You, Too, Can Have Breakthrough Ideas!

01.11.2017 |

Episode #1 of the course How to have breakthrough ideas by Eileen Purdy


Let’s face it, the internet has leveled the playing field when it comes to getting ahead on the merits of what you know. The amount of information available at the world’s fingertips has changed the game. Success now is more and more contingent on how you can set yourself apart. Your ability to confidently think differently and have breakthrough ideas is one way to do just that!

But creative ability and confidence don’t come to you by accident. The fact that you’re investing in yourself with this and other Highbrow courses shows that you know that and are willing to do what it takes. Nice! Today, you’ll learn how to get started and why it’s within your control to have breakthrough ideas on a regular basis.


The Classic Question: Nature vs. Nurture

Science has had a difficult time pinning down exactly why some people have amazing outside-the-box ideas and others don’t—why some people ooze creativity and others seem satisfied with the status quo. Most hypotheses come down on one side or the other of nature vs. nurture. Either a person is born with creativity or it is something they learn. Scientists have found evidence favoring both and neither one exclusively.

Dana W. Moore and the team at the Department of Neurology and Neuroscience at Cornell University discovered that the brains of the artistically creative individuals they studied had a particular difference—specifically, a smaller corpus callosum—that may enhance creativity. Additionally, Szabolcs Keri of the National Institute of Psychiatry and Addictions in Budapest suggests there are differences in the way certain areas of the brain communicate with each other in highly creative individuals.

On the other hand, research by psychologist Robert Epstein has found that creativity can be a learned skill leading to the creation of novel ideas. Ginamarie Scott and colleagues at the University of Oklahoma also found that creativity can be stimulated through a variety of skills, supportive environments, and repetition.

So, where does that leave us? Well, in a good spot indeed! As science continues to parse out the specific variables involved in creativity, it appears that your creative capacity is anything but predetermined! It’s safe to say that a combination of genetics, environment, and hard work all play a huge role in your creativity and your aptitude for breakthrough ideas. Improving your creativity is totally possible. You can control or influence most of the factors!

Changing your genetic makeup is outside the scope of this course, but you can definitely do something about your skills, supportive environment, and the amount of work you put toward your breakthrough idea goals.


Getting Started

The first way to influence and uplevel your supportive environment is to adopt a creative lifestyle. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to move to San Francisco, London, or Tokyo—though that wouldn’t hurt, according to Eric Werner, author of The Geography of Genius. What I mean by creative lifestyle is more of an attitude and openness. It’s important to know that the most successful, prolific, and brilliant thinkers in history had many things going for them. It was the combination and convergence of many variables that facilitated their breakthrough ideas and Aha! moments, not single characteristics or moments.

But before you start to think a creative lifestyle is out of your reach for whatever reason, let me share one more thing. You can use your constraints to your benefit! Constraints, or the presence of parameters, can be your secret weapon when it comes to creativity. Studies show that the presence of constraints or obstacles can be extraordinarily helpful. They can elicit more creativity because they prompt you to look at the “big picture.” You are then forced to make connections between things that weren’t immediately, easily, and obviously connected.

One exercise to help stimulate this phenomena is to think of a problem you are facing. Now, using the power of constraints, approach your problem with the parameter that you must spend $1 million to solve it. This forces you to think in ways previously blind to you. Constraints don’t always have to be limiting. Breakthroughs aren’t far behind!

Tomorrow’s lesson will introduce a concrete daily exercise that will help get you started on the journey toward your very own “Eureka!” moment.


Recommended book

The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World’s Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley by Eric Werner


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