cohorts, generations tend to vary from each other in their values, aspirations and motivations, the ways they work, communicate, make decisions, interact with certain technologies, etc. As a result, when one generation starts to retire, other generations take over, and a new generation enters the work place, these generational shifts tend to have major impacts on the economies and businesses.

    Introducing the present generations and their sociological background

    Let’s gain an overview of what generations are presently still alive, and gain an impression of the landmark events, technologies and cultural phenomena that shaped them (here note that the time spans between different generations is indicative only and varies in the literature, and the terminology follows the most common one developed in the USA):

    • The Lost Generation (1883-1900) describes the cohort who grew up in the culturally and scientifically rich period of the late imperialistic era and fought in World War I, a traumatic experience that led to their name coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized by Earnest Hemingway. At the point of writing, there is a sole survivor of this generation.
    • The G.I. Generation (1901-1924) includes those who lived through WWI in their younger years. Because they had to master the Great Depression and fought in World War II, they are also called the “Greatest Generation” in the USA.
    • The Traditionalists (1925-1945) includes most of those who were born or growing up during the Great Depression and World War II, and who fought the Korean War and in some cases during the Vietnam War. Also called the Silent Generation (or “Silents” because they were socialized at a time of conformity to authority), they grew up with Jazz and Swing (Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra), flocked to “Gone with the Wind” in the cinema, and saw the advent of TV.
    • The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) got their name from the baby-boom following World War II. They are a large demographic cohort and due to the long time-span, they are sometimes distinguished in early boomers (1946-1955) and late boomers (1956-1964). They grew up during the early Cold War era with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, and witnessed the moon landing and the civil and women’s rights movements that challenged the established order. Rock ‘n’ Roll (Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Woodstock) and the Boomtown Disco period, the movies “Easy Rider” and “The Graduate”, and the arrival of Color TV were important cultural phenomena shaping the boomers.
    • I am a member of Generation X (Gen X, 1965-1980), the “baby bust” generation characterized by a drop in birth rates following the invention of the birth control pill. We experienced a series of negative landmark events and social markers, such as the AIDS crisis, a renewed nuclear arms race in the late Cold War era, the Challenger explosion and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but also the sensational fall of the Berlin Wall and lifting of the iron curtain in Eastern Europe. Sometimes called the “MTV generation”, we enjoyed watching pop videos (Madonna, Michael Jackson) and listening to new wave and house music. Movies such as E.T., Star Wars or Alien made an impact on us, too, and the Walkman, VCR and in particular Personal Computers (IBM PC, Macintosh) were iconic technologies for us.
    • The Millennials (Generation Y, 1981-1994) grew up during the Dot-com boom, enjoyed the turn of the Millennium and suffered from the 9/11 terror attacks. Being mostly the offspring of the demographically large baby-boomers. they are also a huge cohort that has just surpassed the number of the Baby Boomers in the US. Millennials witnessed in their youth a series of major technological shifts such as the advent of the Internet, mobile phones, email, SMS, and the DVD. Cultural phenomena that shaped Millennials were hip hop (Eminem, Puff Daddy) and singers like Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez, the movie “Titanic”, the emergence of Reality TV and Pay TV, and fancy gaming playing consoles (Playstation, XBox).
    • The Post-Millennials (1995-2010) witnessed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Asian tsunami and the global financial crisis as landmark events. Also known as Generation Z or Gen 2020, they grew up with the iPad (and other tablets), social media (Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat) and mobile apps. Culturally, Post-Millennials often have a thing with musical interpreters such as Justin Bieber, Rihanna, or Taylor Swift, and got greatly influenced by the movie “Avatar” and other 3D movies.

    Interim Conclusion: Generational shifts and developments —hopefully— never stop. Some sociologists suggest the next generation has already emerged: Generation Alpha (people born from 2011 onwards — and my newborn daughter Zoë is a recent addition to Gen α). After introducing the different generations in today’s article, come back in two weeks time to learn more about the generational differences in the workplace (work aspirations, behaviors and styles), and how the generational shifts in the labour market in the next decade are likely to change business in general and innovation in special.

    This article is one of 64 sections of an upcoming book that I am presently writing, The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.


  • The Yin of Creativity

    “How can we make our organization more creative? And please, keep it simple,” a client interested in a creativity training for a group of senior executives asked me. Infusing more creativity into an organization comes down to four basic challenges. 

    They are:
    (1) Find out who your creative people are, and how many of them you have.
    (2) Ensure most of your leaders have a creative mindset, especially those at the top.
    (3) Use your creative leaders as change catalysts to build a creative culture.
    (4) Pursue meaningful creative projects with the help of a well-structured creative process.

    The client sighs: “Is there a way to explain this to them in an even easier way?”
    “Yes”, I said. “Think Yin and Yang — and simply use the Yin of creativity.”

    How the Yin Yang concept relates to business and creativity

    The ancient Chinese concept of Yin Yang highlights the interplay of polar opposites in nature. It postulates that dual opposites both dynamically challenge and harmoniously balance each other. Common examples of such interdependent and interconnected opposites (listed in the order Yang before Yin) are male and female, day and night, sun and moon, among others.

    How can you employ Yin Yang to make your organization more creative? How to use the Yin of creativity?

    • Think of creativity (and related concepts of customer care and change) as Yin, and opposite business concepts such as financial performance, facts and efficiency are Yang.
    • Next, look at the the organization from a Yin Yang perspective: the personality of people working in it; the prevailing mindset of executives leading it; the culture driving people’s behaviors; and the thinking tools and process used while working on projects.
    • Finally, if you notice Yang energy dominates the organization, address the four factors — employee personality, leader mindset, corporate culture and thinking process — and gradually shift them one by one from Yang to Yin.

    Creative people have a Yin personality

    How do you identify the creative people in your organization? Use an effective cognitive profiling method (personality test) that clearly identifies those people who prefer creative thinking.

    In Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method TIPS, we mainly identify creative people by probing for a person’s preferred thinking style. Thereby, “fantasy thinkers” are Yin, while “figure thinkers” are Yang. TIPS also checks on two related styles preferred by creative people: creative Yin thinkers tend to interact with others using Yin-style empathy, emotion and feeling; and they tend to prefer a Yin-lifestyle (i.e. flexibly going with the flow of life).

    Question: Are the people in your team more Yin (creative, empathic, flexible) or Yang (analytical, factual, formal)? Do some express both elements?

    Creative leaders have a Yin mindset

    Mindset describes the way you routinely do things and think about things and people (including yourself). Typically, a creative mindset aligns with a creative personality.  People with a Yin personality have an easier path to develop into a creative leader. However, they still need to change a few limiting habitual thought patterns to a creative Yin mindset.

    A Yin mindset indicates that you enjoy creative thinking, and also have many interests apart from having expertise in a domain that excites you. You insist on your own personality and original creativity rather than copying the thoughts, ways and ideas of others. You dare to act and take initiative. As a positive, playful optimist, you’re open to other viewpoints and ideas. Yin leaders love what they do, so they passionately work hard in a focused way. But they also know when to let go of work and relax to invite fresh inspirations.

    How can you develop authentic creative leaders to creatively lead your organization in line with the Yin of creativity? Employ an effective creative leadership method (such as Genius Journey) that can show them how to adopt and adapt the Yin mindsets of a creative leader.

    Questions: Do you possess more of a Yin mindset or are you more Yang — a critical, analytical expert who stays in the safe confines of established doctrines and action routines, who mainly works for the pay, perks and prestige linked to your job, and who’s always busy keeping up with all the demands of the job without being overly productive? And how about your superiors — are they more of a Yin or Yang leader?

    Creative organizations have a Yin culture

    Culture is the way things are typically done in an organization. Many well-established corporations have a Yang culture embedded in the organizational DNA by generations of Yang leaders who succeeded the original Yin founder of the venture long ago. So, put a Yin leader in charge to switch the corporate culture back.

    A creative Yin culture encourages everyone to express individuality, and embraces diversity of thoughts, backgrounds and interests. Such openness fosters a playful, friendly climate that encourages people to share, nurture and act on ideas by rapidly prototyping them (in line with the maxim “Fail earlier to succeed sooner”).

    In a Yin culture, employees and teams largely manage themselves and work in a disciplined, focused way; high degrees of freedom blend with a pursuit of excellence. Employees enjoy coming to work because they are intrinsically motivated by interesting projects; they empathically care to resolve creative challenges that make meaning for customers.

    In contrast, a Yang culture prefers a uniform set of people conforming to expected norms and behaviors that are monitored and controlled by superiors, leading to a tense, serious work climate where everyone is  working busily (often on internal matters), ideas are quickly dismissed and people are reactive because they’re afraid of failure — and where mediocre, “it’s good enough” results are the norm because people essentially are in their job only for the money.

    Questions: Do you work in a Yin or Yang culture? And if you long for a cool change to the Yin of creativity, do you have an effective culture transformation method (such as CooL – Creativity UnLimited) to help you switch?

    Outlook: Today, you learned that if you want to make your organization more creative, you need to focus on strengthen its creative Yin energy: Hire and promote more creative Yin people; and put a leader with a creative Yin mindset in charge to gradually build a creative Yin culture. Finally, use the dynamic interplay between Yin and Yang to pursue a concrete creative project. Come back to this column in two weeks to find out how exactly this creative process unfolds.

    Want to learn more about how the Yin of creativity, or the Yin Yang of innovation? Or do you want to dig deeper and delve into one of our four proprietary innovation methods? Contact us to tell us more about your innovation needs.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • A Creepy Creative Story

    Have you ever wondered what it feels like to check-in at Bates Motel? Or to wander the dark corridors of Dracula’s castle on a stormy night? Earlier this year, I got a taste of it. Allow me to share with you a strange, creepy, and maybe even slightly embarrassing personal creative story, and explain how it connects to one of our innovation methods.

    Last September, we launched Thinkergy US, a network of licensed Thinkergy innovation trainers to help spread our innovation methods across North America. It was my last day in Minneapolis after eight days of highly intensive —and successful— train-the-trainer workshops. All I longed for was a drink and a comfy bed for the night before flying on to New York the next morning.

    Unfortunately, the hotel I had stayed at all week was fully booked on my final day. I needed a five-star hotel close to the airport. Kevin Ehlinger Wilde, my host and local business partner, hadn’t booked a hotel yet, but with over 200 four- and five-star hotels in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, we foresaw no problem.

    We checked out all the four and five-star hotels near the airport. All were fully booked. We widened our search online and no luck. The only place with a vacancy was a country club close to Kevin’s home at Lake Minnetonka. “I know the place,” he told me. “Let’s bring you there for the night.”

    As we drove towards Lake Minnetonka, the sky darkened. Night was falling fast. Thunder rolled in the distance. A tremendous thunderstorm was about to break lose. Five miles later, a torrential rain set in. We had to maneuvre around large puddles and storm-tossed trees. “It seems I’m doomed”, I remarked. Finally, the outline of a large mansion emerged. “Here we are. This is the country club you’re staying tonight”, said Kevin. The building lay in complete darkness. A line from the Eagles’ song “Hotel California” entered my mind: “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

    We parked the car under the roof terrace and entered a dark hotel lobby. “Sorry, we have a brownout,” was the receptionist’s welcome message: “Probably some trees crashed on the electric cables.”

    “How long does it take to bring the power back,” I asked.

    “Maybe an hour or two. Maybe the whole night. But we have a flashlight for each guest to take to their rooms.”

    Kevin comes in: “We’ll take one room for my guest. Here is my credit card.”

    “Sorry, Sir, we can’t do a check-in now as the computers are down. Here’s the key to the room on the third floor. Sorry the elevators don’t work, so please take the stairs.”

    Like the thunder, my gut rumbled: “This all feels bad.” But Kevin had already taken one of my bags. I grabbed the other one and followed him upstairs. Reaching the third floor, we pushed open a heavy wooden door. A loud, creaking noise reverberated. My room was right opposite. I entered the pitch dark room and dropped my bags. In the glow of the flashlight the room looked luxurious, but my gut was now rebelling and yelling: “Don’t stay here.”

    I followed Kevin back to the lobby. I had a really uneasy feeling. We had a quick chat on our pick-up arrangement for the next morning. Suddenly, four firemen, drenched from the storm and armed with heavy axes, entered the lobby. Without a word, they walked upstairs. I commented on the absurdity of the situation: “The Ghostbusters have arrived. Finally!”

    Kevin started laughing, but now my gut told me: “Walk away.”

    I mastered all my courage and went to the receptionist: “Sorry, Ma’am, may I ask you a stupid question: Is this place haunted?”

    She looked at me in surprise: “How did you know?” Then, looking down, she said: “We occasionally have sightings on the third floor, but down here it’s safe.”

    “Thanks for your honesty,” I replied. “I can feel it. Sorry, I won’t stay.”

    We went back to the room, grabbed my bags, and drove off to Kevin’s apartment. He put out an air mattress on the floor for me. It felt simple, humble and good. Opening my phone to check for messages, I noticed that, by accident, I seemed to have recorded a short video at the time I was in the room at the country club. It showed a door handle repeatedly moving up and down. I deleted it to put the incident out of my mind. Finally, feeling safe and sound, I drifted off into a deep sleep.

    So why do I tell you this creepy creative story?

    It relates to Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I created for Thinkergy and will publish as a book mid of next year. Genius Journey teaches how to identify and discard disempowering mindsets and action routines and replace them with corresponding empowering mindsets that set you and your creativity free.

    On the foundational level, Genius Journey asks you first to stop your doubts, worries and fears. Instead, become a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer. Now guess how I train candidates on the Genius Journey to fight their fears? I take them through a fake haunted house. Now you’re asking: Why did I chicken out at the country club at Lake Minnetonka?

    Creative leaders trained in the Genius Journey method are integrated whole-mind thinkers. They’ve built-up a highly attuned intuitive, creative mind that complements their well-developed rational, scientific mind:

    • My rational mind knew that statistically, it’s highly improbable for so many unlikely events occur all at once: my hotel is fully booked on my last day; my host forgot to book another room; all but one of more than 200 hotels are fully booked; a heavy storm knocked out the power to my last-chance hotel; and so on.
    • But more importantly, my intuitive mind signaled me that something felt wrong all along. It took real courage to ask if the hotel was haunted. I felt stupid, but it would have been more stupid, even reckless, to ignore my gut feeling.

    What would you have done? Stayed the night with a flashlight in a dark room? It all comes back to our beliefs, the starting point of Genius Journey. 

    Personally, I believe in the existence of a higher spiritual force for good that guides and protects me on my path. I also believe in the Yin-Yang principle: Where there is good, there are also dark, evil forces somewhere at work. And I have learned that if trust my inner sense of self and listen to my gut, all things turn out well in the end — and even a strange, creepy creative story will have a happy end.

    Happy Holidays to all of you!

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 22 December 2016.

  • How Muhammad Ali exemplified the genius mindsets of creative leaders (Part 2)

    Two weeks ago, we discussed in this column how Muhammad Ali epitomized the genius mindsets of creative leaders that I identified while studying the biographies of geniuses, creative business leaders and top achievers. These genius mindsets help form my creative leadership development method Genius Journey that features 10 destination stops were you learn more about how to reconnect with your inner genius.

    In part 1 we discussed how Ali, “The Greatest of all times”, truly exemplified the four foundational mindsets that we encounter on destination stops 1-4 of the Genius Journey. Today, let’s continue honoring the legend of Muhammad Ali as we learn more about the remaining six genius mindsets of creative leaders.

    Stop 5: Intrinsic Motivation, Passion and Purpose

    The fifth destination stop on the Genius Journey reminds you to stop working only for the money, and to start loving what you do — and knowing why you do it.

    Ali wasn’t fighting for the money only, but because he loved boxing. It was his natural talent, which he jokingly expressed as follows: “Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.” But he became a legend not because he was a world champion. He transcended his passion of boxing by also having a purpose of why he did it: “I wanted to use my fame and this face that everyone knows so well to help uplift and inspire people around the world.”

    In and out of the boxing ring, he fought what he believed was the good fight, the just fight, the right fight. For example, fighting for more civil rights for Afro-American citizens was a good fight, while fighting an unjust war in Vietnam was not.

    Ali was doing what he did because he wanted to help and inspire ordinary people. In a tribute, a reporter recalled how on a joint tour through South America, he saw Ali giving away 100 dollar each to beggars lining up outside his hotel in the morning. “Champ, why are you doing it?” Ali responded: “For me, it’s just a 100 dollar, but for them, it’s worth here as much as ten thousand dollars for me at home.”

    Stop 6: Integrated Whole Mind

    Stop 6 of the Genius Journey invites you to start becoming an integrated whole-brain thinker and stop using only half of your mind.

    Muhammad Ali was an ingenious boxer who employed his creativity not only to come up with witty entertaining sayings and one of the shortest and most impactful poems of all times (“I shook up the world. Me! We!”), but also to devise creative tactics that won fights everyone expected him to lose.

    Before the epic “rumble in the jungle” with George Foreman, Ali announced that to win the fight, “I’m going to dance”. But to the surprise of everyone, he switched in round 2 to a new creative tactic, the “rope-a-dope”, leaning back against the rope for three rounds and absorbing punches while protecting his head. Soon Foreman was tired and Ali went on the offensive, ending the fight in round 8 with a knockout to regain his World Championship title. “The man who has no imagination, has no wings”, he said, and elaborated further: “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.”

    Stop 7: Expert & Generalist (T-Shaped Leader)

    Stop 7 of the Genius Journey asks you to stop getting trapped in the expert tunnel and start living, working and learning as a modern renaissance man or woman with many talents and interests.

    Muhammad Ali exemplifies the concept of a T-shaped person who combines expertise in one focus domain (boxing) with a broad repertoire of knowledge, skills and experience. Outside the ring, Ali was a civil rights fighter and political activist, a religious disciple and preacher, an entertainer and joker, a magician and poet, a promoter and businessman. Ali sought to experience life in all it’s dimensions: “Live every day as if it were your last because some day you’re going to right.”

    Stop 8: Movement, Flexibility & Change

    Stop 8 of the Genius Journey reminds you to stop being habitual, rigid and fixated; instead, start to change, move and flex yourself.

    Ali had a very unorthodox boxing style he described as: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. You can’t hit what your eyes don’t see.” In his fights, Ali was constantly moving, dancing through the ring and doing the “Ali shuffle” (a famous series of boxing footwork he created as a taunting mechanism), making it difficult for his opponents to strike and pin him down.

    Stop 9: Mindfulness & Present Moment Awareness

    Stop 9 of the Genius Journey asks you to stop acting mindlessly, and instead start taking focused actions now.

    Clearly, as one of world Champion in boxing, Ali tuned into the moment and pay attention with all of his senses to what’s happening right now.

    In a famous footage showing him training for the “rumble in the jungle”, he boxed against a camera to demonstrate from an unusual perspective what it would mean every moment for George Foreman to fight against Ali: “Now you see me, now you don’t”, Ali joked as he appeared and disappeared out of the camera’s field of sight.

    Stop 10: Focused Doing, Relaxed Being (Balance, Rhythm & Flow)

    At the tenth stop of the Genius Journey, you’re prompted to stop doing, doing, doing something all the time. Instead, start harmoniously balancing focused doing with relaxed being to develop a rhythm that brings you into flow, the state of optimal experience were everything flows easily and you perform at your very peak.

    A box bout follows an inherent rhythm of focused action (the fighting in each round), alternating with breaks for the fighters to recharge and get advice. Interestingly, Ali used the breaks for being with himself and reconnecting to his inner core, his inner self, his beliefs and willpower — and not for strategizing: “My trainer don’t tell me nothing between rounds. I don’t allow him to. I fight the fight. All I want to know is did I win the round. It’s too late for advice,” he said.

    Stop 11: Subconscious Creativity (Preparation- Incubation-Illumination- Verification)

    For some people, the Genius Journey may reveal a secret eleventh stop. When all genius mindsets are in sync, you may experience a moment of breakthrough creativity, where you receive a breakthrough idea in an instant moment of flash illumination, which typically happens in a moment of flow. While there is no account of Ali sharing a Eureka experiences, he probably had moments of sparks in those split seconds when he intuitively unleashed his Championship-winning knockout punches.

    Conclusion: Muhammad Ali was not only an iconic boxer, he was a true genius who exemplified all genius mindsets and action routines of outstanding creative leaders. “I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way, but if I have changed even one life for the better, I haven’t lived in vain.” You have touched the lives of millions of people and inspired them to the better. R.I.P. you legendary genius, you were truly The Greatest.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • Creative cultural change is like striving to live a healthier life

    This week, I attended the ISPIM (International Society of Professional Innovation Management) 2016 Innovation Summit in Kuala Lumpur. Apart from presenting an academic conference paper on the innovation learner’s experience and running a workshop on our innovation people profiling method TIPS, I also was asked to moderate a panel discussion on “Creating a Culture for Innovation”. While preparing for the session, I noticed an interesting similarity: Creating an innovation-friendly, creative culture in an organization is like striving to live a healthier life.

    All change starts with a major impetus

    When do people begin to long for a healthier lifestyle? Only when they realize that something is seriously wrong. It might be burnout, weight gain, a performance drop at work, or even a heart attack that sends an unmistakable signal: you must change your lifestyle NOW.

    Likewise, every established corporation occasionally receives an urgent wake-up call that now is the time for building a creative culture: a sharp drop in sales or profits; a fast-growing, agile new player that is eating up your market share; or a new technology that threatens to make your business obsolete.

    Get a check-up

    What do you do when you notice something’s wrong with your health? You see a doctor, who will examine you and perform tests to identify the causes for your declining well-being, and then recommends effective treatments.

    When a corporation expresses a desire to evolve into a more creative culture, an innovation consultant prescribes a comprehensive innovation capacity audit. This “health check” identifies the presence or, more typically, absence of certain organizational factors that support creativity and innovation.

    For example, in the innovation audit that is a key feature of Thinkergy’s innovation transformation method CooL – Creativity UnLimited, we check for 64 bipolar factors that relate to five bases: leadership, commitment, collaboration, culture and structure. A good “innovation health check” creates a clear profiles of the organizational innovation capacity, and identifies problem areas that need fixing to perform a “cool change” towards a more creative culture.

    Adopt an open, curious mindset

    After a health checkup, you know in theory what things you need to do to start living better. Does this awareness alone help you succeed? Nope. First take a look at your existing mindset: What habitual thoughts and action routines led to your decline in the first place? Become aware of your unhealthy ways and the disempowering thoughts and situations that trigger them. Then you can replace them with new, empowering healthy action strategies, and reframe your health challenge as an opportunity to discover a new, exciting side of life.

    Similarly, an innovation consultant needs to determine if the “brains” of the organization are willing —and able— to change. Leading change towards a more creative culture requires top executives to stop talking the innovation talk, and start walking it. Ask: Are they willing to revisit the strategic core of the organization (vision, mission, values, core value propositions)? Are they eager to conduct a strategy innovation project to discover new fields of sustained, profitable future growth? And on a personal level, are they open to undergo a creative leadership development program such as Thinkergy’s Genius Journey method?

    Commit to the achieve the desired changes

    Once you’ve begun cultivating an open, curious mindset for healthy change, you need commit the necessary resources: enough time to exercise, meditate and sleep; additional money to purchase healthier meals, and so on.

    Likewise, corporate leaders need to make serious commitments of resources for the creative culture change initiative: committing their own time to create momentum; setting budgets for new projects and innovation initiatives; and forming an innovation team to support the creative change effort. Commitment is the acid test to find out how serious the leadership really is towards creating a creative culture.

    Collaborate to jointly change

    Now you have a motivated mindset to pursue a healthy lifestyle and have earmarked sufficient time and money to achieve success. But how can you be sure you won’t fall back to your old, unhealthy habits? You could team-up with “buddies” who have similar health goals, or hire a coach. Your collaborators will check on your progress and hold you accountable if you stray from the path.

    In an organization, you can introduce collaborative creative projects and innovation initiatives that break down boundaries and silos, unite like-minded, progressive creative minds, and build momentum and enthusiasm for creativity and innovation.

    Work on the cultural factors

    Finally, everything is in place to create a healthier you. Now you just need to do it, which is easier said then done. So, develop new routines and actions that make health and wellness a core part of the way you live: mediate first thing in the morning; eat a healthy breakfast; take supplements; go running, or do a gym or Yoga session on your lunch break; replace unhealthy snacks and drinks with healthy alternatives; go to bed in time to for allow for sufficient sleep.

    Likewise, organizations need to get busy changing their routines and cultural habits to foster a more innovation-friendly climate: practice rapid prototyping; praise people who take initiative even if they sometimes fail; be more flexible about how, when and where people work — while at the same time raising standards and output expectations from “good enough” to the pursuit of excellence.

    Measure your progress

    Shifting to a healthier lifestyle isn’t easy and takes time — and the same holds true for organisations craving a creative culture. Avoid sliding back to your old ways by measuring your progress. The data tell you which strategies and regimens work and which you need adjusting. And seeing progress creates momentum to intensify and sustain the change.

    On a personal level, you regularly track vital signs (resting pulse rate, blood pressure, weight) and annually check how your lifestyle changes are reflected in key health indicators on a cellular level.

    In just the same way, organizations should work together with innovation experts to develop their individualized set of innovation-related key performance indicators on three levels (inputs, throughputs, outputs) that get tracked on a quarterly and annual basis.

    Contact us if you want to find out how we can jointly co-create a innovative change in your organization and help you cultivate a creative culture.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 8 December 2016.

  • How Muhammad Ali exemplified the genius mindsets of creative leaders (Part 1)


    I was half-way in an exercise set at the gym when my eye spotted the breaking news on CNN: “Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dead at 74″. I feel great sadness that one of my heroes has moved on to a higher place. Muhammad Ali was one of the creative role models I studied when I was devising Genius Journey, my creative leadership development method. “The Greatest” exemplified all genius mindsets that most great creative leaders share.

    The Genius Journey sends people in search of their creativity on a journey to visit 10 destination stops. At each stop, they learn about one mindset that stops them, limits them, keeps them small, keeps them thinking inside the box. And they learn about 10 corresponding mindsets that allow them to unbox their thinking, expand their consciousness, and rediscover their creative selfs.

    To honor the life of Muhammad Ali, and to inspire more businesspeople to build-up their genius mindsets and reconnect with their inner genius, let’s tour the 10 destinations stops of the Genius Journey together with Ali today and in two weeks from now.

    Journey Stop 1: Belief, courage, action-orientation and persistence

    Muhammad Ali is a role-model for the foundational first stop of the Genius Journey: Stop your doubts, worries and fears. Start to be a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.

    “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others,” he once said, and he also noted: “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”

    Ali knew: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” Hence, he used affirmations as a tactic to convince himself and others that he is the greatest indeed: “I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.” And the greatest he became, true to his belief that, “What you are thinking about, you are becoming.”

    Ali was also aware that belief powers courage: “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges.” His faith gave Ali the courage to go into the ring against towering champions like Sonny Liston and George Foreman, and to win fights most experts considered impossible for him. But Ali looked at an impossible as a motivating challenge: “Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

    His faith also gave Ali the courage to refuse to be drafted to fight in what he saw as  an unjust war in Vietnam. That conviction would cost him his title, his money and his freedom: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? … I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But … I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

    “He who is not courageous enough to take risks, will accomplish nothing in life,” noted Ali. His courage gave him the willpower to act and persist in the face of hardship and pain that every champion and genius leader needs to master: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” He admitted he hated every minute of training, but told himself: “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

    Journey Stop 2: Self-confidence and individuality

    Stop 2 of the Genius Journey is where you learn to stop your ego — your false self, the role you’re playing to please others — and start being yourself.

    “I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want,” said Ali. Instead of copying the thoughts, values and opinions of others, he insisted upon himself: “My principles are more important than the money or my title.” His insistence on his individuality even made him change his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali (which means ‘beloved of God’). When people continued calling him with his old name, he responded confidently: “I’m not your slave. I’m Muhammad Ali.”

    While extremely self-confident, Ali was also humble and respectful to ordinary fellow humans. He admitted once: “At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.”

    Stop 3: Curiosity and open-mindedness


    Stop 4: Playfulness, positivity & optimism

    The genius mindsets at the stops 3 and 4 of the Genius Journey are located at the same consciousness level. Here you’re asked to stop being judgmental and closed, a negative, serious pessimist. Instead, start being open and curious, a positive playful optimist.

    Muhammad Ali was open and curious to meet people and learn: “I sought the advice and cooperation from all of those around me – but not permission.” He became popular because he loved people and entertained them with funny rants against  opponents (“I’ve seen George Foreman shadow boxing, and the shadow won”) and witty poems (“I’ve wrestled with alligators, I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning, And throw thunder in jail.”).

    Clearly, throughout his life, Ali maintained a curious, open, positive and playful beginner’s mind of a child, which explains while disease ravaged his body in his last decades, it “couldn’t take the spark from his eyes”, as US President Obama said it his tribute.

    In two weeks, we will continue the remaining stops of the Genius Journey to see how “The Greatest of all times”also epitomized the other genius mindsets. Contact us if you want to learn more about how you can become a genius and discover your genius mindsets with our creative leadership method Genius Journey.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • Why Perfectionism is a Foe of Creativity and Innovation

    Perfectionists, be warned: This article isn’t perfect. I started it around midnight a few days ago when I got the idea for it. I continued working on it in a coffee shop the next morning, and completed it in between two client meetings, all the while knowing it wouldn’t be article. This raises an interesting question: is there something like “the perfect article?” Or “the perfect product?” Today, let’s talk about the perfectionism in business and innovation, and how the urge for perfection may stop you from being truly creative, innovative and productive.

    What is perfection?

    Perfection can be defined as the condition, state or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects; or it can be the action or process of improving something until it is faultless or as faultless as possible. If this article were perfect, I would have written it —and my editor would have honed it— in faultless English using perfect words to express the subject of this article in perfectly logical order of discussion points. Had my editor and I strived for the perfect article, this spot would be empty now, as we both were still busy writing and editing the masterpiece.

    So, what’s wrong with striving for perfection?

    Perfectionism is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection, and as the noted the American novelist John Updike noted: “Perfectionism is the enemy of creation.” Why?

    • Perfectionism breaks your creative flow while your creating something new, be it a new column or a new product. Instead of simply letting your thoughts flow, your urge for perfection breaks the creative flow by continuously judging your output and dismissing it as “not yet perfect”. Perfectionism emphasizes critiquing over creating.
    • Perfectionism slows you down also when it comes to shipping a new product. While you continue trying to optimize that last 0.5% you need to make your product a masterpiece, faster competitors start shipping their new products and capture the market with a functional, 99.5%-ready product.
    • Perfectionism is expensive. It drives up your costs as you require ever more resources (materials, people, capital) as you continue working to perfect the last tiny bits and pieces.
    • Perfectionism locks you into a tunnel. Because you focus so much on perfecting what you’ve been working on for a long time, you fail to notice that in the meantime, the world has moved on and changed: a new technology has emerged; consumer preferences have changed; and the economy has moved into a new cycle. In short, the product your work on perfecting doesn’t resonate with the market anymore.

    To sum up, in the highly dynamic modern business environment of the early 21st century, perfectionism drives you out of business sooner rather than later.

    Why are many business leaders and managers perfectionists?

    Perfectionists are usually people with an overinflated sense of self-importance. Such people have a very vocal inner critic who relentlessly demands perfection from the team and themselves. If you tend to be a perfectionist, then resolve today to begin ignoring your ego’s demands for perfection. Set yourself and your team free from your critical, perfectionistic ego. Simply be yourself — it boosts your creative energy, and speeds up and amplifies your creative outputs.

    How to overcome the urge for perfectionism?

    Here are four tips that help you producing more creative outputs and meaningful products by fighting your urge for perfection:

    1. First create, then critique: Instantly judging what you create is like driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake — you lurch forward at a slow, awkward pace. Better focus on creating first (and suspend judgment). Later on, you can spend time critiquing your creation by asking, “What’s wrong with it?”
    2. Strive for excellence, not perfection: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence,” said the famous American football coach Vince Lombardi. You can still move towards excellence and let go of your need for perfection without dropping your standards. Don’t insist on perfect products that are 100% faultless, but also don’t settle for mediocre products that are “good enough”. Aim for excellence, which are excellent products that are 95-99% perfect.
    3. Do rapid prototyping and iterate based on user feedback: Nature is full of apparently imperfect yet functional and well- working designs. Nature constantly improves and refines its present designs through the evolutionary process of feedback as well as trial and error. Follow the success principles of nature by practicing rapid prototyping: Build simple prototypes of your products, then show them to people to get critical feedback; quickly iterate and build new prototype versions that reflect your learnings; release great-working, but not yet “perfect” beta-solutions into the market; finally, quickly fix any unresolved bugs based on user feedback. As a result, you speed up your product development cycle and increase the overall number of creative outputs.
    4. Do your best within a target date: Set yourself a challenging, yet possible deadline to complete a functional, well-acceptable first version of a new product. Tame your inner critic who demands perfection by following this maxim: “I herewith resolve to produce the best possible output that I can come up with by the deadline.” If time is really tight, aim to get 95% of deliverables 95% ready.

    Conclusion: Let’s face it: The “perfect product” (or perfect creative output) doesn’t exist. What’s perfect today won’t be perfect tomorrow. So, relax and start striving for excellence, not perfection. Or as Salvator Dali put it: “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.

    Do you want to learn how to tame the inner perfectionist in you? Contact us to find out how Genius Journey, our creative leadership method, may help you to create more and critique less.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 15 September 2016.

  • How to become a more fluent creative thinker (Part 2)


    Two weeks ago, we discussed how your inner critic prevents you from being a fluent creative thinker, leading you to produce only a few, typically ordinary ideas in an Ideation effort. This is because your inner voice of judgment dismisses any uncommon or wild ideas, thus stopping you from producing a lot of ideas. Today, you’ll learn why your inner critic is wrong, how to gain control over your idea-killing inner voice of judgment, and how to train your mind to become a more fluent creative thinker.

    A new creative thinking exercise:

    In order to give you a hint on how to effectively overcome the reasons of fluency, let’s do a new creative exercise that builds on the previous one. Two weeks ago, I asked you to come up with as many ideas as possible in two minutes on “How to make good use of an empty plastic water bottle?” Now, write down on a piece of paper as as many ideas as possible for this slightly modified creative challenge: “How to NOT use an empty plastic water bottle?”

    Here are the things you can NOT do with a water bottle I came up with in 120 seconds (I recorded the ideas):

    An empty plastic bottle can NOT be used: 1. to drive. 2. to shoot at people. 3. to run. 4. to cook food. 5. to create something new. 6. to make someone laugh. 7. to dress someone up. 8. as food. 9. as a watch. 10. as a phone. 11. as a computer. 12. as a calendar. 13. as a bag. 14. as a house. 15. as a shoe. 16. as a weapon to kill people. 17. as a health device. 18. to help people make money. 19. as a way for entrepreneurs to know what’s the next big thing. 20. as a fitness device. 21. as a water pool. 22. as a transportation means. 23. as a tool to learn in university. 24. as a tool to learn in school. 25. as a toy.

    How to silence the inner critic?

    With the previous exercise, we’ve given our inner critic permission and time to do what it likes to do most: telling us what doesn’t work, what’s nonsense or just plain ridiculous. But is our inner critic right? Can we really not use an empty bottle in the ways described above?

    Let’s pick some examples and apply some creativity. An empty plastic bottle cannot be used:

    • as a shoe. Well, in Africa, people turn empty water bottles into flip-flops.
    • as a watch. Fill one bottle with sand, connect it to a second one, and turn it into an hourglass. Or stick it into the ground, and turn it into a sun watch by using its shadow to tell you the time.
    • as a fitness device. Fill it with water, sand, or stones to turn it into a dumb-bell.
    • as a computer. Recycle the plastic and use it as input material for cheap computers (just think of the “one laptop per child”-project).
    • as a way for entrepreneurs to know what’s the next big. Pose the empty bottle-challenge as a warm-up exercise at a futurist convention. Then, turn them loose on the question: “What are impossible business trends that cannot happen in the next years?” Next, have the futurists brainstorm on how each of the impossible trends might materialize. Finally, harness your insights on new business opportunities and emerging trends on the fringes.

    So what have you learned from this exercise? If we make an effort, we can come up with ideas for making each “cannot use” comment of our inner critic into a “can do” idea.

    How to become a more fluent creative thinker?

    Here are eight tips that help you speed up your divergent thinking, amplify your creative outputs, and gradually evolve into a more fluent creative thinker:

    1. Follow the ground rules of Ideation: Whenever you generate ideas, remind yourself and other ideators to comply to the ground rules of Ideation: #1. No killing of ideas. Defer judgment. #2. Go for quantity, because quantity breeds quality. #3. The wilder the better. Shoot for wild, crazy, silly, zany, off-the-walls ideas. #4. Combine and improve on ideas.
    2. Set an idea quota: In a real Ideation session with a team, set an ambitious, yet achievable idea quota. For example, with a group of eight people, push for at least 250 ideas in one hour of brainstorming.
    3. Silence your inner critic: Whenever you hear your inner voice of judgment dismissing an idea, scream “Shut up” and jot down the idea.
    4. Silence others: If another team member judges one of your ideas in a brainstorming session, remind him to comply with ground rule 1 of Ideation.
    5. Practice, practice, practice: Generate ideas whenever you have an opportunity, be it in an real brainstorming session or unofficially on a personal challenge in a boring meeting. Creative thinking is a skill just like learning a language or playing golf — the more you practice, the better you get at it.
    6. Play word associations: Get a start word, and then use it to quickly come up with more words by using the sentence “When I think of the word ___, I think of the word ___.” For example, say our start word is money. “When I think of money, I think of bank. When I think of bank, I think of stock market”. Then you go on: Wall Street, New York, Big Apple, fruit, orange, juice, drink, party, music, and so on.
    7. Create a word concept map: This is a free association exercise similar to the last one, just that you engage in concept mapping. Think of one word that you write into the center of a piece of paper (say: light bulb). Then, come up with related words that you write clockwise around —and connect with a line to— the start word (creativity, idea, Edison, electricity, lamp, light, illumination, candle). Finally, add more words around each of the related words as they pop up in your mind (illumination: Eureka, subconscious mind, breakthrough, luminous being; lamp: cord, switch, stand, shade, Pixar; candle: flame, fire, matches, wax, etc.).
    8. Get into a rhythm: One way to become a more fluent creative thinker is to follow a rhythm of suggesting ideas. For example, suggest one idea every 15 seconds. Don’t panic if you don’t come up with an idea in each interval, but playfully embrace the time challenge to speed up your ideation pace. Here are two playful ways to practice rhythmic creative thinking to boost your creative fluency: use a virtual metronome while coming up with ideas; or step forward and backward following a steady rhythm while playing word associations.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 1 September 2016.