Right Brain Workouts Explained

An Interview with Peter Lloyd, creator of Right Brain Workouts
By Vern Burkhardt
Last week I wrote an article summarizing my interview of Peter Lloyd and Steve Grossman, co-authors of Animal Crackers. In this article I continue to explore Peter's creative ideas.

Question: You are writing a column for the IdeaConnection Newsletter titled Right Brain Workouts. What are they?

Peter LloydPeter Lloyd:
When I see something out of the ordinary, an accomplishment, a mistake, a news event, an article in the paper, or I see a problem, I look at it and take a twist on it.

All Right Brain Workouts are intended to stimulate creative thinking, illustrate the benefits of thinking creatively, and urge readers to exercise their creative abilities. The workouts have succeeded if they challenge readers to engage in progressive, forward-thinking innovation. From time to time the right brain workouts also champion the pursuit of humane ideas.

Question: When you say "take a twist on it", what do you mean?

Peter Lloyd:
Workouts are like aerobic exercises for the right side of your brain. They are intended to entertain, but also to be provocative to the mind. They succeed if they make you think about something you have not thought about before—in a different way, in a creative way.

My tendency is to question everything in my creative pursuits. An idea, an event, or something I read stimulates thoughts about creativity and innovation, and so I write about them.

While I am not a medical researcher, I think it is accepted that you're less likely to succumb to dementia like Alzheimer's disease if you continually exercise your brain and think in greater detail. Perhaps Right Brain Workouts can help.

Question: How do the Right Brain Workouts work?

Peter Lloyd:
Actually the whole brain is involved. The term Right Brain Workouts is just a catchy phrase for a creativity workout. It suggests that creativity is involved.

Right Brain Workouts are meant to take you somewhere else. The underlying message of most of them is don’t let anyone say you can’t do something out of the ordinary.

Question: Do you find them difficult to write?

Peter Lloyd:
I’ve been asked: do you ever get writer's block? The answer is, no. When I start to feel a block, I simply start writing. I will write anything and very soon the writer’s block disappears. I think it is the same with artists. When they have a block they pick up a brush and start painting—just paint anything. There is no end of material and ideas to write about.

Question: For how long have you been writing Right Brain Workouts, and about how many do you write in a month?

Peter Lloyd:
I’ve been writing my workouts since the mid-1990s. They've evolved over the years. I hope I'm getting better, yet I read some of the earliest ones and wonder if they weren't some of the best. The earlier ones may be a little more high-spirited. Still the later ones, I think, bring the benefit of more experience.

Question: Are they fun to write?

Peter Lloyd:
They are a lot of fun. How can you not like getting credit for shooting off your mouth, and giving our readers something that will help them be more creative, more innovative?

Question: Last week when we were talking you mentioned that there are seven natural juices of creativity. Could you please tell me about that?

Peter Lloyd:
Just for the heck of it, I took the Seven Deadly Sins and re-positioned them as the Seven Creative Juices. I realized that our natural, human tendencies drive creativity. But I do mean to suggest that you recognize that pride of authorship, for example, drives a lot of art. Jealousy makes you want to write or sing or paint better than your competitor. Lust has inspired more love poems and love songs than any other motivator. And so on.

I don't mean to praise pride or lust as a thing to be pursued for its own sake. But if you recognize and understand your drives and put them to work for you, you'll be more creative. Just don't let them drive you!

Question: Peter, I am not sure whether you would want me to report that you recently celebrated your 60th birthday. What is your purpose in life?

Peter Lloyd:
I think my purpose is to live, do the best with what I've got and to help take care of the people I love. We will do better if we take care of each other. More specifically, my goal is to protect those who are weaker than me, those who have less, to protect them and never to exploit them. Those who are stronger than me, especially those who abuse their power by directing it at people who are weaker than they are—my goal is to correct them. Correct above, protect below. That's my mantra.

Question: It sounds like your purpose in life may have been partially responsible for the struggle between might and right in the novel The Lion's Way that you co-authored with Marco Marsan, which was just published in January 2008?

Peter Lloyd:
Absolutely. The Lion's Way tells the story of a hired assassin, fed up with the corruption of the government that employs him, who creates an underground insurgency to bring back justice to his people. He finds himself challenged to put everything on the line in order to accomplish his mission.

Question: I gather you're busy promoting The Lion's Way?

Peter Lloyd:
It's an everyday job promoting a novel.

Question: In the book Think Naked: Childlike Brilliance in the Rough Adult World, which you also co-authored with Marco Marsan, you offer four principles for getting better ideas. Can you tell me about those four principles?

Peter Lloyd:
The four principles are: Happy Place, Look at Your Neighbor's Paper, Blockbuster, and Show-n-Tell. They sound like and they are kid-like. That's the point. When you were four years old, you were basically a creative genius. Think Naked shows you how to put your childlike brilliance at the disposal of your adult wisdom.

Happy Place shows you how to make your environment conducive to creativity. Neighbor's Paper teaches you to benchmark; that is, to begin from where the best who came before you has left off. Blockbuster gives you permission to tear down, break down, even destroy what has gone before in order to start fresh. It is much the same way a kid knocks down a tower of blocks soon after he has built it. Finally Show-n-Tell urges you to put what you like to do behind what you have to do.

Question: What are your favorite books on creativity and innovation, the two or three that you think are “must reads”?

Peter Lloyd:
Well, we've already named Think Naked. I would also recommend all of Michael Michalko's books and a brand new offering by Tim Hurson called Think Better.

(Vern’s Note: I reported in the November 26, 2007 edition of the IdeaConnection Newsletter my interview with Tim Hurson where we discussed his book Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking. In the December 10, 2007 IdeaConnection Newsletter I reported on my discussions with Michael Michalko about Thinkertoys: Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques.)

Question: Last week when we were talking about Animal Crackers, you said the publishing process is long and difficult. Do you have any secrets for our readers who would like to publish their writings, based on your experiences?

Peter Lloyd:
No. I'm sorry about sounding so glib, but you just have to dive into it and commit yourself to success. The industry is changing as we speak, and tomorrow my advice will be out of date. So the only advice is to jump in with everything you've got. The profit-driven publishing business is not kind to the writer. It's not about what's worth publishing, it's all about how surefire your book promises to be, how hard you promise to promote it, and how much money you're willing to put behind it.

Consider what you really want to do. If you just want to share your ideas with the rest of the world, set up a blog. If you want to be a professional writer; however, get ready for a struggle.

Question: I understand you attended a seminar in which Edward de Bono was the speaker? What was most memorable about de Bono?

Peter Lloyd:
His black suit and deadpan demeanor—severe and quiet. His quiet brilliance and unassuming sense of humor.

He came into the room, sat by an overhead projector loaded with a blank roll of acetate—the worst presentation approach one could imagine. But de Bono gave one of the most fascinating presentations I have ever seen. He wrote some words, drew stick figures and other symbols on the projector, and spoke. It was brilliant. I was mesmerized from beginning to end.

Question: Did he give any insights into how creativity works?

Peter Lloyd:
I remember most clearly his analysis of how humor worked just like creativity. He didn't tell a joke, but he explained how a joke works. Which is funny all by itself. In short, think of an angle ABC with A as the point where B and C meet. Imagine a set up line like, "I just flew in from Toronto..." that leads the listener down one path of expectation, toward B, for example. Now you hear, "and boy are my arms tired!" Suddenly you jump from B to C, without traveling back to A and from A to C, another normal route. De Bono, as I remember likened this surprise arrival to the discovery of a creative solution. Connected but unexpected.

Question: Did you share with him some Right Brain Workouts during any of the breaks.

Peter Lloyd:
No, but he was not on the Internet yet, and after the talk I encouraged him to get an email account and a website.

Question: What are the two or three things you recall learning or thought was interesting or useful from de Bono’s presentation?

Peter Lloyd:
I'll never forget the analogy between humor and creativity. His unconventional and subdued presentation. It taught me that when you have powerful content, you don't need spectacle.

Question: Speaking of presentations, I gather you are available to make presentations to businesses and other groups about how to promote attitudes conducive to creative thinking. And that you perform some of the songs you have written as part of your presentation. Can you tell me some more details about the types of presentations you make, and do you have a great singing voice?

Peter Lloyd:
I'm afraid I have what you might call an "interesting" singing voice. Or you could call it terrible. Nevertheless, my songs are very interesting and amusing. The result, I'm told, is entertaining.

My website explains in detail what I'm prepared to do in front of people. Just check the Presentations page. You can see the kind of things I've done recently on my Appearances page. You'll see that lately I've been doing a lot of new product development for Marco Polo Explorers and not a lot of singing. What does that tell you?

Question: It tells me you are very busy. How much do you think one’s attitude affects creativity?

Peter Lloyd:
Attitude has everything to do with creativity. I don't know which comes first, but thinking that you're creative is associated with creative performance. That makes me want to recommend that one should say, for example, "I'm a writer" or "I'm an artist" before deciding to become one. When a child shows me his or her artwork, I always slip "you're an artist" in my comments. Planting the seed can't hurt. I remember a teacher and an aunt telling me "you can write". I'm sure it set my mind and ordered my attitude to my advantage.

Peter Lloyd lives and thinks creativity every day. We can look forward to reading his future Right Brain Workouts in the weekly IdeaConnection Newsletter.

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