You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want”.  Zig Ziglar

On the 28th November 2012 a great man passed away. His name was Zig Ziglar, and he had left a lasting impression on me as a result of his knowledge in sales, his wisdom on success and his inspiration in life.

It was 1996 when I first met Zig Ziglar at a Jim Rohn event in Brisbane, Australia. I was a fledgling in sales just having acquired the role of Business Development Manager for a Medical Diagnostics company where I was responsible for establishing international markets in Europe, Asia and North America. Since Zig Ziglar had an excellent reputation in sales knowledge and experience I was looking forward to learning some of the skills that would differentiate me in the market.

After listening to one of the most inspiring and influential presentations from Jim Rohn, including a number of goal-setting and personal development activities that changed my life, it was time for Zig Ziglar’s presentation. His unique southern US drawl with a preaching style voice hit my senses immediately. The words and ideas that were delivered captured the attention of everyone in the room and became influential and motivational for me in decades to come.

Following ia a summary of the notes I took on how to be a top performer:

  1. Regardless of the past, tomorrow is a clean start
  2. The choices you make today will determine what you will be, do and have in the tomorrows of your life
  3. Top performers learn to make the right choices – There is something you can do right now to change your future and it is your choice!
  4. Don’t waste time blaming others; fix the causes – You are the only one who can solve your problems
  5. You can change what you are and where you are by changing what goes into your mind – It is what happens inside of you that matters.
  6. Top performers learn every day by seeking new ideas – Establish an “automobile university” and listen to audio CDs on the road
  7. The most important conversation you will ever have is with yourself
  8. Develop a wall of gratitude that highlights the people who have made a difference in your life
  9. What you send out is what you get back – Improve your conversations and your attitude
  10. Serving others is the foundation for relationships

Dr John Kapeleris

 

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Idea Auctions and 3M

March 26th, 2012 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Ideas - (0 Comments)

New ideas, the basis of innovation, depend upon tapping the know-how (tacit knowledge) of employees and making this knowledge available to others within the organisation. Once the knowledge is shared and recorded within the organization (codified knowledge) it becomes a component of the corporate memory of the organization. What the organisation then does with the new ideas presented by employees will have the potential to add value to the organization. Although many organisations capture and record ideas they fail to develop these ideas further or fall short of converting these ideas into new products or services, new processes or new organisational systems.

The global company 3M, known for its unique innovative practices, encourages employees to spend 15% of their time to work on their own ‘pet’ projects. These pet projects allow employees to investigate and test their ideas, and subsequently develop these ideas into concepts or applications. Known as the ’15 percent rule’, 3M use this approach to stimulate unplanned experimentation that may turn into successful, but unexpected innovations. Had it not been for the existence of the 15 percent rule Art Fry and Spence Silver may not have had the opportunity or the conducive environment to develop the 3M Post-it® notes.

In the spirit of 3M, organisations that generate and capture a large number of ideas through their employees could hold internal ‘idea auctions’. Idea auctions are essentially forums where employees present and showcase their own ideas to an audience of interested parties who might be keen on taking on the idea and working with it, either individually or in groups. The process allows employees who come up with the ideas to ‘sell’ their ideas to anyone within the company, especially where their immediate supervisor or team members refuse to support the employee. Furthermore, some people are good at generating ideas while others prefer the implementation phase.  Using a team approach to reviewing ideas will also quickly provide important feedback from an ‘internal customer’ perspective on whether the idea should be progressed or killed off.

What are you doing in your organisation to capture new ideas from your employees?

Dr John Kapeleris

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Creative Hothouses Part 2

March 7th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity - (6 Comments)

A colleague asked me to provide further information on history’s “Creative Hothouses”, such as ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence, the creative communities of the Parisian cafes and salons (early 1900s) and the German Bauhaus (1919-1933). Following is a summary of history’s creative hothouses.

Ancient Athens

The Athenians during the Golden Age of Greece (500 – 300 BC), created forms of history, mathematics, democracy, political science, philosophy, drama, architecture and sculpture, that continue to influence our world today. The hothouse of Athens was able to fuse a number of cultural domains into distinctive forms such as buildings, literature and politics. Thousands of years later the achievements of Athens played a crucial role in inspiring the Renaissance.

European Renaissance

The Renaissance Period (1300 to 1600), particularly in Florence, was characterised as the age of exploration with an emergence of new knowledge that influenced art and science. The knowledge from the ancient Greco-Roman period, that had lay dormant for a millennium, suddenly gained a renewed interest that further influenced the explosion of art and science. Advances in a number of industries occurred, including, travel, metallurgy, optics, ballistics, construction and agriculture. An exponential growth of wealth and knowledge also drove the emergence of the nation-state, each with its increased military power. The legacy created by the Renaissance Period was in the form of art. Life-like oil paintings and sculptures, the use of perspective, and the design of visually inspiring architecture was developed during the Renaissance.

The Parisian Cafes and Salons

During the early twentieth century, following the Paris World Fair in 1900, an industrial boom occurred in Europe and the United States, bringing new technological developments such as the horseless carriage, the wireless radio, widespread use of the telephone, and the proliferation of electric light bulbs. It was also the time when Albert Einstein published his first paper on the Theory of Relativity. During the early 1900s the Parisian cafes were social hubs fuelled by coffee, wine, and creative passion, where people would meet in an environment conducive to sharing mutually stimulating ideas and conversations. Gertrude Stein’s apartment also became one of the significant hothouses in Paris in the 1920s, with gatherings every Saturday night (salons) and visits throughout the week. Stein collected paintings of notable artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Braque before they became famous. The apartment became a salon of creativity where artists, poets and writers (Pablo Picasso, Guillaume Apollinaire, Ernest Hemingway and Thornton Wilder to name a few) came together to share their experiences and fuel creative inspiration through the process of osmosis.

German Bauhaus

The German Bauhaus (1919-1933) under the leadership of Walter Gropius provided a workshop experience for architecture, sculpture, art and design. It also became the creative hub that bridged art and business where new creations could be transformed into products for the market. It brought together the cultural and physical landscapes to develop and stimulate students through transfering the skills of the masters. Many students then became masters teaching their learnings and experiences to future students. In 1934 when the Nazis declared all modern art to be ‘un-German”, the Bauhaus moved to Chicago where it became the New Bauhaus and later the Institute of Design.

Common Characteristics

The hothouses in history had a number of characteristics that were common, particularly the ability to accomplish the following (extracted from “The Hothouse Effect”):

  1. Sustain a high level of innovative creativity for a significant period of time
  2. Draw on the knowledge and innovation of the broader cultural community to which it belonged
  3. Spawn geniuses whose achievements climax the work of many other practitioners at all levels of achievements
  4. Establish a new paradigm, that is, a new way of doing things that informs its creative products and establishes new principles, procedures and standards.
  5. Achieve wide recognition and establish a lasting legacy to which future generations continually return to emulate.

It may also be interesting to study some of the more modern creative hothouses, such as Silicon Valley, and learn how intellectual exchanges led, in this example, to the development of the “dot.com boom”.

You may also know of other creative hothouses, local regional or national, that you would like to share.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Daniel Pink quoted in one of his presentations, “Left brain thinking gets you the job, right brain thinking gets you the promotion“. Since we are living in a ‘conceptual world’ through the impact of the digital economy we need to use both our analytical left brain but also our creative right brain. However, many of us struggle to develop our creative right brains because our educational system focuses on analysis, critical thinking, and facts and figures.

A key driver of business growth and development is the ability to nurture the intellectual capital in organizations (that is, the employees, their tacit knowledge, skills and experience). One critical success factor is to enhance creativity in people and subsequently in the organization by creating a “Hothouse Effect”. Dr Barton Kunstler author of the The Hothouse Effect describes a number of ways to intensify creativity in your organization using secrets from history’s most creative communities. The book describes common characteristics of history’s “Creative Hothouses”, including ancient Athens, Renaissance Florence, the creative communities of the Parisian salons (early 1900’s) and the German Bauhaus (1919-1933).

Following is a summary of the ‘Four Dimensions of the Hothouse Effect’. Learnings, observations, behaviours and processes from the creative hothouses  are outlined that can be applied to the modern organization to stimulate new thinking, creativity, innovation and breakthrough ideas.

I. Values/Mission.

  1. Values drive organizational goals, strategies and operations and should be ‘lived’ by employees throughout the work environment both explicitly and implicitly.
  2. The organization should support the creative expression of individuals and utilize their knowledge to solve problems and capitalize opportunities.
  3. Employees are driven by the vital impact and meaning they create for other individuals, organizations and society.
  4. Highly creative groups challenge assumptions and conduct in-depth research to gain a better understanding of the situation or problem.
  5. The organization’s mission aspires to universal application in the market.

II. Ideas/Exchange.

  1. The organization provides recognition and respect for thinkers and the products of thought.
  2. Create a system to facilitate the circulation and flow of ideas throughout the organization.
  3. Intellectual exchange inputs into the evolution of organizational culture.
  4. Employees tap into the expertise across disciplines and teams, and utilize other fields of knowledge.
  5. Mentoring relationships are cultivated throughout the organization.
  6. Hubs of creativity are encouraged which proliferate throughout the organization.
  7. The organization continually analyzes the impact of core technologies on all aspects of operations, development and strategy.

III. Perception/Learning

  1. The organization encourages and actively promotes education for all employees.
  2. Employees have access to tools and problem-solving methodologies to perform their work and deliver services to clients.
  3. Perception-based methods are implemented into the employees’ daily work lives.
  4. Creativity training is provided to employees to better understand the creative process, consisting of immersion, incubation and illumination.
  5. The organization and its employees maintain an open mind to external opportunities, networks and collaborations.
  6. Employees are encouraged to enhance their mental operations through various activities, including ‘thinking about thinking‘ and “design thinking’.

IV. Social/Play

  1. The organization has a strong business model that provides the resources and structure to encourage and support creative activity.
  2. The organization continues to develop its future leaders.
  3. Crises draw employees together and release hidden reserves of energy and creative inspiration.
  4. Playing with ideas, information and material encourages experimentation and removes the fear of failure.
  5. Social activities are planned imaginatively and promote social interaction and rapport.

The knowledge and practical approaches are available for any organization seeking a competitive advantage in this interconnected global arena. The challenge lies in the commitment and implementation strategy.

Dr John Kapeleris

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In establishing your life purpose and lifelong ambitions the best way to start is to think about your passions and interests in a world without limitations or constraints. For example, if you were given the option of any position or career in the world what would you choose?

However, we generally find ourselves in a paradigm that is familiar to us, has clearly defined boundaries and has become comfortable. We have learned to become complacent with what is presented to us and we don’t generally challenge the status quo. As a result we get the same thing out of life that we have always gotten, because we don’t do anything differently and many of us try to avoid change.

The world is changing at such a dramatic rate that we must also adapt to the changing environment. We must stop and think about our current situation, and determine whether our life path is being driven by ourselves or influenced by external people. We therefore need to re-evaluate our purpose and ambitions in life.

Following are a set of questions that I have used to identify my passions and desires in a life without limits. Try answering the questions below as an exercise to better understand your defining purpose and your ambitions in life.

1. If I wrote a book, the book would be about…

2. If I produced a movie, it would be…

3. If I painted a picture, the subject would be…

4. If I wrote a stand-up comedy routine, I would tell stories about…

5. If I composed a song, I would write about…

6. If I was going to do something nobody would expect me to do, I would…

7. If I was going to cook a meal for a number of friends, I would cook…

8. If I won $5000 to throw the party of the year, I would make it memorable by…

9. If I designed my dream home, it would have…

10. If I designed my ideal vacation home, it would certainly have…

11. If I could be paid to study any subject for a whole year, I would study…

12. If I could spend two months anywhere in the world, I would go to…

13. If I could live anywhere in the world, I would live in…

14. If I could have dinner with anyone on the planet, I would want to dine with…

Don’t hesitate. Give the task a go. You will never know what new ideas or opportunities emerge.

To your success!

Dr John Kapeleris

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In my previous company Panbio Ltd, one of the key success factors of the company was embedding innovation across the whole organisation and not limited to the R&D Department alone. One of the initiatives that I implemented to drive innovation in the organisation was the establishment of a Creativity Club. The main objective of the creativity club was to stimulate creative thinking in individuals and encourage the use of creative thinking tools to come up with new ideas, and to solve problems in the organisation and for our customers.

The original objectives that we brainstormed at our first creativity club at Panbio are outlined below:

The format and structure of the creativity club included the following:

  1. The creativity club was open to all employees of the organisation. Everyone was invited to deliver presentations, and to share their knowledge and experiences.
  2. The creativity club was held either at lunchtime or before work (lunch and breakfast were provided which was a great attraction for employees).
  3. The agenda of each meeting consisted of the following:
    1. Ice-breaker – each participant would be asked to describe a creative experience or reading since the last meeting (those participants that could not describe a creative experience would be asked to tell a joke – right brain thinking)
    2. Formal presentation – a theme was chosen as a focus of each creativity club including: Introduction to Creative Thinking, Serendipity vs Synchronicity, Idea Management, Creativity Tools, Imagination, Innovation case studies (3M, Dupont, Lotus Corporation, Ideo etc), Creative Problem Solving, Intuition, Chaos Theory, etc
    3. Informal discussion – this session included open discussion about the specific topic presented and the practical application of the learnings from the presentation
    4. Action planning – the creativity club concluded with the recording of action plans that each participant could take back to their department or functional area and implement
  4. The creativity club was modelled on the Dupont OZ Creative Thinking Network and the Parisian Salons (creative communities) of the 1920’s. The creativity club included a number of games and puzzles to stimulate the creative juices of participants. It also provided a fun environment conducive to the sharing of knowledge and ideas that could be further developed or implemented. A database was set up within the Knowledge Management system of the organisation to capture and record the presentations, knowledge, ideas, learnings, discussions and action plans arising from the creativity club.

The creativity club at Panbio also spawned the development of Creative Problem Solving Hit Teams. These teams consisted of cross-functional team members that would work on solving problems both inside and outside the organisation. When an internal functional area or an external customer could not solve a particular problem then a Creative Problem Solving Hit Team was deployed. The cross-functional nature of the team allowed a wider range of skill-sets to be incorporated in the team, providing a diverse perspective when investigating each problem. The team included people directly involved with the problem but also people who had never been exposed to the problem. Team members were also equipped with a variety of creative problem solving tools and resources. These teams became so effective that we started to provide this service beyond our existing clients and domain areas of expertise.

Enjoy!

Dr John Kapeleris

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“In the field of observation chance only favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur

Tacit knowledge has been defined as non-codified, intangible know-how that is acquired through the informal adoption of learned behavior and procedures.  Polanyi describes tacit knowing as involving two kinds of awareness: the focal and subsidiary.  While individuals may be focused on a particular object or process, they also possess a subsidiary awareness that is subliminal and marginal.  Tacit knowing also involves subsception, that is, learning without awareness and this is associated with serendipity.

Serendipity is defined as a random coincidence or accident that triggers an idea or concept when the individual is not actively seeking an idea i.e. without awareness of a problem or need. While a discovery that involves focused awareness is usually termed synchronicity since the individual is actively seeking an idea or a solution to a problem.

Serendipity has resulted in a number of accidental discoveries producing innovations that have contributed to significant value for society. For example, penicillin was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming when he observed an anomaly on a bacterial culture. Another example of an accidental discovery was Scotchgard by Patsy Sherman when she accidentally spilled a polymer on her tennis shoes. The table below shows a number of innovations resulting from serendipity or synchronicity:

Although accidental discoveries and observations in nature lead to new innovations, the person making the discovery or observation needs to have a mindset that is conducive to identifying the opportunities. Sir Alexander Fleming could have thrown out the bacterial cultures when he found an anomaly, but instead continued to investigate the cultures to determine the cause of the abnormality, as a result of his curious and open mind.

The prepared mind, as stated by Louis Pasteur, is characterized by specific patterns of brain activity that place a person in the right “frame of mind” through the establishment of new pathways or networks of thought. The prepared mind has the ability to sense, understand, decide and act upon observations and opportunities that suddenly appear by chance.

Welter and Egmon in their bookThe Prepared Mind of a Leader describe eight mental skills that can further develop and prepare your mind to identify opportunities, solve problems and enhance decision-making:

  1. Observing – Look for non-conforming information generated by the constantly changing environment, that can provide new ideas and opportunities.
  2. Reasoning – You need to be able to answer “Why?” when you are proposing a course of action.
  3. Imagining – The ability to visualize new ideas and linkages.
  4. Challenging – Challenge your assumptions and test their validity.
  5. Deciding – You need to make timely decisions or influence others’ decisions.
  6. Learning – Continuous learning will move you forward.
  7. Enabling – You need people with the knowledge and ability to progress opportunities.
  8. Reflecting – Allocate the time to think and reflect to determine whether a particular decision was successful.

How are you preparing your mind to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities?

Dr John Kapeleris

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I recently attended a seminar on “Art meets Business” and the key discussion topic was that art can bring creative inspiration to business. I didn’t disagree with this statement, however, when one presenter stated that creativity is synonymous only with the arts, and that business can only access creativity through the arts, I began to challenge this belief.

Creativity is defined as the process by which individuals or groups generate or conceive new ideas, or adapt existing concepts into new principles, in order to solve problems or develop new opportunities. In addition to being a process, creativity can also be an attitude and an ability. I believe that all people can be creative; some express their creativity more than others.

Creativity is not limited to the arts or creative industries. Creativity can also be found in science, engineering and all disciplines and professions.  Being artistic, which is commonly confused with being creative (although both are not mutually exclusive), is about deliberately arranging symbolic, visual or auditory elements in a way that influences and affects senses, emotions and intellect. This could include drawing, painting, music, sculpture, literature, photography, film and drama.

It can be argued that a child being taught to play the violin is not demonstrating creativity – they are just following a technical learning process to apply music knowledge to an instrument – that is, being artistic. True expression of creativity will emerge as the child learns to adapt existing musical concepts on the violin into new improvisations – that is, being creative.

The ongoing challenge is to nurture and stimulate creative thinking and creative problem solving in our work and in our daily lives.

Following I have outlined ten ways to enhance and stimulate your creativity:

  1. Connect with people – creativity is about people, therefore you need to build your network, engage with the right mentors and join creative communities.
  2. Create the right environment – take control of your workspace and create an environment conducive to creative thinking e.g. this could involve setting up a den with a large mahogany desk, a library and a soft leather chair, or it could be a quiet and relaxing retreat to read and think quietly without interruptions
  3. Learn new creativity tools – attend seminars and workshops on creativity, and become familiar with a selection of creativity tools and techniques that you can begin to implement and use (e.g. brainstorming, mindmapping, 6 Thinking Hats, why-why-why, SCAMPER, random word, force field analysis, visualization, synectics, morphological analysis, imagination, intuition)
  4. Expand your mind through reading – read books and articles on creativity, but also references on  personal development
  5. Fun and humour – play games, solve puzzles, attend comedy shows, take up a sport, go to the park, or watch your favourite DVD movies
  6. Take up the arts – learn to draw and paint, learn to play a musical instrument, or participate in drama
  7. Travel and discovery – visit inspiring places such as the Louvre, ancient Greek locations, Tuscany, the pyramids of Egypt, or you can visit your local museum, art gallery, or relaxing holiday destination
  8. Understand the power of your subconscious – take advantage of the alpha state or the power of visualization to enhance your creative abilities
  9. Think on paper – escape from the current dominance of computers by keeping a journal, an ideas notebook, or grab a pen and paper and write down the problems you want to solve and the opportunities you want to develop
  10. Ideas into action – one of the most rewarding activities is to take the ideas you have captured, develop them further and implement them to achieve successful outcomes

Take the creative journey!

Dr John Kapeleris

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Have you ever considered at what time are you the most creative or when is your mind highly productive? For some people it is when they  just wake up in the morning or when they are about to go to sleep. Others find that they are most creative in the shower or when relaxing in the bath. I have also found that people are creative when they are driving along the highway or going for a relaxing walk. Interestingly, not many people actually state that they are most creative when at work, which could be the reason why our abilities to solve problems and create new opportunities are usually stifled by our work environments.

The key to achieving a highly creative and productive mind is to move into a relaxed state of being, that is, when your mind enters the alpha state. The alpha state occurs when your brainwaves run at about 8 to 12 cycles or hertz. It is defined as the borderline between conscious and subconscious activity – the period when we are just about to fall asleep or when we slowly and naturally wake up.

The normal conscious state of 13 to 25 hertz is called the beta state. The beta state is when we are awake as we go about our daily lives. Just below the alpha level, is the theta state which is even slower than alpha at 3.5 to 7 hertz, and an even deeper sense of relaxation. Slower still is the state of sleep which is called the delta state at 0.5 to 3.5 hertz.

By inducing the alpha state and maintaining this state for long periods without falling asleep, we can become highly creative and productive. During this heightened state of awareness the mind is clear, receptive to information, and therefore able to rapidly make connections that result in new ideas and thoughts. The mind also becomes focussed and able to solve problems almost effortlessly.

A number of methods exist that allow you to enter and remain in the alpha state of mind. Following are two of the most common methods that I have used to induce the alpha state that allows you to begin to generate new ideas, solve problems and make new connections. The best time to induce the alpha state is either early in the morning after waking up or just before you go to sleep in the evening. However, you can induce the alpha state at anytime if you can find a quiet environment without any interruptions.

Relaxation Through Breathing (Dr Benson’s Relaxation Response)

  1. Sit in a comfortable chair with feet on the floor, close your eyes and relax your body
  2. Take a deep breath and mentally focus on a single item or stimulus
  3. Continue for 5-10 minutes breathing deeply
  4. Move into a meditative state letting go of your thoughts and clearing your mind
  5. New ideas, solutions and connections will emerge (record your thoughts immediately)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  1. Relax each part of your body from the top of your head to your toes, progressively relaxing each of your muscles
  2. With your eyes closed, count backwards from 21 to 1 breathing slowly
  3. Clear your mind and relax
  4. New thoughts will begin to emerge (record your thoughts immediately)

Try the two techniques above and see what emerges. By frequently practicing the lost art of inducing the alpha state we will strengthen our ability to use our heightened state of mind and begin to generate new ideas and productive thoughts.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Intuition

May 26th, 2010 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity | Mind - (0 Comments)

Intuition is the ability to know or understand without conscious thought, observation or reason. It is associated with the right-brain functions of the mind, although it is commonly referred to as gut feeling. Intuition provides us with the ability to develop valid solutions to problems or make appropriate decisions beyond conscious understanding.

Intuition is a sensing function where we experience a flash of sudden insight. For example:

  • The hunch that you should investigate a new idea or opportunity
  • The feeling that you need to look over previous work or information
  • The sensing that you will meet someone you know at an upcoming function

The intuitive process can unexpectedly lead you to the right solution, a valid decision, a new discovery, a creative experience, or a new opportunity. Studies have shown that many senior executives have relied on intuition or “gut feeling” to make the right decision when their businesses have come to a defining moment in time. However, we generally do not want to admit that we use intuition to make some of our decisions and choices in life.

Philip Goldberg in his book “The Intuitive Edge” describes six types of intuition:

  1. Discovery
  2. Creativity
  3. Evaluation
  4. Operation
  5. Prediction
  6. Illumination

Intuition is central to many scientific discoveries and creative inspirations. Intuition can also be a spontaneous experience where a solution to a problem emerges in our minds without prior analysis or incubation.

It is difficult to develop our intuitive abilities, however, we can learn to become more aware of our intuition. For example, we can become more receptive to our feelings and thoughts, believe in our own abilities, and internally ” listen”  to subconscious messages.

To strengthen our intuition we can implement the following simple steps:

  1. Prepare by sourcing as much information as possible around the issue or problem you are trying to address.
  2. Incubate the information in your mind to allow your thoughts to create new connections – allow the creative process to occur.
  3. Trust your mind that it will come up with a solution or new discovery.
  4. Pursue unrelated activities or try to relax your mind, avoiding tension.
  5. Recognize intuition and the internal messages created.
  6. Act on the intuitive ideas immediately when you feel complete certainty.

Make it a great life!

Dr John Kapeleris

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