Examining Business Boundaries

Many business owners think of their business in terms of what they do on a daily basis e.g. farmers milk cows, printers print brochures and jewellers make jewellery. A better way of thinking about your business is to ask the question ‘what is it (of value) that I create and who helps me to do this?’ Any other person or business that helps you in terms of creating value, and hence money for your pocket, is in fact an extension of your business.

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How Much Of Your Brain Do You Use?

99% of your brain activity is responsible for your creativity. The trouble is that you are only likely to be aware of the other 1%!

Research suggests that all of your conscious thought (language, problem-solving, senses etc)  makes up less than 1% of your brain activity. So while the old saying that “you only use 10% of your brain” is most definitely false, it’s amazing that the vast majority of your brain activity is actually going on without you knowing about it.

The generation of new ideas is one thing which happens under wraps . Ideas are generated when your brain takes existing knowledge and memories, and forms a new neural connection which did not previously exist, thereby linking together and building on concepts in a new way, which sometimes generates a solution to a challenge (a new idea).

Your brain works at varying levels during the course of a day. The linking of new neural connections (and hence the generation of ideas) happens best when your brain is in a  more relaxed state . If you are extremely focused on something,  then these activities actually put your brain in a higher level of activity and require greater energy resources. This in turn hinders your brain’s ability to form new connections and generate ideas. So if you work long hours or remain focused for long periods of time  you’re harming you brain’s ability to come up with creative ideas. It is this idea of being relaxed/focused behaviour that has partly led to the creation of the left brain/right brain model.

To improve your idea generation ability, it is therefore important to give your mind an opportunity to get into a relaxed state. Many of history’s eureka moments  have occurred  when no one was expecting them due to their mind being elsewhere. Using brain scans, scientists have been able to show that our brains are more able to generate ideas and come up with better solutions to problems when it has been rested. Here are just a few things that might help your brain attain that relaxed state:

  • Sleeping
  • Showering
  • Exercising
  • Daydreaming
  • Doing anything that  lets your mind wander

So whilst you might not be conscious of how much of your brain you use you are actually using all of it and by relaxing a little you might get better at generating ideas. Give it a try!

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Problem Solving Through Boundary Relaxation

Boundary examinationIn business we often seem to be constrained by all sorts of things from statutory rules (red tape), availability of resources and even our own thinking. Sometimes we just make things far too complex.

I remember a time when I was at school (quite a while ago now) when I often ended up in detention after school. Often we sat staring at the wall waiting for detention to end (and sometime I used to take sweets from the jar in the head mistress’ office (but thats another story). Sometime we would, however, be left in the care of a teacher who tried to be too clever. One day we were asked to write an essay. ‘Can I write about a red London Bus?’ I asked. My friend has already been primed to ask about writing an essay all about a green London Bus (you can almost see what is coming can’t you?). The teacher agreed.

My essay started a little like the following:

Once upon a time there was a red London Bus. The red London Bus had four wheels and an engine. Now this red London Bus with four wheels an engine and a poster on the side was travelling down the road ….  

You can see how this would build into a story that would infuriate a teacher. Don’t forget there was a green version also!

A pair of infuriating schoolboys had simplified the rules surrounding essay writing for that particular occasion and we had written essays that conformed to the requirements. We had relaxed the boundaries and made life simple whilst the teacher had made some assumptions, he had not tested the ‘givens’, the rules that normally apply in these cases. He could (should) have given us a topic, made us create an essay plan and stipulated the length of the essay.

This was a little like a business transaction in which one side tries to test and possibly manipulate the apparent constraints upon them whilst the other party makes assumptions that are based on previous experiences.

So next time you have a tricky business issue to solve, try seeing if there is any ‘wriggle room’, any way that some of the boundaries can be stretched or even removed. It is often worthwhile trying a little boundary relaxation.

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