Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Brain Hacks 4 Leadership

Aug 9, 2018

Have you ever wished you or your team could be more creative?  Would you like your team to come up with different ways to solve problems?  Do you think that only certain people have that kind of creativity?  Would you like to ‘turn a dial’ and become more focused or creative?  

My Guest: Balder Onarheim, CEO of PlatoScience

If so, this is the podcast for you.  Balder Onarheim, CEO of PlatoScience, will break down how to tap into your creativity and the creativity of your team.  The good news is that it is not magical – everyone has the ability to be creative.

Balder Onarheim is a serial entrepreneur and former associate professor in creativity at the Technical University of Denmark.

He is the founder of the Copenhagen Institute of NeuroCreativity and CEO at PlatoScience: making the world’s first creativity boosting headset. Balder’s expertise lies within a neurologically based understanding of creativity, and methods to use this understanding to make people better problem solvers. He is a popular speaker with talks at prestigious conferences and universities around the world, and more than 300k people has seen his TEDx talk “3 tools to become more creative

Podcast Highlights:

Balder has been working with Neurobiologists to understand what creativity is and how it works from a neuroscience perspective so that they can help all of us be more creative.    We all have creativity, it is everywhere – the secret is learning how to tap into those abilities.

The first step for leaders is to acknowledge the importance of creativity, as simple as that sounds.  When leaders have a mindset that some employees are creative, and others are not, they treat employees differently and can miss out on the creativity of their whole team.  Realizing that creativity is a basic human skill that we all have is important.  It is a matter of nurturing it, training it and using it for the right purpose in the right point in time.  By doing this you can make creativity part of your everyday work.

After you acknowledge that creativity is a crucial skill, using it every day in small ways is important to create that habit.  How many little ways can you encourage creativity?  For example, setting up rules like ‘we need one bad idea for every good idea’.  When you use this approach across the whole organization, it can help people re-analyze the way they solve problems. 

There are 5 cognitive traits associated with Neurocreativity, they are:

  1. Priming
  2. Cognitive Inhibition
  3. Remote Associations
  4. Fixation
  5. Incubation

The first is priming, setting the stage for what you want,  on a management level it could be asking the team for alternative solutions and setting that expectation to think differently.  Avoid giving your own idea first or an example of an idea because it can lead people to only think of that type of solution for the program.  The key is to mix it up, keeping it random.  A few ideas to get yourself to think more creatively:

  1. Go to Wikipedia and select Random Article on the navigation, which can spark creativity because you will get a piece of information you would not normally have read. (Balder explains more about this in his TedX
  2. Take a different route back and forth to work.
  3. Grab a random book off your bookcase, flip to a page, have a short read and then go back to what you were doing.

The information we take in shapes the ideas we will have.  Shaking it up allows you to have new thoughts that allow you to think creatively.

The second trait is cognitive inhibition – it is a controlling system in our brain to keep us from being overloaded with information.  It works to restrict the amount of information you get access to, keeping us sane!  For most of us it works overtime and the downside is that it can get rid of new information that can lead to new ideas. 

Remote associations is the third cognitive trait associated with neuro-creativity.  The associative network is where all our thoughts and memories are stored.  Think of it like the internet as a whole that can link to multiple websites, everything is connected, it is just a matter of how many steps are needed to connect it.  For example, if I say ‘dog’, your brain will most likely bring up the concept of a cat, it is closely associated.  Creativity is a lot about finding those remote associations, so the strategy is to find any method you have to get to those remote associations that can help you think more creatively about the problem you are working on.  Creativity is about combining things that are normally not related. 

So, how can I be more creative?  The more you simply understand neuro-creativity, the more you can apply and tap into it.  Awareness is the key and the first step.  Understanding what creativity is and how it works, then training yourself to use that knowledge through practice.

Fixation is the fourth cognitive trait and we have all experienced this.  For example, when you can’t get your head off a certain topic or a certain word.  It is the ‘tip of the tongue’ effect when you are trying to remember the name of someone and you get it close….but not right.  Suddenly it becomes impossible to get the right word because your brain gets fixated on this other name which is close but not quite there.  You are zooming in on this part of your associative network and therefore you can’t see the right word.  The more you associate one thought with another, the stronger connected they become.  When you get fixated, the best thing to do is to stop thinking about it and think about something else, take a walk or clear your head another way.  This is the last trait – incubation.

Incubation – these breaks we discussed are necessary for you to tap into the remote associations that allow you to be more creative.  Step away from the problem you are working on and start thinking of something else. 

We can’t be creative all the time – the key is to be intentional about when you want to be creative and then using these concepts and acting differently to get the creativity.  As a leader, as yourself ‘Do we need to emphasize creativity right now?’  If yes, what are the best methods for you to do so?   If you are trying to be creative think about how you are setting up the environment.

How often do you need these breaks?  Studies range from 20 minutes to one hour before needing a break and starting to think about something else or just shifting tasks.

What do you do on that break?  It goes back to priming, ask yourself what sort of priming will help you get to the next stage?  If you or the team is getting fixated, get up physically, go outside if you can, do some exercises.  Balder does squats with his team to get some circulation going when this happens.  The key is doing something or thinking about something differently.  These can be social breaks where you are checking in with a spouse or talking to your peers about other outside interests.

We all have the ability to be creative and as leaders we can create environments that will unleash it for our teams.  Once you get started, creativity can be addicting, and your team will continue to be creative if you continue to encourage it.  The key is to GET STARTED!!

One thing that you could do todayacknowledge the importance of habits for yourself at home and in the workplace.  We tend to be single minded about this if we are allowed to do so.  Be conscious about the importance of breaking some of these habits when you want to be more creative.  For example, do you always search the same websites or resources when looking for answers to a problem?  Think about your team meetings, if you always have them in the same room, in the same seats, looking in the same direction with the same agenda and order of speaking, these influence you and your team.  If you want to be more creative, change something up here.  So, the starting point for creativity is to acknowledge the importance of random inputs and changing habits.

Quick tip – the direction you look out from your desk has an impact on your creativity scores.  Just by turning the chair 90 degrees and looking in a different direction can help stimulate creativity.  It can be that simple.

What are the technological advances you are working on?  They have been working on ways to get to your brain from the outside for the last three years by sending weak electrical impulses through the brain which allows you to slightly change the brain’s ability to perform  a task in a certain region of the brain, essentially trying to hijack a brain function.  They have over 150 products in the market today that you can use.  Customers range from programmers, lawyers, students, engineers, management consultant, etc. who want to focus on being creative using one of their unique headsets.  The way it works is that you use the app to pick the thinking style you would like that would be most beneficial to the task you are working on and the headset will replicate the balancing of the brain for that type of task.  If you want to know more and get your own headset go to

What are some things that leaders should do when they are planning to have these leadership off-sites focused on being creative?  There are two ways that Balder and the team have worked with numerous organizations to accomplish this:

  1. Assumption Dumption – bring out all the assumptions people have about the problem you are trying to solve out in the open. Most of these are unspoken and would not be shared any other way.  Discuss them and sort them by truth, relevance or those things that need to be just kept in mind.  Scrap those assumptions that are outdated or just rumors.  This helps to eliminate thoughts that limit their take on the problem – getting rid of the old ghosts!
  2. Negative Brainstorm – flip the problem around and ask people to come up with diverse possible solutions that they think are bad ideas. This brings some humor into the meeting and you will find most of the bad ideas can bring something useful to the table.  You take the absolutely worst ideas that come up and analyze them – what makes them bad as well as what are the positive elements.  Challenge people to remove the bad things and keep the good things and you end up coming up with a good idea that comes from a terrible idea.  It is fun, gets people to think about the problem in different ways.  It always brings out new good ideas that you would normally never dare to bring up if you were asked to come up with only good ideas.


I hope that you have enjoyed this and can start using some of these great techniques to become more creative and create the right environment for your team.  Make sure to subscribe to be alerted to ongoing podcasts. I work with leaders and their teams to apply these concepts, grow themselves, their teams and their business.  Schedule a free 30 minute consultation here to see if I can help you, your team and/or your organization.  You can reach me, Jill Windelspecht, directly by email at and visit my website at


PlatoScience -

3 tools to become more creative - TedX

PlatoWork Headset -