Your chaotic brain - image for article by Greg Alder

Imagine that your brain is a room with a hundred billion mousetraps.

Now drop a ping pong ball into that room. What happens?

Well, what follows is total chaos. Hundreds of thousands of mousetraps spring wildly into the air. They randomly land on other mousetraps. These spring into the air. They crash into more mousetraps.

Now millions of mousetraps leap simultaneously. There’s no predictability, no control. It’s loud and it’s mad and it’s exactly the opposite of the orderly thought process at the heart of science, mathematics and logic. There’s definitely a place for logic, but for breakthroughs you need chaos. Why?

Let’s say that each mousetrap represents one of your brain’s 100 billion neurons. And let’s say that each neuron holds a piece of information – a fact or a memory.

The ping pong ball is a new thought, a new piece of information.

What’s happening is that this new thought starts careening around your brain.

Every time it makes contact with a neuron, your brain is trying to make a connection between this new thought and an existing one.

Sometimes your brain is doing this to simply identify where to file this new thought. It’s trying to make sense, to give this new thought context.

At other times, your brain will connect the new thought with a random and unrelated thought. This random connection will be your next brilliant idea, your next innovation.

Now, here’s the thing. You didn’t drop that ping pong ball into the room of mousetraps. Your brain did that, subconsciously. More than likely, it did it at night whilst you were sleeping.

At night is when your brain does its housekeeping, filing the day’s new information.

Sometimes your brain gets a crazy idea. “Instead of filing this new thought over here with similar thoughts, what if I file it way over here? With something completely unrelated?”

When your brain makes one of these unexpected connections, it will sometimes wake you from your slumber. You wake with the answer to something that’s been troubling you – something you couldn’t solve consciously.

If you only have two bits of information stored in your brain, it can only make one connection. Your brain can’t surprise you if there’s only one possible connection.

However, look what happens when you have more bits of information stored in your brain.

The new ideas, the breakthroughs, become almost limitless.

Now, what if it were possible to consciously force yourself to make hundreds of random connections, the kind a ping pong ball starts?

Well, you can. You can train your conscious brain to make the kinds of connections your subconscious brain does all the time.

The advantage of this is obvious. Instead of waiting for the big idea, you can make it happen on demand.

How do you do it?

There are hundreds of creative thinking tools that simulate the randomness of connections your subconscious brain makes.

These tools force you to make connections between two unrelated thoughts or facts or experiences. There’s a perfect tool for every problem.

In a couple of hours you can learn to master a creative thinking tool and then use it to solve a business problem in a hundred unexpected, even game-changing ways.

Your brain is remarkable when left to its own devices. It can be even more remarkable when you learn how to drop that ping pong ball amongst the mousetraps.

(If you’d like to learn some creative thinking techniques, I have packed about 30 into Leonardo’s Box of Tricks. You’ll learn when and how to use each one in my upcoming book, Hello Leonardo: Reignite your inner genius. If you can’t wait, I’ll run a workshop for your business.)

Photo by Dayne Topkin via Unsplash

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