10 Playful Pathways into Imagination

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Luckily, the human brain comes with unique equipment to free your mind, solve problems, or create adventures many crave but most people fail to imagine for themselves. Follow one or two  new neuron pathways today and watch limiting habits fade as rigid ruts yield to infinite imaginings. It’s really about moving from STUCK to UNSTUCK through playful possibilities!  (Can you identify with this video?) Imagination – in its highest form of investigation, means doing whatever it takes to “get it done.”

When mentoring leads to mind-guiding then we both teach new neuron pathways and learn about innovative possibilities from others. Start such an exchange with a young child and you’ll already be on your way.

Last time my six-year old grandson was here, he directed me in a play he wrote and we both had so much fun, that Hendrik decided to become a director when he grows up. Next time we’re together my five year year old granddaughter plans to get Nana hopping to her latest   dance moves, and both children promised to teach piano from what they already know. Can you see why these mentoring sessions spill buckets of imagination into our world. And you too can find your imagination’s sweet spot, right where you are and at any given moment. How so?

Simply do one thing in a new way and voila – you have just created a new neuron pathway for imagination’s infinite possibilities. Einstein dreamed of riding the curve of an arc and ended up proposing the theory of relativity. The opposite is also true. Do the same things in the same old way – and you will etch out an even deeper neuron pathway for another boring habit.

Yes, choices matter here

It often starts with inspiration an – that sparks new action in a different direction. Did I just say action ?

Here are 10  pathways to follow into your imagination …

1.  Kindle and design an idea. Start with a personal passion and follow the fun, as imagination becomes your creative power to advance an innovation, by opening vast and fascinating opportunities beyond what currently exists.

Just as the iPod for instance,  started with an innovative  idea,  Steve Jobs and other mind-guides continue to design Apple products that revolutionize communication. Fast Company celebrated the last decade’s 14 biggest such design moments, all of which unveil the original ideas that rolled into products with possibilities. How does it happen? Your brain’s hippocampus releases a shot of dopamine in  response to novelty. Anthony Grace at the University of Pittsburgh describes a feedback loop that involves a chemical and electrical interactions between dopamine and novel or unexpected events. This lively process appears to lock in memory, as it also engages the amygdala where the brain processes emotional information that feeds innovation.

quotes for new neuron pathways

Inspirational quotes – posters  for new neuron pathways

2. Mimic creative people. Did you know brains come equipped to mimic those you hang with?  Believe it or not, you can literally adopt another person’s inspiration by simply observing them and noticing what they say. It’s also true that while innovation may be more vital than ever in your life, individuals  who think act and build differently remain rare.  That’s where your brain and a few inspirational quotes can help out.  How so?

Grab one new idea from these posters and then run with it!

Mirror neurons show how innovative cultures and teams come from imitation – and this video on mirror neurons illustrates how we watch and mirror the culture others live. Deep inside your brain cells are neurons that will fire in reaction to another’s beliefs as they roll into activity. See any new opportunities for innovation where you work,  as they play out in mimicking an innovator’s actions?

3. Link opposites together and build from both sides. Einstein mastered the art and science of sticking oddly matched pieces together and so can we. Need a breakthrough to top up the creativity on a project? Then build an innovative culture of connecting opposites in ways that few non-innovators think to connect. If you’ve ever benefited from unique insights, you’ve likely also seen opposing viewpoints from high-performance minds,  that beg to differ. So why then, do disagreements about opposing views so often break up relations, terminate innovative projects, shut down brilliant people, promote racism, and even ignite wars? Tone is the brain’s best approach to tame an amygdala in ways that harness innovative energy. Rather than take potshots at people, consider disagreements as tools to build goodwill across differences, and diversity becomes the hottest neuron pathway to innovative solutions. Designs that come from engaging genius thinkers, are the same offerings that prosper a wider community.

4. Create a round table to brainstorm a process. Start with a fun lunch invitation to a few people who tend to think outside boxes. Open your lunch session with a question such as What if .. and have everybody finish it by suggesting an innovation you could build together to improve a shared problem.

The other day I facilitated a round table of leaders across many fields, and after several unexpected angles tossed possibilities into the mix, we came up with a renewal project that none of us could have masterminded alone. Have you experienced ideas piggybacked onto others from alternative positions?  Innovation, whether from arts or science, embodies mysteries to ponder. It’s that place that bubbles over in a circle where no brain is left behind. It’s where brilliant solutions tend to flow from pools just outside of prevailing thought, where people build beyond limitations. It’s where a culture of innovative thought hooks difficult facts onto ordinary experiences people live – so that learning increases in less time, with innovative designs as visible results.

5. Collaborate with a person who differs. Know anybody whose culture, ethnicity, beliefs or personality differs from yours? If not, propose an idea to a neighbor or supervisor. Innovation rarely waits for situations to improve but shapes dendrite brain cells by outside worlds that spark mental growth based more on what you do than what’s done to you. The opposite of toxic spaces is a climate of creative collaboration where innovative leaders engage opposing views to discover another direction created from different angles. To work together is to listen to new ideas and to engage another’s talents. Innovative partnerships tend to work better when different players share in a common vision, and when the outcomes and expectations are clearly defined. 

6. Reward talent. Support talents whenever you see them in action. Thanks people. Tell others about their insights. Congratulate every successful outcome. Interview a talented peer and write about the talents in a memo that you circulate. In too many circles problems go unsolved while some of the finest minds sit passively waiting to be encouraged, and remain outside of the innovative process. In order to bridge the gap between the multiple intelligences people bring to any circle, and the problems that need solutions, reward people for refreshing new ideas. As part of that process why not survey your unique intelligences to see which talents you have up and running innovatively. As others awaken new intelligences for innovative designs, thanks them for diverse perspectives before you build that neuron pathway to a refreshing new innovation.

7. Pose two-footed questions. Toss fun, adventure and investigation into an ordinary day – and then expect extraordinary results. The best way to integrate innovation into your existing situation is to question ways that lead you into creative solutions. Start with a two-footed question and then discuss solution possibilities from imaginative angles. I presenting a session on innovation to university faculty recently, and I challenged participants with this question: What will  innovation look like in the 21st Century, and how can your creative intelligence help lead the way? How could a two-footed question launch your next innovative offering along a new neuron pathway toward possibilities?

8. Capitalize on tone tools for tough times. Navigate through problems with breakneck speed toward   a related possibility.  Innovation gets lost and ruts go deeper in toxic climates such as bullying or intimidation. It can happen faster than lightening strikes an iron rod in an electric storm. When stress or negativity shoot down the best ideas, and innovators wonder whether it’s a lot less stressful to hang up their cleats in favor of doing bare routines, tone tactics act like a vehicle to tug innovation back into play. It helps to invite an example of good tone from a gentle, and effective leader, and discuss how to offer olive branches back and forth at work. Or why not ask trusted peers what tone they hear in your words and compare their responses to what your words meant to convey.

9. Start social network discussions. Watch what’s trending online and engage people you know in fun, hopeful or humorous responses. Recently I started a back-and-forth on Twitter to toss around insights and brain facts about multi-tasking as it affects innovation. We looked at research that shows how multi-tasking works against innovation because it bottle necks the brain’s ability to focus or innovate. Just as all brains wire differently though, we wanted to see how people view multi-tasking as it relates to their own innovation.  Social networks add new colors and textures to new neuron pathways because people hold up lived experiences to the rainbow for another look.

10. Run from cynics. Skepticism, nay-saying and scorn faster than angry hornets, but you can risk new adventures or dance delightfully beyond their sting. How so? Have you noticed how stocks rise when people speak hope? Or have you seen financial markets nosedive when naysayers spout doom? Luckily pools of innovative brainpower lie beyond the sea of cynicism. This trend hinges on the fact that hope adds serotonin to spark curiosity and fuel the brain. Cortisol, on the other hand, shuts down originality, and increases fear of failure. Make sense? When cynics spread fear, brainpower shuts down before innovation stands a chance.  When creators spark curiosity imagination kicks into genius and another new neuron pathway is born.

Related tool: Yearly planner with brain boosters and prompts to reboot your brain so that you tap and develop hidden and unused capabilities.

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8 thoughts on “10 Playful Pathways into Imagination

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  6. Jeanne Dininni


    I just know that the more thought I give to this question, the more ideas I’ll come up with; but, for now, I’ll take a stab at it by mentioning the one that seems uppermost in my mind at the moment:

    I’d like to approach life (work, relationships, problems, and responsibilities) as creative challenges and exciting opportunities to think and act in ways that increase the serotonin levels and decrease the cortisol levels of both myself and others!

    If I can achieve that this year, I’ll be ecstatic!

  7. eweber Post author

    Wow – thanks Jeanne, you have just made my day. What is the most exciting expectation you have for the coming year, and why is it exciting. Already I am curious to hear more about your innovative ideas and fun plans for the coming months. Stay blessed in the new year – because you deserve the best!

  8. Jeanne Dininni


    So sorry I’ve been away so long! Dropping by today just reminded me of how much I’ve been missing! Have just read several posts and, as always, have absorbed so much valuable insight! Thanks for sharing these incredibly helpful principles! Just love your blog! It really fires me up to make positive, brain-fueled changes in my life.

    Wanted to stop by to wish you and yours a happy, blessed, and prosperous New Year. May 2010 hold many new and exciting changes, challenges, and successes for you!


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