Be Like Einstein—Innovate with Metaphors

person holding a chalk in front of the chalk board

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Albert Einstein was a person that few could hope to assimilate or emulate. His scientific principles were so advanced that few ever consider that their process of innovation could hold a candle to his scientific methods. Yet, Einstein used creative skills to advance the sciences far more often than people realized.

One of his favorite forms of exploration was the development of metaphorical scenarios. By creating an allegorical or symbolic construct, or imaginary world, he was able to test abstract ideas. Einstein actually created these imaginary worlds that were disassociated with facts, numbers, and natural rules to free himself from the objective and play with ideas from a subjective perspective.

This process helped him to solve many problems because “reality” never got in his way. One time he pictured himself as a two-dimensional being, which led to his experimentation and exploration of infinity. Another time he imagined finding his love with all its related experiences before ever meeting her, which drove his contemplation on causality. Another mental picture included him riding a light beam, at the speed of light, while holding a mirror in an attempt to see his reflection, which can’t be done because the reflection would have to travel faster than the speed of light to be seen.

Einstein’s theory on general relativity was birthed using this creative process. His theory basically stated that the nature of situations depends on the orientation of the observer. In other words, by changing our perspective, we can immediately open our possibilities to innovation.

The process of innovation using metaphorical scenarios includes five steps of play. Yes, play. That means what I’m sharing are guidelines that can be altered. The rules are not rigid to be strictly followed for success. Creativity is very personal, as it draws from everything we have to offer that resides deep within our heart and mind.

IMAGINE

To construct the metaphor that will bring a solution to bear requires make-believe. We have to picture the problem in our mind. The idea is to see it from multiple perspectives. I like to pretend I’m an old woman exploring the problem followed by looking at things through the eyes of a preschool boy.

Let’s say I’m trying to figure out how to get my podcast out to more people. My first step is to picture that podcast from various angles. Maybe I contemplate what it looks like while I’m recording it, or after it is uploaded to its current site. Or maybe I picture the idea phase where I try to figure out what creative process I think the audience might need this week.

DEFINE ESSENCE

This next step is the hardest for most people because the idea is to define the heart of the problem, not the problem. I like to think and ponder over the essence or the perception of the problem, getting a feel for what needs to be addressed.

The problem of getting my podcast to more listeners might be a problem of public relations, advertising, or developing better content that causes people to talk about the show around the water cooler. In this case, I believe the essence of the issue is the number of steps required for entry. Audiences don’t like to pay for a show that they are unfamiliar with, especially when competitive podcasters give their show away for free to increase the sales of their courses, speaking engagements, and book sales.

FOCUS ON ESSENCE

At this point, I forget about the direct issue and consider an imaginary circumstance with the same essence as my problem. This takes the form of a made-up scenario or story—a fairy tale.

Let’s say there is a spy that has information during the cold war, or something similar in the country of Zorka, that could save lives. A dictator, who desires to control the minds of the people, publishes a renegade newspaper that appears to be opposed to him and distributes it for free as an underground paper.

When the people read the paper, they unknowingly read strawman articles and start to sympathize with the dictator who is “working hard on behalf of the people.” But the spy has proof to expose the truth and help the people join forces to take down the dictator.

PLAY WITH POTENTIAL RESOLUTIONS

When we work on the make-believe scenario and try to fix the problem, our mind goes off in many directions of exploration without any pressure. The lack of pressure increases our ability to brainstorm and come up with numerous possible solutions. Our unhampered mind is free to explore limitless ideas.

I might consider the spy finding a printing press and publishing a competitive paper that shows the other side of the issues. Or, maybe I find an open radio frequency to broadcast the information and start handing out receivers that only get that frequency. The spy could also find a financial angle to donate funds to advertise opposing views in the marketplace.

The ideas go on and on. At first, most of the ideas seem logical. However, the more you play and learn to let go, the more creative the ideas become. For instance, maybe the spy puts on a circus where each act presents a portion of a message that the audience can decode by the end of the show. The goal is to consider all kinds of fun possibilities.

TRANSFER THE AHHA MOMENT

Somewhere in the unencumbered playfulness, a real idea emerges. The essence of this real idea will translate to the real-life problem that must be solved. In this case, I’ll say that the decoded circus message is the one that will lead to my podcast solution. My goal is to translate the silly idea into my actual reality. So, here goes…

I will start salting into all of my content, coded messages that will increase employee’s ability to innovate, which will lead to business success. When the people find the secrets to success that I’ve layered into the content, they will be able to use the information at work, gain recognition for their ideas, and tell everyone they know about my podcast.

At this point, I have the start of a new imaginative idea that needs to be fleshed out in the real world. I’ve taken advantage of the metaphorical process to help me come up with the idea of salting in secrets to success in all my messages. My next steps will be to figure out how the specifics can be handled to make it a reality.

The key is recognizing that the salting in of secret success messages in each shared content would never have popped into my mind without first playing in the spy’s world. And, by exploring his scenario and trying to get the truth out about his circumstances, I now have a handle on what needs to be done. My new goal is to get the truth about creativity out to the business world so individuals can innovate.

© 2019 by CJ Powers

 

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Creative Ad Creation with Book Brush

Have you ever wanted to focus your time on creativity, using an intuitive online software system to build ads and promotional materials quickly?

I had the opportunity to try Book Brush and found it to be simple to use after the first ten minutes of dabbling with it. Book Brush is similar to Canva and Adobe Spark in that all three online software packages allow you to quickly build social media ads, blog and email headers, and promotional memes with ease. The biggest difference is that Book Brush is focused on helping authors.

Here is a sample promotion I built for my novel.

BookBrushImage-2019-4-25-18-857

It took me about three minutes to create the above promotional piece. I then spent another handful of minutes clicking on other templates for Facebook Ads, Pinterest posts, Instagram stories, email headers, etc. Within 10-15 minutes I had created a dozen various size ads.

The software allows you to swap out different book images, backgrounds, text containers and fonts, and buttons for use with online links. The process is very simple to use. The first step is selecting an ad size. You then choose a background followed by placing an image of your book.

Before placing the book, you have to upload your cover. Once it’s in the system, you select which direction you want it to face, whether or not it’s a 3D image, hardback or soft cover, positioned on a smartphone or tablet, or one of the other numerous choices. This is done with a simple click to select your product pose followed by another click to apply your cover image.

Typing text comes next. The system simplifies the process for those who just want to type and click. However, for those who want far more control, the system gives you about a dozen adjustable options. I found it easy to select a recommended standard and then tweak it to my satisfaction, rather than starting from scratch with a 100% custom idea.

Book Brush also has a Facebook Group of authors that use the software. They are there to help answer questions and share ideas with each other. Based on the comments, I’d say the group is very friendly and supportive of each other. So, if you’re an author, you might want to consider the great support system Book Brush has put in place for you.

For those who aren’t authors, the system is easy to use for creating an ad or promotional piece. The monthly fee is low and includes the license for supplied pictures. You can also upload your own pictures with ease.

The only downside of the system is a handful of things that are not intuitive, but I’ll assume that the folks at Book Brush will get to those areas soon, especially since they have consistently worked on improvements and additional functionality. In the meantime, make sure you save your work before clicking on a button that will take you from the workspace because you won’t be able to get back to it without losing your work.

© 2019 CJ Powers

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hopes that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Podcast: Exploration Ice Cream

I’ve been busy speaking on The Creative You podcast over the past handful of weeks. My recent speaking engagements have also been on the topic of creativity. Many that heard my recent talks have requested that I publish new posts to my blog on things a person can do to grow or expand their creativity.

Today, I’ve decided to respond with a technique designed to remove the ruts of our thinking patterns while brainstorming perspectives not yet considered. Instead of spending time writing out the technique, I’ve decided to share a podcast. I chatted with my host, Rebecca Boskovic, about the process of how to remove the ruts of repetitive thinking and how to practice the “Ice Cream” method.

To listen to the free episode, click here or go to https://www.patreon.com/cjpowers

As you listen to this episode, put yourself in Rebecca’s shoes as she walks through the process. Then you’ll be able to try the technique on your own using your real-world situation. And, if you like this episode and are interested in hearing other episodes, you can subscribe on that same page for a small fee of $4.00 (the cost of a cup of coffee) for four, half-hour episodes every month. Enjoy this free episode.

 

Become a Trouble-Shooting Hero at Work

Creativity

Think about the place where you work and that one guy who always seems to come to the rescue with the latest problem-solving idea. You know the guy that I’m talking about. The one who your boss, after hours of worrying himself and making the team sick with concern, brags about his hero and takes him out for ice cream after he saves the day, again.

Have you ever wanted to be that guy?

Have you ever wanted the boss to recognize you for saving the team’s life like he does with that guy?

Well, I finally sat down with that guy and asked him how he consistently pulled off miracles for the boss. After taking copious notes, I’m sharing his process today. Here are the three ideas worth embracing to become a future hero in your boss’ eyes.

DEVELOP CREATIVE THINKING SKILLS

Everyone is creative, but few practice and hone their creativity. How do I know this? First, I can see it, because it’s physical. The left side of the brain processes logic and the right side, creativity. Since most everyone was born with both sides of their brain, they have the elements necessary for creative thought. Unfortunately, the school system teaches logic and sometimes frowns on the creative.

I’ll never forget the instruction I was given on the day we colored our first art project in kindergarten. The teacher gave us numerous rules to follow, which greatly limited my perspective. She told us the sky was blue and the grass was green. She even held up each of the crayons that she thought we should use to color the sky and grass.

This limited perspective stopped us from coloring an orange or purple sunset. It stopped me from mixing colors in an attempt to find the right version of green to match the different colors of grass that I saw in Illinois, Kentucky, Colorado, and Florida. It also stopped us from using a combination of three different green crayons to show the subtleties of grass in the shade and the bright sun.

Individuals who excelled at school developed the left side of their brain far more than their right side. Most of them received great accolades for their achievements, but they also received a negative seed that may have festered in their life over the years. That seed possibly grew into a belief that they were not creative.

A businesswoman recently shared how she sent her kids to the best schools so they could have a well-rounded mindset when they entered the job market. When I queried her on what she did to train her kids in creative thinking, she shared how she left play time up to the kids.

I asked what kind of a surgeon her son might be if she had him trained in the arts and left the development of medical knowledge to himself. She laughed and told me how silly I was for suggesting that someone could train themselves in surgery. I chuckled and suggested how silly it was to think her kids could train themselves in creative thinking, troubleshooting, and innovation.

If we want to be our business’ next problem-solving hero, we must intentionally develop our creativity. The more help we get from creativity gurus, the greater our opportunity to thrive creatively. For weekly opportunities to develop creativity, I recommend subscribing to my podcast, THE CREATIVE YOU, where everyone grows creatively. Every episode provides instruction and life application for work, home, and community. Learn more about the podcast or subscribe by clicking here.

LEARN THAT ALL IDEAS ARE WORTH BUILDING ON

Trouble-shooting discussions or brainstorming meetings require one functioning rule to be in place. The simple rule is that participants are not allowed to say anything negative or bad about an idea that’s put on the table for discussion. I get asked all too often why someone can’t point out that an idea was a really bad one.

Here are just a few of the things that happen when negative comments are made:

  1. Everyone becomes more hesitant to risk offering a suggestion.
  2. The focus shifts from a solution orientation to everything that won’t work.
  3. The condemned idea can no longer be used as a jumping off point to the solution.
  4. The positive energy and hope in the room turn to futility.

When participants share the mindset that all answers are good and we continue to look for the next best idea, everyone finds a way that they can improve upon the latest great idea.

Reading biographies of inventors from days gone by, I couldn’t help but realize that some of the brainstormed ideas that appeared foolish, were perfectly placed to reset the inventor’s mindset, leading him or her to something that they would never have considered, which led to their breakthrough. In other words, the “bad” idea was necessary to find the best idea.

During my creative coaching sessions, I teach students to think, “yes, and…” This mindset forces them to add to what has been presented and avoid taking away from any previous idea. The practice also makes the room a safe place for sharing ideas that might be on the edge of sanity like the original concept of creating an electric lightbulb.

GAIN CONFIDENCE IN YOUR CREATIVE ABILITIES

Creativity is a process that requires practice. The more hours a person puts into developing their creative skills, the more proficient they become. Also, the more a person plays with the mixing of concrete and intangible ideas, the easier the person will be able to create useful ideas and solutions in the workplace. The good news is that creativity can be developed and practiced in the mind as well as in the person’s physical surroundings.

One form of practicing creativity for real-world use includes the assessment of repetitive events that need to change. Since we know the cause of the problem, we are able to think about it in advance of when circumstances would typically play out, giving us time to change our actions in a way that impacts the natural outcome or scenario faced. Being armed ahead of time with a potential solution builds confidence.

Family events make a perfect example. Let’s say that food is always a part of family parties and Uncle Harry experiences gas issues after eating apple pie. And of course, Aunt Mabel always brings her famous apple pie. Since we know this will happen, we can practice our creativity by thinking through scenarios that could be instigated to make sure Uncle Harry gets a different dessert or Aunt Mabel is inspired to try making a blueberry pie—or a French Silk pie.

By creating a list of plausible cause and effect scenarios to accommodate a new outcome, there’s a far better possibility that the family would support an idea that ensures no gas is passed at the next party. Taking time to creatively plan ahead for a meeting or family event, we are able to build confidence with our plausible solutions and shine like a hero when the time is right. This type of practice will raise our confidence level because we’ll be prepared for the event.

Based on the above three points, it’s clear that creativity is not artistry.

Yes, artistry can take advantage of creativity, but creativity is not artistry. Creativity is a unique method of problem-solving that generates some form of innovation as a solution.

If the innovation is a product or marketable service, it might require a level of artistry for its promotion or packaging. However, creativity in of itself is not artistry, and once most people understand the distinctive difference, they are more likely to practice and grow their confidence in their newly developed creative skills.

© 2019 by CJ Powers
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The Christmas Truce of 1914

Christmas_Truce_1914.jpgA bullet split through the frozen ground and ricocheted into the trench. The British soldiers shifted position, their feet stirred the sloppy straw-laced mud as they found their footing to return fire. None of the World War I soldiers wanted to spend their Christmas Eve dodging bullets. They preferred thinking about their loved ones back home and the traditional celebrations handed down through previous generations.

Lifting binoculars to his eyes, Captain Sir Edward Hulse kept a keen eye on the Germans. The 350-400 yard no-man’s-land between the British and German trenches reduced the number of casualties and made any form of pursuit suicidal. Captain Hulse knew the battle would be drawn out and slip into Christmas Day.

When the British soldiers stood for arms at six o’clock that prominent morning, the number of shots taken were greatly reduced from the previous day. By eight o’clock, only a few scattered, single shots could be heard off to the side where the border patrol stood watch. The main fighting zone held a natural truce that was neither dictated by the British or the Germans. The eye’s of the soldiers reflected a sense of peace that morning, allowing each one to ponder gratitude for the good within the lives of their families.

Germans Extend Grace

Captain Hulse was startled by movement out of the corner of his eye. He lifted the binoculars and spied four Germans who had climbed out of their trenches and headed toward the British.  None carried weapons. He watched as they slowed to a stop in the middle of no-mans-land, making sure not to cross into British territory.

Captain Hulse wondered what message they might have carried and quickly ordered two men to meet the Germans in the middle unarmed. None wanted to take such a risk on Christmas, forcing Captain Hulse to climb out of the trench and traverse the frozen ground alone. The walk felt longer than it was, knowing that 100,000 or so men from both sides were watching every step he took.

The Captain was greeted by three privates and a stretcher bearer. One German shared how they felt compelled to wish the Captain and his men a happy Christmas. The four Germans had put their lives on the line, trusting the British to keep the unstated truce. The German spokesperson shared that the men personally had no feeling of enmity against the British, but they were soldiers who had to obey their superiors.

The conversation became complex as the Captain and soldiers discussed the terrible wounds made by the rifle bullets. They all agreed that the high-velocity bullets with a pointed nose were designed to inflict wounds at short range. They also agreed that the old South African round nosed bullets made a cleaner hole. The conversation continued for a half hour, at which time a German, who saw great similarities between men, suggested that both sides return unarmed in the afternoon to the no-mans-land to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas Party for All

Later in the afternoon, a large group of unarmed Germans entered no-man’s-land. One of the German snipers led his fellow soldiers in the singing of Christmas carols, while they watched the unarmed British move toward them. Soon they sang a chorus or two of O Tannenbaum and the British joined in with the English translation of O Christmas Tree. The men marveled at their unified ability to sing the same song with different words. Laughter and handshakes followed.

The party lasted a couple hours and many exchanged gifts, based on what they had on them at the time. Some exchanged pipe tobacco, cigarettes, pens, pins, alcohol, and other small paraphernalia. Everyone had a merry time.

A 19-year-old private named Henry William Williams smoked a pipe during the party that was given to him by Princess Mary. In the pipe was German tobacco gifted to him from one of the enemy soldiers. They had met after a joyous chorus, shook hands and exchanged gifts or souvenir trinkets. Both gifts were heartily received.

When the day grew short, Captain Hulse ordered his men back to the trenches.

An Extended Truce

The Germans promised that they would maintain the truce indefinitely. Captain Hulse said that the truce had ended, but the Germans persisted that they would not continue the fight unless the British fired first. The Captain clarified the end of the truce and continued walking back to the trenches. A short time later a few British soldiers took plum pudding to the Germans, received thanks, and returned to their trenches. Not a single shot was fired for the rest of the evening. Neither side wanted to fire on the men that they had met personally.

The night watch hours were also silent. Not a single weapon was raised against the opponent. The men were comfortable in the aura of peace that had befallen all soldiers. Several men wrote letters to their mothers during the still of the night, speaking highly of the men they had met and the miracle truce that transpired. Those writing letters never fathomed how their letters, years later, would testify to the Christmas miracle—thanks to World War I historians that documented the war efforts.

Not a single man was willing to break the miraculous gift of the truce that surpassed their understanding. They embraced the silent night with thankfulness in their hearts.

Relieved

Quietness filled the wore-torn battlefield late into the evening. The Grenadiers arrived and relieved the British soldiers. By first light, the Grenadiers stood and fired upon the Germans. A new battle had broken out and thousands of lives were lost. But the miracle story of the truce was remembered and retold every year by those who understood the power of Christmas and the joy of those who participate.

Copyright 2018 by CJ Powers

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Three Creative Journals Worth Exploring

I recently received three journals from the Ellie Claire imprint and was very impressed by the quality of the books. Not only do the books lay flat for the writer, but they use a very high grade of paper for those of us who like to sketch with ink. I even used watercolor markers without worrying about bleed through on a subsequent page.

fc3755_8ed06bba0d37467e94c4bd607ce3b518_mv2The Illuminate Your Story Journal had quotes and scriptures salted throughout the book. After every couple of writing pages, the book instructs the writer with how to create illuminated letters used in ancient times. The steps were easy to follow and helped me build my bullet journal lettering vocabulary of styles and fonts. Based on the book and my new abilities, the art of illumination is certainly not lost today, as I once thought.

The hard cover was designed to last a lifetime and is rugged enough to survive more drops than I’d make. The texture and embossing of the book are also of a high quality, making you feel like you own something worthy of your words. The artistic value is amazing and the elastic band to hold the book closed helps protect the pages when the book takes a tumble. The book also has a place saving ribbon and a pocket for collected ideas in the back.

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fc3755_0695f523a03a4f5fabd6f848fdb42986_mv2The Faith and Lettering book is a little larger in size and offers lessons on typography. It only took me a few minutes to understand one of the designs and immediately start using it in my daily business notes. The book also gives professional tips on how to draw flourishes, arrows, and banners.

One of the most fun aspects of the book is the training pages that encompass line art, a graphic, banner, and a mixture of type fonts using a decorative verse. The page shows the final work, provides a lightly traceable version for practice, and gives enough space for a couple efforts of your own.

Not only did I have fun practicing the various styles combined with imagery, but I found myself having memorized the verse just from the writing process. I also had the imagery of it ingrained in my brain so I could review it in my mind’s eye whenever I chose. Prior to doodling in this journal, I had no idea how quickly memorization could happen as a result of this artistic process.

fc3755_92690eef39404e29ac5d755c19f85c77_mv2The Illustrated Word was the third book I reviewed. It took me back in time to the art of the Renaissance. This coloring journal had numerous illustrations ready for my choice colors. It also had a fully colored segment on the opposite page to see what the artist thought to use as an appropriate color palette.

The book had far more pages for writing than the other books and included a full-color illustration on every spread from the Museum of the Bible archives. The artistry illustrated from hundreds of years ago was amazing, and the intricate handwritten words brought an understanding of the importance of words to bear.

All three books were masterfully crafted and raised my interest in the Ellie Claire imprint. I went to EllieClaire.com to see the hundred plus additional artistic products, most of which are worth far more than its price tag.

So, check out the three new journals and let me know how much you enjoy them.

Copyright 2018 by CJ Powers
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hopes that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Remnant has Launched

There is a small group of “believers” who are pouring their lives into the secular marketplace. The impact of the group is growing, and while the general public are embracing their message of hope, others who defend the “Evangelical lifestyle” over all else are attacking the remnant.

Lauren Daigle has a clear vision to reach those “outside of the church walls.” Her recent appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Jimmy Fallon was well received by the general public, but those who are trying to keep the Evangelical lifestyle alive (I’ll refer to them as the ELAs) warned the “church” that her secular venues might lead her astray, causing Daigle to abandon her worship roots to become a secular artist.

The odd thing is that Daigle is a Contemporary Christian Artist through and through. Her latest album “Look Up Child” reached #3 on Billboards Top 200 because its message was universal and appealed to the masses. Unfortunately, Daigle’s performance on NBC received criticism on social media. Most argued that Daigle was wrong to appear on the show because Ellen is a lesbian.

Daigle responded to some of the criticism during an interview on WAY-FM Radio, “I think the second we start drawing lines around which people are able to be approached and which aren’t, we’ve already completely missed the heart of God.”

Jeremy Lynch appears to be another member of this up and coming remnant. His passion is making movies that reach the general public with messages of hope and love. Lynch is a Millennial filmmaker who got his start working crew for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. After getting his feet wet, he became an editor and worked on the visual effects for The Ryan Car Show. Most recently he wrote, directed, and produced his first short film The Scavenger, which can be seen on Amazon Prime Video. The Scavenger is a story of transformational love that changes a selfish man into a self-sacrificing man—a clear demonstration of unconditional love.

Lynch is not immune to ELA attacks, but has far less to worry about since his passion has always been focused on the general marketplace. Most ELAs have a penchant for going after those well established in the “Kingdom” because of what some call a “we/they” mentality. While the Bible directs Christians to “go” into the marketplace, ELAs believe Christians should “separate” themselves and create their own marketplace, which some see as a contradiction to the “Great Commission.”

While the argument about “separating from the world” versus “being in the world, but not of it” will continue to be argued for years to come, high profile people like Selena Gomez are taking advantage of this new uprising of the remnant.

Selena_GomezGomez has promoted Daigle’s album multiple times on social media to her 144.4 million followers. Daigle’s top three songs have been listened to by millions within the general public, creating one of the greatest witnessing tools of this past decade. Yet, the ELAs are more concerned that Daigle might create less worship songs, rather than rejoice in the millions who have heard her message of hope.

Unity within the church and the supporting of those who go into the marketplace must be revived for denominations to survive these changing times. The question is, will the ELAs empower this revival or will they become modern day Pharisees?

No matter what the outcome, millions will continue to be touched by the remnant.

Copyright © 2018 by CJ Powers