Breaking Free From Old Thinking Ruts

Posted by


If you or your team suffer from a lack of creative juices or mental block, Gail Cohen’s trio of creative blockbusters may be just the ticket to the breakthrough ideas and innovative solutions you’re looking for.

A nationally known thinking guru and author of the audiocassette program, Thinking Outside the Lines: Power Thinking for the 21st Century, Cohen has taught thousands of professionals how to think and live more creatively — and more successfully.

Try these three pencil-and-paper games guaranteed to blast away those mental blocks and prime your right brain for creative thinking.

1. Mind-Mapping
HOW IT WORKS: Choose a topic or goal, write it in the middle of a sheet of paper and draw a circle around it. Draw lines out from the circle and jot down as many key words as you can think of that have to do with the topic. Do it quickly, without over-thinking the task. “Be wild and creative,” Cohen advises.

TRY THIS EXAMPLE: You’re assigned to develop a tourism brochure to encourage people to visit California, but you’re stuck on how to proceed. Write “California” in the center of the page and circle it. Draw spokes out from the circle and jot a thought at the end of each one. Surfing? Seafood? Sunshine? Hollywood? Keep going until you’ve got dozens of ideas. Then stop, and say out-loud, “Categorize.” Assemble like thoughts into categories such as education, entertainment, recreation, nature, etc. After only a few minutes, you’ve outlined the brochure!

“Mind-mapping is one of the most powerful tools we have in terms of breaking through our right brain blocks,” Cohen says. You want to write a letter? Spend three minutes mind-mapping it first and you’ll whiz through that letter, she guarantees. Want to have an important conversation with your boss or a loved one? Mind-map it first. Planning a vacation? Get the whole family involved in a mind-mapping party.

Once you get the knack of mind-mapping, Cohen recommends this eye-opening assignment: “Do a one-minute mind-map on the subject of your self-improvement.”

2. Similar-Opposite Game
HOW IT WORKS: Take two totally dissimilar items and come up with all the similarities you can in one minute. Again, be creative. There are no right or wrong answers.

TRY THESE EXAMPLES: Find the similarities between a microwave oven and a camel in one minute. There are no right or wrong answers. Both give off heat. Both require little water. Both are found in zoos. How about one traditional and one non-traditional wedding present? Now try it a second time using the topics of fruit yogurt and you. Both are smooth and sweet. Both have been seen in supermarkets. Try penguins and lightbulbs, computers and hot tubs, snowflakes and teapots.

Cohen says this game gets easier for professionals with each set of subjects they take on, because it jogs the creative side of their brain into “thinking outside the lines.” She also stresses the important link between having fun and feeling creative.

3. The Hoop Game
HOW IT WORKS: Pretend that your eccentric rich uncle died and bequeathed you his warehouses – full of 2 million hula hoops. In one minute, come up with as many options as you can for what you’d do with this unexpected windfall.

EXAMPLES: You’d regenerate the hula hoop craze. Or you’d give the hula hoops away to children, hospitals and orphanages. You’d sell the hula hoops and rent out the warehouses. You’d build a giant hula hoop castle, get it into the Guinness Book of World Records and charge admission to get in.

You can enhance your ability to solve problems and to generate fresh ideas, Cohen concludes, by giving the creative-thinking side of your brain a regular workout with thinking games like these “creative blockbusters.”

Agree? Disagree? Add your insightful comments here.