Watch Dr. Rodney Hill, the Futurist for Texas A&M University, explain how to get into a creative “flow” when you just can’t seem to come up with any new ideas.
Rodney Hill: I think everyone can be creative. It’s just through the school systems, they’re not exposed to creativity. In fact, it clips their wings most of the time. If they try to be an original or creative, or come up with unusual answers, they’re slapped down; they expect students to reproduce knowledge. You memorize this, you feed it back on a test, but they don’t ask them to ever create anything. So that’s what’s happened to kids, so I have to show them how to get into their creative mode, and a lot of people call it “flow.” Essentially, when you’re in flow, both hemispheres lock into the frontal lobe and it’s referred to as optimum behavior.
Brad Besancon: One of the things we’ve noticed is, especially with our clients, is they have no idea how to get into the flow. Is there some tips, maybe three or four tips where, did you take your students through, it kind of gets them to flow part 1 or flow 1.0?
Brad: What are some of those?
Rodney: Well, getting into the first day, I’ll pass out red apples to a hundred in the class, and they’re all sitting there with a red apple wondering.
Robert: [laughing] They’re supposed to give that to you.
Rodney: Yes. So I have them either lean back they can lay down on the floor, in the aisles, whatever they want to do, and then I take them to an exercise that was written by the associate dean of engineering out of Stanford. Stanford requires 2-3 hour classes on creativity to graduate any engineering curriculum.
Rodney: And so anyhow, they go through a whole range of what it’s like to eat an apple. About a minute into it, they have to bite into the apple, and we imagine the apple, the sunlight going in this apple’s form, the way the skin reflects the pattern of [00:02:16], streaks and dots, not just one color. But anyhow, it goes everything, from going into the ground, coming up the sap, flowing into the blossoms, etc. but essentially, they are imagining, and what’s really interesting, this is the first time and they’re just sort of like in a daze when they get out of it. Now, the second class period, I use an exercise from the Olympic Training Center which is progressive relaxation exercise where you flex your hand and your shoulders, you go through a whole range of things, and then you release it so it gets them into that idea but a lot of them all of a sudden realize that when they are creative, they go through a series of things.
Brad: So if you had to tell a business that looks at Robert and I and says, “Guys, I’m on a mental block. I’ve been doing this for two years on social media. We’re writing blogs–
Robert: Two weeks.
Brad: Or two weeks. [laughing]
Robert: We walk in with an apple.
Brad: Yes, should we bring an apple? What would you say for a company that says, “I’ve got this team of people and we just seem to be regurgitating and nothing new’s coming out,” what are some real specific steps that they can do?
Rodney: Oh, okay. There’s an exercise that you can take them through. One is, pass out, get about halfway through the second lecture on creativity and say, “Okay, stop. We’re having a pop quiz,” and they will all go gasp, “But you said it was all going to be producing.”
Brad: [laughing] “This is a creative class, we don’t have tests.”
Rodney: And so I hand them out a sheet which is down here, it’s the chemical formula for coffee and it goes through a whole series of things. You have to design this container that will keep it at X degrees centigrade and you’ll have a packet in your hand, and you have to be able to get to another room and open the door holding this device. Essentially, just before that, I told them about trigger words, that if you’re listening to music, you never listen to music with words in it because if you’re trying to come up with something creative, you’re fighting off those words.
Brad: Yes, your [00:04:30] trying to sing the song.
Rodney: [00:04:30] image. So anyhow, they come up with these fabulous Rube Goldberg contraptions that have a bunch of them, put them up on the whiteboard, and they’re like, the really–
Brad: They have no idea where it came from.
Rodney: But they’re wonderful. But then I flip in and show them slides of, what if I told you this was coffee? They would have come up with coffee cups, coffee mugs; they wouldn’t have come up with–
Brad: This is a chemical liquid.
Rodney: Yes, an accordion thing that lifts to the served saucer on a belt, and there is a range of things. That’s what most businesses are doing. They tell the people doing the creative thing: “Okay, come up with a [clicks tongue].”
Brad: Exactly. They tee it up too much and say the same free flow.
Robert: Okay, we’ve been talking with Rodney Hill, the futurist at Texas A&M University about getting into the flow for creativity. Now, in part 2, we’re going to come back and talk about some other specific steps of, how do you get into the flow?