Brainstorming & Organizing
Resource: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
Description: Brainstorming and organizing
First key to brainstorming — capture your ideas. Write them down, create a mindmap, anything. Do something to get your ideas somewhere you can see them. When you write things down, your brain gives you more ideas. It’s as if your mind is telling you “I won’t give you more ideas than you can use. Show me that you’re serious by writing things down and I will give you more.” Allen refers to this as distributed cognition.
Second key to brainstorming — delay criticism and editing. The goal is to get as many ideas out as possible. Organize and edit them later. If you’re too critical too early, you’ll short circuit the process. Prioritize quantity over quality when brainstorming.
You need to do as much planning as is necessary to keep things off your mind.
If you can’t clearly define your next actions, then you need to back up one step and get clarified on that level. Reconsider the project or your vision or your responsibilities or your principles or your purpose. The more clear you are with yourself on the abstract levels, the more readily you’ll identify what needs to be done on the level of specifics.
The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas. —Linus Pauling
“Once you know what you want to happen and why, the how mechanism is brought into play. When you identify with some picture in your mind that is different from your current reality, you automatically start filling in the gaps, or brainstorming. Ideas begin to pop into your head in somewhat random order—little ones, big ones, not-so-good ones, good ones. This process usually goes on internally for most people about most things, and that’s often sufficient. For example, you think about what you want to say to your boss as you’re walking down the hall to speak to her. But there are many other instances when writing things down, or capturing them in some external way, can give a tremendous boost to productive output and thinking. “
“give yourself permission to capture and express any idea, and then later on figure out how it fits in and what to do with it. If nothing else (and there is plenty of “else”), this practice adds to your efficiency—when you have the idea, you grab it, which means you won’t have to have the idea again. “
“The great thing about external brainstorming is that in addition to capturing your original ideas, it can help generate many new ones that might not have occurred to you if you didn’t have a mechanism to hold your thoughts and continually reflect them back to you. It’s as if your mind were to say, “Look, I’m only going to give you as many ideas as you feel you can effectively use. If you’re not collecting them in some trusted way, I won’t give you that many. But if you’re actually doing something with the ideas—even if it’s just recording them for later evaluation—then here, have a bunch! And, oh wow! That reminds me of another one, and another,” etc. “
Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have. —Emile Chartier
Psychologists have now labeled this and similar processes “distributed cognition.” It’s getting things out of your head and into objective, reviewable formats—building an “extended mind.”
Few people can hold their focus on a topic for more than a couple of minutes without some objective structure and tool or trigger to help them. Pick a big project you have going right now and just try to think of nothing else for more than thirty seconds. This is pretty hard to do unless you have a pen and paper in hand and use one of those “cognitive artifacts” as the anchor for your ideas. Then you can stay with it for hours.
Many techniques can be used to facilitate brainstorming and out-of-the-box thinking. The basic principles, however, can be summed up as follows: Don’t judge, challenge, evaluate, or criticize. Go for quantity, not quality. Put analysis and organization in the background.
The primary criteria must be inclusion and expansion, not constriction and contraction.
Go for Quantity, Not Quality Going for quantity keeps your thinking expansive. Often you won’t know what’s a good idea until you have it. And sometimes you’ll realize it’s a good idea, or the germ of one, only later on. You know how shopping at a big store with lots of options lets you feel comfortable about your choice? The same holds true for project thinking. The greater the volume of thoughts you have to work with, the better the context you can create for developing options and trusting your choices.
Making a list can be a creative thing to do; it’s a way to consider the people who should be on your team, the customer requirements for the software, or the components of the business plan. Just make sure to grab all that and keep going until you get into the weeding and organizing of focus that make up the next stage.
If you’ve done a thorough job of emptying your head of all the things that came up in the brainstorming phase, you’ll notice that a natural organization is emerging. As my high school English teacher suggested, once you get all the ideas out of your head and in front of your eyes, you’ll automatically notice natural relationships and structure. This is what most people are referring to when they talk about organizing a project.
Creative thinking doesn’t stop here; it just takes another form. Once you perceive a basic structure, your mind will start trying to fill in the blanks. Identifying the three key things that you need to handle on the project, for example, may cause you to think of a fourth and a fifth when you see them all lined up.
I have never seen any two projects that needed to have exactly the same amount of structure and detail developed in order to get things off people’s minds and moving successfully. But almost all projects can use some form of creative thinking from the sequential part of the brain, along the lines of “What’s the plan?”
The final stage of planning comes down to decisions about the allocation and reallocation of physical resources to actually get the project moving. The question to ask here is, “What’s the next action?” As we noted in the previous chapter, this kind of grounded, reality-based thinking, combined with clarification of the desired outcome, forms the critical component for defining and clarifying what our real work is. In my experience, creating a list of what your real projects are and consistently managing your next action for each one will constitute 90 percent of what is generally thought of as project planning.
At some point, if the project is an actionable one, this next-action-thinking decision must be made.* Answering the question about what, specifically, you would do about something physically if you had nothing else to do will test the maturity of your thinking about the project. If you’re not yet ready to answer that…
A project is sufficiently planned for implementation when every next-action step has been decided on every front that can actually be moved on without some other component’s having to be completed first. If the project has multiple components, each of them should be assessed…
In general, the reason things are on your mind is that the outcome and action step(s) have not been appropriately defined, and/or reminders of them have not been put in places where you can be trusted to look for them appropriately. Additionally, you may not have developed the details,…
If greater clarity is what you need, shift your thinking up the natural planning scale. People are often very busy (action) but nonetheless experience confusion and a lack of clear direction. They need to pull out the plan or create one (organize). If there’s a lack of clarity at the planning level, there’s probably a need for more brainstorming to generate a sufficient inventory of current ideas and data to create trust in the plan. If the brainstorming session gets bogged down with fuzzy thinking, the focus should shift back to the vision of the outcome, ensuring that the reticular filter in the brain will open up to deliver the how-to thinking. If the outcome/vision is unclear, you must return to a clean analysis of why you’re engaged in the situation in the first place (purpose).
You need no new skills to increase your productivity and reduce your stress—just an enhanced set of systematic behaviors with which to apply them.
The Surprises of Sound
Resource: Julian Treasure: The 4 Ways Sound Affects Us
Description: Julian Treasures shares insights on the surprising ways in which we’re affected by sound
Four ways sound affects us: Physical, Psychological, Cognitive, Behavioral
Sound affects our hormones. It can make us sleepy or tense.
Sound affects our emotional state. It can make us sad or inspired.
Sound affects our cognition. It can make it easier or harder to concentrate.
Sound affects our behavior. It can incline us to be more or less active and/or aggressive.
For rules of commercial sound (using sound to create customer response):
Make it congruent — pointing in same direction as visual communication.
Make it appropriate
Make it valuable — give people something with the sound. Don’t just bombard them with noise
Test it again and again
The Frustrations & Fulfillment of Love
Resource: Why We Fall in Love: The Paradoxical Psychology of Romance and Why Frustration Is Necessary for Satisfaction
Description: Reflections from Adam Phillip’s on the fulfillment and frustration that comes from love
When we fall in love with someone, we fall in love not only with who they are but also with our fantasies about they will fill the missing pieces in our lives.
We never truly know the pain of someone’s absence until we have the pleasure of their presence. The emptiness of loss is far more intense than the emptiness of longing.
Adrienne Rich, in contemplating how love refines our truths, wrote: “An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love’ — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.” But among the dualities that lend love both its electricity and its exasperation — the interplay of thrill and terror, desire and disappointment, longing and anticipatory loss — is also the fact that our pathway to this mutually refining truth must pass through a necessary fiction: We fall in love not just with a person wholly external to us but with a fantasy of how that person can fill what is missing from our interior lives.
All love stories are frustration stories… To fall in love is to be reminded of a frustration that you didn’t know you had (of one’s formative frustrations, and of one’s attempted self-cures for them); you wanted someone, you felt deprived of something, and then it seems to be there. And what is renewed in that experience is an intensity of frustration, and an intensity of satisfaction.
However much you have been wanting and hoping and dreaming of meeting the person of your dreams, it is only when you meet them that you will start missing them. It seems that the presence of an object is required to make its absence felt (or to make the absence of something felt). A kind of longing may have preceded their arrival, but you have to meet in order to feel the full force of your frustration in their absence.