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Balloon Brains

By Peter Lloyd

Every time you do something, you find it easier to do again. That’s how and why practice makes perfect. Unfortunately practice also makes bad habits just as difficult to break. And since we all have to think un-creatively some of the time, we run the risk of making creative thinking a challenge.
Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
—Anonymous
Your right brain wants to play. Driven by curiosity, it wants to experiment, challenge everything, throw unrelated elements together just to see what happens. Your left brain wants facts, proof, evidence. It judges, evaluates, and searches for patterns. Somehow the two get along. They can even help each other in a well integrated head. But when one or the other takes over, you’ve got problems.

I’m interested, obviously, in promoting right brain thinking. In creativity training sessions I run an exercise that demonstrates visually and with tactile stimulation, how to make your right brain dominate.

Use your right brain now as I pretend to run my Balloon Brain exercise with you. Imagine that I’ve just handed you a short, T-shaped tube with a balloon attached to each end of the horizontal. Blow into the open end of the tube. What happens? Invariably only one of the balloons inflates. Let’s say it’s left balloon.

Let the balloon deflate and blow again. What happens? From now on the left balloon will always inflate. I challenge you now to find a way to inflate the other balloon. Perhaps, like most folks, you hold the left balloon or just pinch its neck. Naturally, when you blow again, the right balloon expands. Can you think of other ways to make the right balloon fill?

After some discussion, groups usually figure out that if you stretch the right balloon, it will inflate even if you do not restrict the flow of air to the left.

We’ve just identified the two principal ways of strengthening your creative powers. Like the T-tube and balloons, every time you use your brain it makes a choice. The option at the end of some neural path becomes more usable than an alternative. Likewise, you strengthen you right brain every time you use it and every time you restrict your left brain.

The theory is simple, but in practice you encounter no end of challenges. You’ll do well, though, by keeping the balloons in mind. As well as these watchwords: Turn off your left brain. Turn on your right.

Peter Lloyd is co-creator with Stephen Grossman of Animal Crackers, the breakthrough problem-solving tool designed to crack your toughest problems.
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