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Archive for the ‘stress’ Category

Empathic Empowerment Key to Transcending Innovation-Stifling Environments

Posted by Plish on November 23, 2017

Humans have a limited amount of bandwidth available for innovation.  Stress and creative thinking are intimately inversely related in our brains.  Increase stress levels and creative problem solving capability goes down.

People who live in high stress situations,  who face financial challenges daily, who are constantly bombarded by stimuli that evoke negative emotions, have a difficult time  thinking creatively.  This is because we expend brainpower when we have to cope with stress.

It’s also typically true that the best solutions to problems come from those people who are immersed in those problems.  The ‘insider’ is usually better able to come up with solutions than an ‘outsider’.  But there’s a catch.  Because of this innovation/stress relationship, if ‘insider’ people are overly stressed, they can’t come up with solutions to the problems that surround them.  So, the best solutions are prevented from materializing by the very environment that needs to be changed.

The first step then to  creatively and successfully solving problems in high stress environments is to help individuals deal with the stress.

A non-profit called EMPath is doing that by using brain science to enable people to deal with life’s pressures and take control of their lives — even if it’s one small step at a time.

When people are more in control, then stress levels go down.  Stress goes down, the brain energy bank doesn’t get depleted, and creative problem solving ability can go up.  The result is that people can now think of ways to improve their lives, their families and their neighborhoods.

During this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s make  a point of living our thankfulness by living with empathy, empowering others, lessening the burdens that people feel.

The result is more clarity, more peace, more potential unleashed to make the world a better place.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Posted in culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Social Innovation, stress, The Human Person, Wellness, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Being Thankful Helps Your Health and Creativity

Posted by Plish on November 23, 2011

There is a recent study that says that giving thanks helps reset our emotions and actually makes us feel happier.  Feeling happier and more centered means we’re coming from a more relaxed place, and it’s from these happy places that creativity flows more easily.  The article gives a great suggestion for making sure that we keep a thankful disposition: A Thankfulness Journal.   This is something that I am going to make a concerted effort to focus on more frequently.

I also want to share this post from two years ago.  It’s about changing the world via our thankfulness.  It’s also a great tool to use in conjunction with a Thankfulness Journal.   It’s called the “Thankfulness Process for Designing a Better World.”  

Click for Full Size

Click Image for Full Size

 Thank YOU for your support through the years. I truly am grateful.  May you all have a wonder-filled and joyous Thanksgiving Holiday!

Posted in Creative Environments, creativity, Emotions, Health Concerns, Nature of Creativity, Research, stress, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Want to Keep Your Empathic Edge For Innovation? Keep Your Blood Pressure in Check

Posted by Plish on November 13, 2011

We all know the effects of high blood pressure: increased heart disease, kidney disease,  stroke.  Now there is one more thing to add to the mix: Emotional Apathy.

Research shows that increased blood pressure is associated with the deadened ability to pick up on emotional cues.  Without the ability to pick up on emotional cues, tension and pain points camouflage into the background.  When everything becomes vanilla, finding the insight that foments the next great thing becomes all the more difficult.

So how do you keep your empathic edge?

Research shows there are effective approaches (outside of drugs) that are  pretty easy for anyone to implement.  Remember the Blood Pressure Control MEME:

Minimize exposure to first and second-hand smoke

Exercise regularly


Eat healthy

Humans are wonderful innovation machines, but like any machine, they need to be maintained.  Keep an eye on your blood pressure and your ability to see emotions in others will stay sharp – as will your ability to be innovative.

Posted in Behavioral Science, cognitive studies, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, Health Concerns, innovation, meditation, problem solving, Research, Service Design, Society, stress, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Breaking Down Creative Blockages and Dealing With Stress

Posted by Plish on March 11, 2011

We all get stuck.  

Dr. Stanley Block, over at Psychology Today, has a great process for breaking through the blocks, or rather the box that surrounds and constrains our psyches  –  in three minutes or less.  Rather than reproduce it here, I’m including a link to the process that you can read here. 

I’m a strong believer that the more relaxed we are, the better the quality of ideas.  Dealing with stress is important if you want to stay on top of your game. Here’s another interview with Dr. Herbert Benson,  founder of the Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.

What do you do to deal with stress and keep the creative juices flowing?

Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, cognitive studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, Interviews, meditation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Science, stress, The Human Person, Wellness, Workplace Creativity, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Want to Increase Creativity and Innovation? Touch and be Touched

Posted by Plish on August 5, 2010

We’ve all experienced the gentle pat on the back, or touch on the hand when things aren’t going well.  Well, it seems that these touches are helpful in more ways than we typically think.

Research has shown that touching is helpful in  a myriad of ways.

 According to the article:

A warm touch seems to set off the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps create a sensation of trust, and to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In the brain, prefrontal areas, which help regulate emotion, can relax, freeing them for another of their primary purposes: problem solving. In effect, the body interprets a supportive touch as “I’ll share the load.”

“We think that humans build relationships precisely for this reason, to distribute problem solving across brains,” said James A. Coan, a a psychologist at the University of Virginia. “We are wired to literally share the processing load, and this is the signal we’re getting when we receive support through touch.”

Some of my thoughts on applying this?

  1. Team building events can accomplish a lot more than just bring people together, but…
  2. Building teams needs to be done all the time.  There needs to be an active, ongoing building of esprit de corps, but…
  3. Perspectives regarding the touching of coworkers might need to be reassessed.  It’s interesting to think that current  ‘hands off’ practices might actually be hurting innovation.
  4. It seems obvious to say, but personal lives, the relationships people have outside of work, do make a difference in the workplace.
  5. People who are more tactile, more ‘touchy-feely’ might be a good addition to a team.
  6. Although it’s not directly mentioned in the article, the touching phenomenon might help explain the benefits of why having pets is a good thing.  Pets in the workplace, anyone?
  7. Customer service (think healthcare) should be open to allowing and fostering touching in the proper contexts so as to better treat people as whole beings.  This could also give customer service people more credence and build better bonds between customer and company.
  8. Massage therapy shouldn’t be seen as a luxury, but as a necessity in the workplace.
  9. I’d be interested to know if things like brushing hair, or touches like those experienced at beauty parlors or hair dressers, has positive effect.   It does in senior care facilities, why not use it in other places?
  10. How might technology be used to foster human interaction and touch?

What are your thoughts on this?

Posted in Authenticity, Biology, creativity, culture of innovation, Evolution, innovation, love, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Society, stress, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Embracing Scope Creep

Posted by Plish on July 23, 2010

We’ve all experienced it.

We’re cranking along in a project and someone comes in with a ‘brilliant’ idea or a new documentation requirement. 

AUGHH!  Time is ticking, money is being spent.  Why couldn’t this have been brought up at the beginning of the project?!?!

There are basically three responses:

  1. Ignore the request and move forward promising to fold features into the next version
  2. Agree to the request and try and get more time/money
  3. Agree to parts of the request and move the rest into the next version.

All three of these cause angst to the team, to management, and perhaps even the users.  They result in more time and money being spent.  Creativity likewise drops as people go into crunch mode trying to accomplish more with less. 

It’s Scope Creep.

So, why would anyone want to embrace this?

Let’s step back a moment.

We all have a tendency to look at projects as totally linear processes.  Everyone  agrees up front what needs to be done,  money is allotted, a timeline is set and everyone is off to the races.  The project moves into execution mode – efficient execution.

But, we also know that projects aren’t linear phenomena.  They’re a combination of fits and starts, looping back, problems and solutions.

So what happens?

When we first embark on projects, we keep our fingers crossed and hope that nothing gets in the way of launching the product  – that there is no Scope Creep.  As the project progresses we continue with the same mentality, constantly moving forward but at the same time looking over our shoulders, trying to anticipate what might occur before it does.   We hope nothing will knock us off our tenacious trek towards launch – especially no new product requirements.   Nevertheless, these new requirements seem to come and wreak havoc. 

But, there is a bright side.  

Scope Creep is more than something that should be avoided and/or grudgingly dealt with because where there is Scope Creep, there are opportunities to Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Environments, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Project Management, stress, Tactics, Team-Building, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Finding Trends Through Music – The Need to Breathe

Posted by Plish on September 8, 2009

While listening to the song Breathe by Anna Nalick it suddenly struck me that this isn’t the first song called Breathe that I’ve heard recently.  So I did a search.

The results are interesting.  Since the 1970’s there have been 30 major releases of songs entitled Breathe.  This doesn’t include tunes with the words ‘Breathe’ or ‘Breath’ in longer titles.  The percentage breakdown is as follows:

graph of percentages

Over 73 percent of all songs entitled Breathe  have been released since 2000.  Forty percent of all songs have occurred since 2005.

What does this point to?

I created a mindmap to categorize what the word ‘breathe’ might be connected to.

Click for Full Size

Click for Full Size

When I got stuck I did a quick search of idiomatic use of Breatheto see if any meanings were missed and there were a couple so I added them to the mindmap. We could learn even more by looking at the lyrics of every song, but I don’t think it’s necessary to dive in that deeply. 

Let’s take a breath and look at what this all means…

The word ‘breathe’ is a verb.  When it is used on its own in the English language it is used in the imperative form.  It’s basically a command.  What are the results of following the order?

Rest, relaxation, grounding, slowing down, functioning properly, etc.

Why do we need to slow down?

The 21st century has brought an increase Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Case Studies, Design, Health Concerns, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, meditation, Mind Maps, problem solving, stress, The Human Person, Trends, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Can a Company Claim to be Innovative and Lay People Off En Masse?

Posted by Plish on July 20, 2009

Mass Layoff Even History for the US

Mass Layoff Even History for the US

One of the things we hear a lot of now is how companies are laying people off.  You can see the ongoing statistics here.

During these massive layoffs we often hear supposedly innovative companies touting their innovative abilities and how they need to do more with less resources, i.e. less people. 

But the question is, how is laying people off an innovative solution?

It’s not!

It’s the obvious solution! 

The reasoning is simple.  With less cash coming in, minimize the outflow of cash – let people go. 

There’s nothing innovative there at all!

Why is it so important for a company to be innovative with keeping their people?

Doing so retains vital knowledge and keeps up morale in all employees.

When massive amounts of people are let go, knowledge gaps are created in the company.  Those gaps, if they ever do get filled, require energy and time to get refilled.  That breadth of experience that could contribute to the building up of the company has been purged and the net result is a loss of the potential for creative solutions now, when they’re needed.

In addition, employees  know that the typically used (but woefully un-innovative) solution to dwindling profits is to lay people off.  This breeds insecurity and lack of loyalty – two things that severely undercut homegrown innovation.

So what should be done?

Since every company is different the solutions will be different, but one possible route is to consult the very people about to be laid off.  Work with them to find a solution, ask them what could be done to maximize profits even with a lousy economy.

The answers might not only result in retained people, but increases in the bottom line. 

Now, THAT would be innovation!

Posted in Creative Environments, culture of innovation, innovation, problem solving, stress, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Concentration Key to Creative Problem Solving

Posted by Plish on May 5, 2009

Your Brain has Limited Bandwidth (michael plishka 2009)

Your Brain has Limited Bandwidth (michael plishka 2009)


“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

-Alexander Graham Bell

Read an article that said that the Internet was reaching its limits.  Bandwidth is not infinite after all.

It makes sense – there are only so many connections, only so much information can flow through those channels.

Yet, when it comes to our magnificent brains we think we’re immune to bandwidth constraints.  

We’re not.  (By the way, thinking about bandwidth constraints uses up bandwidth!)

Typical scenario:

You’re working on a problem.  Two minutes into it the phone rings.  You glance at the Caller-ID, don’t recognize it and go back to your problem…Email comes in…quick check…good news…okay back to the problem….

10 minutes pass but during that time you thought also about dinner tonight, the other project, and the hang nail on your left pinky….

SHOOT!  You forgot to call the supplier…back on the horn…

And so it goes… on…

and on….

Technology enabled free-flow of information, demands of friends and family, physical ailments, things I want to do for fun-  all compete for bandwidth in our brains.  To make matters worse, when we don’t get the solutions we want, stress is the end result – which has the effect of minimizing your already finite and overused mental bandwidth.

What is the solution?

There’s much you can do, but the most important is to stop multi-tasking.  Multi-tasking isn’t efficient. If you don’t believe me call your friend to discuss Relativity while driving in a snow storm on icy roads and your windshield wipers out.  Better yet, call from the ditch – it’s safer there.

According to this great article on concentration, research has shown it takes up to 20 minutes for the brain to “reboot” after an interruption.  In other words, in the scenario mentioned earlier, with the exception of the first couple of minutes, you never recovered after the first phone call and you spent no, really fruitful, thinking time on your problem.

I once read about a Nobel Prize winner  who, when asked his secret to solving mind-bending problems said something like, “I can concentrate on a problem for 10 minutes.” (By the way, if you know who said this, I’d love to re-find the reference)

That’s all it took – 10 minutes(!) at a pop to solve problems that most of us wouldn’t even try to solve.  The difference is that he truly, deeply, committed ALL his mental and physical bandwidth to his problem for 10 uninterrupted minutes.

His mind became the intense lens of focus and concentration that Alexander Graham Bell spoke of. 

What else can we do to become disciplined in concentration and focus?

Some suggestions:

  • Take the phone off the hook
  • Make a rule to only answer emails at designated times
  • Meditate
  • Plan breaks at specific intervals (90 minute chunks of time are good)
  • Eat healthy
  • Stay hydrated
  • ??

What else would you suggest?

Posted in Biology, cognitive studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, idea generation, innovation, meditation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, stress, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Meditating/Praying Your Way to Creativity

Posted by Plish on February 24, 2009

Patricia Spurio meditates while having her EEG measured. Credit: © Maharishi University of Management

Patricia Spurio meditates while having her EEG measured. Credit: © Maharishi University of Management


Learning, living, partying, studying, depression, socializing….


Researchers have shown that college students who meditated on a regular basis for 10 weeks had more integrated brains, were less jumpy,  and less sleepy. 

“The pressures of college can be overwhelming-44% of college students binge drink, 37% report use of illegal drugs, 19% report clinical depression, and 13% report high levels of anxiety,” said Fred Travis, lead author and director of the MUM brain research center.

Travis said the data from the non-meditating control group showed the detrimental effects of college life on the students. “The control group had lower Brain Integration Scale scores, indicating their brain functioning was more fragmented-which can lead to more scattered and disorganized thinking and planning. The controls also showed an increase in sympathetic reactivity and sleepiness, which can correspond to greater anxiety, worry and irritability” he said.

The lesson?

When in high stress situations humans need to find their centers, get in touch with peace and quiet, become a monk for 20 minutes or so.

The ability to think clearly is key to the success of athletes, businessmen; all people who have to make good decisions and/or perform certain tasks flawlessly.

To be creative/innovative means being able to see relationships where seemingly none exist, to ponder new realities. 

Try watching two bubbles of foam on the waves of a churning sea. 


Drop a pebble in a still pond and observe…

What do you do to find your center?

How does clarity of mind impact your creative endeavors?

How can industry improve creativity in light of this research?

Posted in Authenticity, Brain Stimulation Tools, cognitive studies, Health Concerns, innovation, meditation, Nature of Creativity, prayer, problem solving, Research, Spirituality, stress, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

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