10 Tips for Having Great Ideas - #3 What's actually going on inside your head?

Someone recently asked us how the design team at The Imagination Factory approaches repeatable idea generation in the projects we work on. It made us stop and think and we ended up with a list of 10 top tips for having great ideas which we thought might be useful to share.
Number 3 on the list is understanding what is actually happening inside your head when you are trying to be imaginative. In fact, what happens in the brain during moments of creativity is still not fully understood from a scientific point of view but we do know that there are 3 areas of the brain that work together when we come up with new ideas;

The Attentional Control Network
This is the area of the brain responsible for helping us stay on topic. It kicks in when we need to pay attention to a task or listen to a talk. It helps us gather the knowledge that we will need to call upon later.

The Imagination Network
No prizes for guessing that this part of the brain enables us to imagine scenarios in the future but it also helps us remember things from the past and most importantly helps us to form mental images when we are being creative.

The Attentional Flexibility Network
This network of neurones monitors what is happening around us and also inside our own brains. It manages the activity of the Attentional Control and Imagination Networks accordingly.

So, even though we only understand the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our creative brain activity we have some clues here for improving our chances of having good ideas.
Firstly, to be imaginative you have to deal with the part of your brain that is desperately trying to keep you focussed. That's why collaborative idea generation sessions are counter-intuitively more effective when there is a strict time limit. People often need to know how long this period of creative thinking will go on for and that it will finish on time. Then they will be happy to temporarily shut down the part of them that is worrying about needing to focus and "get something done". At the Imagination Factory we have often found that it's better to stick to a 15-minute time limit during a creative idea session and then go and do something else. You can always come back and have another go later.

Secondly, we can understand why the environment has such an impact on our ability to have good ideas. The Attentional Flexibility Network is responsible for keeping our imagination switched on but it is also highly sensitive to changes around us. Lighting, temperature, noise and so on can either oil the wheels of creativity or throw a spanner in the works.

Finally, there are things we can do to keep our Imagination Network fit and ready for action. Top of the list would be building an inventory of knowledge that we can call upon when working on new ideas. It's vital to us that the team at The Imagination Factory shares a passion to learn new things in as wide a range of areas as possible. And we value working collaboratively because we have learnt to draw on the knowledge sequestered inside each person's head.


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