How to Generate Aha! Moments of Insight – Sage Advice: Episode 38

By September 5, 2018February 21st, 2020No Comments

Mary Slaughter from the NeuroLeadership Institute joins us at the ATD ICE conference out in sunny San Diego to outline 4 steps that will help you consistently generate insightful discoveries when you need them.

There are four conditions to prime your brain for insights and radical discoveries:

Get into a quiet state and space.

The trick is to get the prefrontal cortex into a calm and serene state. Avoid distractions and noisy environments. Anytime we need to ideate creative solutions, the Sage Media team sets their phones to Do Not Disturb mode. If people need to call, they know they can call twice and it will go through. This eliminates unnecessary distractions and “pings” each time an email comes in.

Focus inwardly.

During a creative problem-solving session, all sorts of unrelated issues pop up and try to compete for your attention. Keep the mindset that, “These things are not immediately important, and so they can wait until this task is done.” It takes a little practice, but before you know it, you can quickly deflect these nuisance tasks that scream at you and instead focus on the important problem at hand.

Stay in a positive mood.

Keeping your mood elevated and cheerful not only allows the brain to remain open and receptive, but it also keeps those negative voices at bay. When we are in a brainstorming session or coming up with new script ideas, maintaining a positive, excited energy gets us to our solutions faster. The creative process inherently brings up the occasional “This is stupid” fear, but we’ve done this long enough to recognise that it’s part of the process and it no longer impacts our flow.¬†You can too. If things start to get a little heavy or spirits begin to sink, break up the activities and physically change position: take a walk, stretch, or move about the room. Small actions like this can result in big, positive outcomes.

Don’t think directly about the problem at hand.

The brain is fantastic at connecting the dots; it does so whether you want it to or not. Allowing for subconscious influence and letting your mind wander is an excellent way to make new connections. It also helps you defer judgment, so that you may generate a large quantity of ideas – similar to the Divergent Thinking exercise found in frameworks like FourSight.

For more information on the NeuroLeadership Institute, and how they’re helping companies change behavior, visit them at

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