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Hacking the Creative Brain

As tech professionals, what we need is a way to work better so that we can create more, right? Through exploring various concepts and approaches, including the neuroscience of creativity, productivity techniques, and emerging practices that spur innovation, we'll discover not only the ways in which our brains work best, but also what’s behind the times when we feel on fire with creativity and when we don't. We’ll translate this information into processes and techniques for dramatically enhanced creative productivity. Beware: this session challenges the standard norms around concentration, focus, productivity, and may change how you work…for the better.

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Hacking the Creative Brain

  1. >> Work Better Create More , /* Denise Jacobs <AngleBrackets /> Conference | Las Vegas, NV 29 October 2013 */
  2. Twitter Hacks I am: .@denisejacobs We’re at: #AngleBrackets And we’re going to #hackcreativity
  3. I’ve always loved to create, but…
  4. But I was still afraid: am I truly creative? Photo: Denise Jacobs
  5. After writing this…
  6. I had an epiphany
  7. I realized that
  8. Powerful and empowering
  9. Thus, I speak, write, and evangelize creativity Photo: Derek Kearney
  10. Intro The State of the Union
  11. What’s our most important tool for creating?
  12. Not these…
  13. This one!
  14. Office-bound
  15. Time pressures
  16. Managers
  17. Clients
  18. Bureaucracy
  19. Oppressed
  20. “Houston, we have a problem…”
  21. Instead of feeling like this
  22. We end up feelig like this
  23. When we are in the creative flow
  24. We are alchemists
  25. “Creativity is newness produced.” - Sir Ken Robinson, Out of Our Minds
  26. It feels like
  27. “Creativity is magical, but it is not magic.” - Dr. Charles Limb, Your Brain on Improvisation TED talk
  28. Who here feels like they are creative?
  29. “Creativity is all about making connections and seeing patterns.” - Bruce Nussbaum, Creativity Intelligence
  30. Creativity is critical
  31. Understand the mechanisms of creativity
  32. Let out all of your great ideas
  33. “Creativity makes day to day experiences more vivid, more enjoyable, more rewarding. When we live creatively, boredom is banished and every moment holds the promise of a fresh discovery.” - Mihali Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity
  34. 1 Emancipate & Adjust Our Goals 2 Practice & Generate 3 Innovate & Produce
  35. 1 Emancipate & Adjust
  36. Current work culture
  37. Bad game of telephone
  38. Habits and thinking to quit
  39. Distractions
  40. Multitasking
  41. Zeigarnik Effect
  42. Communication addiction
  43. Intermittent reinforcement | |
  44. Busyness
  45. Internalized the critical voices
  46. Become monsters in your head
  47. Instead of Creativity Source: Flickr
  48. Destructivity
  49. “If your demons are such that they fill the room the instant you contemplate creating, your studio will be too dangerous a place to enter.” - Eric Maisel, author of Fearless Creating
  50. Recognize the many forms of your Inner Critic
  51. Impostor Syndrome
  52. Hack >> Know the Impostor Syndrome Paradox
  53. Comparisons
  54. Procrastination
  55. Perfectionism
  56. Fear of failure
  57. F.E.A.R. = “False Evidence Appearing Real” or, alternatively, “F*ck Everything And Run!”
  58. Thoughts on fear
  59. “Fear is not real. It is a product of the thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.” - character of Cypher Raige (played by Will Smith), After Earth
  60. We become terrorists to ourselves
  61. “Obsessing about preventing bad things from happening also prevents good things from happening, or sometimes prevents anything from happening at all.” - Scott Berkun, The Year Without Pants
  62. Hack >> Become a Fear Alchemist
  63. “The goal is to manage anxiety so that our energies are used for the productive and satisfying (act) of creating, rather than the destructive and debilitating art of self-torture.” - Clare Warmke, Idea Revolution
  64. Banish the Inner Critic
  65. Maintain perspective
  66. Empathize
  67. Reframe #fail
  68. “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” - Dr. Edwin Land, The Instant Image: Edwin Land and the Polaroid Experience
  69. Nothing is a mistake
  70. Change your body language, change your mind
  71. “Our bodies change our minds, our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcomes.” - Amy Cuddy, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are TED talk
  72. Fake it until you become it
  73. #Exercise: Power Pose Stand up. Assume a pose that embodies a sense of defeat, can’t do it, it will never work, “I suck/I’m no good/an impostor”, etc. Make yourself as small and powerless feeling as possible. Then, strike a power pose. Imagine yourself as a superhero looking off into the distance seeing your destiny of major creative butt-kicking. Alternate several times. Hold the power pose for as long as you can so that you can feel the change.
  74. Adjust: Train Your Brain
  75. Let’s take a closer look
  76. Left v. Right brain?
  77. Left hemisphere
  78. Right hemisphere
  79. Instead: Left + Right brain = Creativity
  80. “The parts of your brain that are responsible for self-monitoring are literally turned off during creative endeavors….Creative people have mastered the art of turning off [the inhibitive] part of their brains to let their ideas flow more smoothly, unleashing their imagination.” - Tina Seelig, InGenius
  81. What are our brains constantly producing?
  82. Know your Brainwaves
  83. Alpha: the gateway to creativity
  84. #Exercise: Enter Alpha Close your eyes and relax. Breathe through your nose. Now place your tongue at the roof of your mouth, turn your eyes towards the ceiling underneath your eyelids. Take several deep, long breaths. As you relax, you are changing your brainwaves from Beta to Alpha.
  85. Hack >> Breathe to refocus
  86. Hack >> Being prone
  87. Hack >> Showers
  88. “When your brain is supposedly doing nothing, it’s really doing a tremendous amount.” – Marcus Raichle, Neurologist
  89. Hack >> Daydream/Space out
  90. Hack >> Engage in mindless activity
  91. Hack >> Get physical
  92. Hack >> Leverage Biophilia
  93. Hack >> Laugh
  94. “When you are playful, you are activating the right side of your brain. The logical brain is a limited brain. The right side is unlimited. You can (do and ) be anything you want.” - Madan Kataria, The Laughter Guru
  95. Intend Alpha
  96. 3 Practice & Generate
  97. Exercise Discipline
  98. Show up everyday
  99. And really commit to it
  100. Focus on meaningful tasks
  101. Hack >> Delegate
  102. #Exercise: To Don’t List To do more of what you love and less of what you dislike, start writing To Don’t Lists (aka “Stop Doing” Lists).   Pick a partner, and write a list of 3-5 items that you commit to stop doing within the next 30 days. Date the list. Share the list with your partner and get ideas on how to eliminate these items from your life either by stopping them or delegating/outsourcing the tasks.   Review your list in 30 days to see what you need to continue to stop doing so that your time is spent on what you value and want to cultivate. Create another list for the upcoming 30 days.
  103. Clean-up habit fields
  104. Habit what?
  105. Hack >> Habit field reboot Clean up your work habit field by following the suggestions in the article “Habit Fields” by Jack Cheng. Create your equivalent of a “distraction chair” and move to it when you feel like you are inclined to surf the web, email, Tweet, Facebook, or engage in any other computer-related distraction. When you are ready to work again, come back to your desk. Rinse and repeat until your work habit field is clear again and no longer fuzzy.
  106. Manage time
  107. Single-task
  108. “Single-tasking is the new multitasking.” - A Your Brain on Creativity participant
  109. Say NO to Distractions
  112. { Further Resources } Firefox extension: LeechBlock: Firefox extension: Idderall: idderall/ Google Chrome extension: Strict Workflow: Google Chrome extension: StayFocusd: stayfocusd/
  113. Hack >> Pomodoro Technique
  114. Hack >> Airplane mode
  115. Hack >> Pomodoro 2.0 Practice the Pomodoro technique. Do a 30 minute sprint where you turn off all distractions and work for 25 minutes. Before you start your sprint, write down the objective of the sprint. Do the sprint, and at the end of it, take a moment to jot down any challenges encountered, and your end results from the sprint. For your 5 minute break, activate your Alpha brainwaves by either laying down on the floor with your eyes closed, or look at clouds shifting in the sky.
  116. Hack >> Work standing up
  117. Why? Because
  118. Hack >> Change environments
  119. Generate: Start the flow of ideas
  120. Hack >> Shape your micro-environment
  121. Everything is a remix
  122. Remix inspiration “Mona Lisa” by Paul Giovanopoulos,
  123. Hack >> Create constaints
  124. Get inspired by children
  125. From the mind of a 4yo Photo courtesy of Laura Bohill (@LauRARbee)
  126. Generate ideas
  127. Capture ideas
  128. Embrace disruption Photo: Denise Jacobs
  129. Write them down
  130. Sketch them out
  131. Talk them out (& record it)
  132. Gather and curate your ideas
  133. Tools to do so Evernote Diigo Tumblr
  134. 3 Innovate & Produce
  135. Do it with others
  136. Mo’ people, mo’ ideas
  137. Immerse yourself in diverse environments
  138. Building 20 at MIT
  139. Avoid sameness
  140. The source of great ideas
  141. Bring brilliance together
  142. Create a locus where ideas can mix & mingle
  143. Don’t keep them to yourself
  144. Invite others to wonder with you
  145. Share ideas
  146. Share mistakes
  147. Hack >> Co-work to collaborate
  148. Hack >> Engage in Parallel Play
  149. Amplify the ideas of others
  150. Improv
  151. Hack >> Plus it
  152. The structure
  153. Make your partner look good
  154. Will connect people beyond the cubicle
  155. And encourage better teamwork
  156. “Creativity is more than a great idea, it’s the determination to see the idea through to fruition.” - Clare Warmke, Idea Revolution
  157. Prototype
  158. Iterate
  159. The production-iteration process •  •  •  •  •  •  observe suggest tinker review apply feedback reiterate
  160. The stage is set for Flow
  161. All of the previous steps lead you here: •  Concept in mind: know what you want to achieve and what it looks like •  Practice in place •  Cleared space •  Time carved out and distractions eliminated •  Necessary materials on hand
  162. Epilogue Liberation
  163. Previously
  164. Moving forward
  165. Before
  166. After
  167. Stepping through them more easily
  168. (Re)Gain Creative Confidence
  169. …which is “…the confidence that, when given a difficult problem, we have a methodology that enables us to come up with a solution that nobody has before.” - David Kelley of Ideo
  170. Ideas are on and poppin’!
  171. Joyfulness in Work
  172. Turn work into play
  173. What you produce is unique
  174. Hack your habits >> Different Results
  175. Practicing different habits >> Transform your life
  176. The goal
  177. You have the power
  178. …And make better things
  179. Get your creativity hack on!
  180. The End…?
  181. Resources! Always being updated as I find new relevant articles! “Great Resources” almost daily: @denisejacobs on Twitter
  182. Cover art thanks to Americo Morales
  183. My articles for further reading! four-secrets-enhancingcreative-productivity reigniting-your-creative-spark/ banishing-your-inner-critic/
  184. Want More? Sign up for news on my upcoming book, projects, other announcements and whatnot at
  185. How to find me on teh Interwebz  Sign up on my mailing list here! Photo used with permission:
  186. Thank you!