Stress-induced brainblock stifles creativity

We've heard it all before from lifestyle and career management gurus: all work makes Jack and Jacki dull.

And it's not just those shining personalities that go dim, excessive work and stress dampens our creativity around problem-solving and lateral thinking, a 20-year IT veteran and motivational coach claims.

While people try to be logical, cool-headed professionals on the job, many people spend so much time focusing on the problems confronting them in their work and engaging in negative self-talk, that this can drive them into a rut, Trevor Perry, motivational coach and product evangelist for Melbourne-based Look Software, said.

The result will be a block of some sort - mental or communication-wise - when dealing with everyday tasks like project delivery, systems design, and interacting with colleagues and customers.

What we forget is that problem-solving starts with creativity, and ends with the technology, Perry said, addressing the IBM User Group's Interactive 2003 conference in Sydney last week.

A key way of feeding our creativity is to "step outside our normal routine" by doing things completely unrelated to our work.

Talking to people we don't work with or know is a simple but forgotten way of "unblocking" ourselves from our work problems, Perry said.

"Go and find someone who hasn't got a technical background like the person in the cafeteria or the checkout chick, and just explain the problem to them. When you're telling them about the problem you're having with, say a program, your brain is working in a different way.

"Provide them with an overview and have them brainstorm - it'll be amazing what you get back. Yes, you will laugh and get stupid things back, but that's the point of creativity - exploring places you've never been to and that's where you find the answers."

Or just take a break, said Perry, "That's the other thing we forget to do. We sit there at the desk and fume.

"Instead of fuming, go and whine about it to everyone in the room. Or listen to some music, go to a fun Web site, or give your brain a break and go help someone else.

"Step outside of what you're doing and have some fun. Your subconscious will work on the problem when you're not really focused on it."

Perry believes organisations do not value teambuilding activities enough. He sees them as a way of helping employees address conflict with each other and even have fun outside their own work environment.

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