You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.” — Gandhi

We are fast approaching Christmas and this is always a sign that we have once again reached the end of another calendar year. I always find the end of the year to be a time of reflection and review. It is also a time to evaluate the progress of your life purpose, goals and objectives that were set at the start of the year or the longer term goals set in previous years. Your life purpose, goals and objectives should be part of your Personal Development Plan.

The end of the year also offers a fresh start for activities that we had intended to do but never got around to doing them. Although I had previously stated that any day can be the start of the rest of your life, the end of the year can be a special time because it can provide closure to outstanding action items that may no longer be relevant, but also removing limiting beliefs by leaving them behind in the current year. The dawning of a new year provides the incentive to start a fresh action list and the motivation to get things done.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions, however, they quickly discover that the resolutions fade even before the first quarter of the calendar year is reached. It is not just about making New Year’s resolutions at the dawn of the New Year, it is about making a committed effort to set written goals and objectives for the coming year and for the medium to longer term timeframe. Numerous studies have shown only three percent of the population set goals and only about one percent actually write them down.

I challenge you to make a committed effort, that is, take ACTION, to review your previous goals and objectives, and/or to set new goals and objectives for 2012. Begin by identifying the major achievements and highlights for 2011. These could include work achievements, financial objectives, family highlights, personal development, educational achievements or personal success outcomes. Achievements should also be acknowledged and celebrated to ensure mental reinforcement and capitalizing on the motivation that this can provide to your subconscious mind. I try to reward myself when I achieve a particular goal or objective. For example, I will buy a gift for myself that reminds me of the success that I have achieved, or I will organise a special holiday trip for myself and my family. In early December of 2011 I took the family to Hawaii for 17 days to celebrate a very successful 2011. In previous years I bought myself a Tag Heuer watch to remind me of a successful multi-million dollar deal I had closed in the year.

I use a visual journal with white pages to document my goals and objectives for the new calendar year. Once I complete this activity I then develop Action Plans for the major goals and objectives. Throughout the year I periodically review my goals and revise any action plans that are not progressing as expected. You should also prepare a vision board which consists of a portfolio of visual material or a collage of images that portray your vision, goals and objectives. The vision board helps to stimulate your reticular activating system in your mind to reaffirm your subconscious.

Like most people I also identify a few missed opportunities or disappointments for the year. This allows me to learn from the experience so that I can strengthen my future plans moving forward. Go ahead and document the missed opportunities and disappointments. Ask yourself, “What could I have done differently to capitalise on the missed opportunities or overcame the disappointments?”, and document potential changes and actions for the future. Don’t spend too much time regretting the missed opportunities. The rest of your life starts now, therefore focus on your future goals and plans for 2012. Some of these goals could also be carried over from 2011. Particularly goals that were over ambitious, which is common amongst high achievers.

I had also previously posted a number of blog entries that can provide further detailed information on developing your goals and objectives (see below). Furthermore, I have included a Personal Development Plan Template that may also be used as a guide.

What are your key goals, objectives and action plans for 2012?

Have a merry Christmas and I wish you every success for the New Year in 2012!

Dr John Kapeleris

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Creativity is the ability or aptitude by which individuals or groups generate or conceive new ideas, or adapt existing concepts into new principles. Many ideas have led to successful businesses and innovations. For example, these ideas may be a new solution to a problem, a new business model, a new method or a new product concept. By stimulating the creative process within individuals, new ideas and concepts can be generated that can lead to the achievement of new innovations.

The creative process was first described by Graham Wallas back in 1926. He proposed a systematic model that usually follows a sequence of phases: preparation; incubation; illumination; and implementation. However, we find today that many people do not have the interest or inclination to develop their creative thinking capacity. They feel more comfortable with their analytical or logical thinking.

Creative thinking (or divergent thinking) provides the means to generate new ideas and the identification of new opportunities. However, once ideas are generated they must be captured, screened, evaluated and finally implemented, which takes significant effort. This is reflected in the statement made by Thomas Edison that, “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.”

So what can we do to develop our creative abilities that will contribute to competitive advantage for ourselves and our organisation? Following I have outlined ten ways to enhance and stimulate your creativity:

  1. Connect with people. Creativity is about people therefore you need to expand your networks through LinkedIn, facebook and twitter and develop creative communities and social networks that can provide creative inspiration. You could also seek a mentor or join a mastermind group with like-minded individuals. A great way of engaging people in the workplace to become more creative is to establish a creativity club.
  2. Take control of your workspace. Create an environment that is 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 and techniques. This can be done through self education or through courses and online resources. You can also 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, Six Thinking Hats, Why-why-why, SCAMPER, random word, force field analysis, creative visualization, synectics, morphological analysis, imagination, intuition)
  4. Expand your mind through reading. Reading articles and publications on creativity and innovation will help you to better understand the topics and the power the knowledge can bring when applied to your personal and business life. You should also read references on  personal development and topics that may be unrelated to your own interests.
  5. Engage in fun and humour. Engaging in brain games and puzzles is one way of stimultaing your creative abilities, however, engaging in outdoor activities, such as bike riding and walking can also have a positive effect. You could also attend sporting events, comedy shows or other live performances. Watching your favorite DVD movies can also create an escape for creative imagination.
  6. Stimulate your artistic flair. Take up the arts through drawing, painting, music or drama. I don’t mean become the next music star or Leonardo da Vinci; just set aside some time to engage with the arts.
  7. Visit inspiring places. Museums and art galleries provide an excellent environment to stimulate creativity and learning. Visiting awe-inspiring locations of interest around the world, such as the Louvre, Tuscany, ancient Greek locations or the Great Pyramids can also stimulate creative thinking. A simple relaxing holiday location at a beach resort is also a great way to free your mind and think creatively.
  8. Understand and utilise the power of your subconscious. Take advantage of the alpha dynamic state and its positive influence on your thinking abilities, or the power of creative visualization to enhance your creative abilities.
  9. Think on paper. Escape from the current dominance of the digital environment by keeping a journal, an ideas notebook, or just grab a pen and paper and write down the problems you want to solve, or the opportunities you want to develop. You can also apply creative thinking techniques and creative problem solving processes on paper.
  10. Convert 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.

You don’t need to try all ten suggestions above. The important thing is to make a commitment to enhancing your creative thinking abilities by taking action and trying a few of the suggestions. Dan Pink author of a Whole New Mind, stated, “Left brain thinking gets you the job, right brain thinking gets you the promotion“.

Dr John Kapeleris

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The first quarter of the calendar year has now been reached which is an excellent time to evaluate the progress of your goals and objectives that were set at the start of the year or the longer term goals set in previous years.

Many people who made New Year’s resolutions, instead of writing down their goals and objectives, and developing plans, will now be discovering that the resolutions have faded, even before the first quarter of the calender year is reached. It is not just about making New Year’s resolutions at the dawn of the New Year, it is about making a committed effort to set written goals and objectives for the coming year and for the medium to longer term timeframe.

I challenge you to make a committed effort in the next week to take ACTION to review your current goals and objectives. If you haven’t set written goals and objectives for 2011 it is not too late.  Following are a number of blog entries that can provide further detailed information on developing your goals and objectives:

You may want to use a visual journal with white pages to document your goals and objectives. Once you complete this activity you need to develop detailed Action Plans for the major goals and objectives. This will ensure that you have the best opportunity to begin implementing your plans.

Furthermore, I have included a Personal-Development-Plan-Template that may also be used as a guide.

What does your personal development plan look like?

To your success for 2011 and beyond!

Dr John Kapeleris

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Leonardo da Vinci is remembered by most as an artist with realistic paintings such as the famous Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, that dominated the Renaissance period. However, when you study the life of Leonardo da Vinci you uncover more than just the artist. You find a multidimensional person who contributed to art, science, medicine, engineering, the military, town planning and politics.

Leonardo da Vinci was born in Vinci in 1452. His father was a notary in Florence and his mother a 16 yr old servant girl. He grew up in his grandfather’s vineyard and orchard overlooking the valley of the River Arno. In his early years Leonardo was educated by the local priest, asking many questions and challenged the existing beliefs of the time.

Leonardo eventually moved to the bustling city of Florence, which was a key city of the Renaissance period. He studied as an apprentice in the studio of Andrea del Verrochio where he worked on various art projects. Leonardo da Vinci worked with like-minded people to learn his trade, and share knowledge and technical skills, including drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plaster casting, leather working, mechanics and carpentry, as well as the artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting and modelling. Leonardo made a significant contribution to refining the art of realism and the use of linear perspective. Leonardo was asked to complete one of Verrochio’s paintings and when Verrochio viewed what Leonardo had completed, he was astounded at the high level of detail and realism that Leonardo achieved. Verrochio had vowed that from that moment on he himself would not paint again. It is clear from the painting below the artistic contribution that Leonardo had made (the detail in the image of the left angel and the distinctive rocky background).

The Renaissance period followed the Middle Ages and began around the 1400s. The period was dominated by learning, discovery and inquiry. Ancient Greek and Roman knowledge was revisited and revised from the perspective of the Renaissance period. One of the key movements during this time was the transformation of two-dimensional Middle Age art to a three-dimensional perspective, creating a sense of realism in artwork. Furthermore, the Renaissance period spawned new discoveries in art, science and adventure. For example, new lands were discovered by Christopher Columbus (1942) during this time.

From an early age Leonardo began to draw and record his thoughts on paper. He kept numerous notebooks of his drawings, designs and observations. He also recorded a number of questions and then tried to answer them as part of his quest for knowledge and understanding. One of Leonardo’s peculiarities was writing many  of his notebook entries  in mirror image (reverse text) demonstrating superior spacial skills. It has been postulated that he wrote many entries in reverse to try to hide some of his notes, thoughts and ideas from prying eyes, or simply because he wanted to prevent smudging as he was mainly left-handed (although he was also ambidextrous).

Leonardo displayed certain distinct characteristics common amongst creative people, including:

  • Curious and open-minded
  • Challenged assumptions and sought the truth
  • Optimistic
  • Tolerant of ambiguity
  • Comfortable with imagination and intuition
  • Viewed problems as opportunities
  • Persevered and didn’t give up easily
Michael Gelb in his book “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci” identified seven principles demonstrated by Leonardo da Vinci:
  1. Curiosity
  2. Demonstration
  3. Sensing
  4. Ambiguity
  5. Whole-Brain Thinking (art and science)
  6. Physical Being
  7. Interconnectedness

Leonardo utilised the seven principles to achieve a number of outcomes. For example, in 1502 he worked as a military engineer for Cesare Borgia the son of Pope Alexander VI at a time where many Italian city-states were always at war. Leonardo’s job was to design new devices to better kill the enemy. He also came up with ways to remove, redirect or poison enemy water supplies.

Leonardo also identified and recorded a number of observations in his journals, and designed a number of inventions before their time:

  • 40 yrs before Copernicus – wrote that the earth is not the centre of the universe
  • 60 yrs before Galileo – large magnifying lens to view the moon
  • 200 yrs before Newton – theory of gravitation
  • 400 yrs before – concept of flight, parachute, helicopter, submarine, tanks, recoil-less gun and other inventions

By studying Leonardo da Vinci we find that we can identify a number of learnings from his life that we can adopt in our personal and working life, including:

  • Be curious and open-minded – a wealth of opportunities emerge when our mind is prepared to be open to ideas and curious about our surroundings
  • Ask questions to solve problems – asking “Why?” is a great way to solve problems by finding the root cause or causes
  • Capture ideas and experiences in a journal – thinking on paper by keeping a journal is a great way of expressing your internal creative spirit
  • Balance art and science – get the best of both worlds through reading and creative activities
  • Harmonize body and mind – use whole brain thinking techniques by stimulating and reprogramming your subconscious mind
  • Appreciate nature and our surroundings – enjoy and protect our world by considering the implications of increasing waste and carbon emissions
  • Set goals and aspirations – ensure you set SMART goals that are backed by action to create successful outcomes
  • Create a harmonious work-life balance – both work and play are important for humans, therefore ensure that your work and personal life are integrated and balanced

To continuous learning and creative inspiration!

Dr John Kapeleris

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Ideation or idea generation is a key driver of the innovation process. So how do we find our best ideas? Many of us generate our best ideas during the morning shower, or while we are listening to music or driving. Sometimes we come up with ideas when we are actively trying to solve problems or when we wake up in the morning. The greatest impediment to extracting value from these ideas is firstly our ability to actively capture these great ideas before the hard work begins to evaluate, harvest and implement these ideas.

Converting ideas into successful outcomes or benefits, i.e. innovations, requires a disciplined approach, although creativity forms the foundation of the process.  A typical idea management process may involve the following steps:

Generating Ideas

Dr Linus Pauling, the dual Nobel Prize Laureate stated “The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas”. The more ideas you produce the greater the chance of finding a winning idea. Idea generation was popularized by Alex Osborne in his 1953 book “Applied Imagination” where he described the concept of “Brainstorming”. Brainstorming is now widely used as a tool to generate a large number of ideas in a group setting. Furthermore, Tony Buzan’s Mindmapping® technique has also provided the means for individual brainstorming. Individuals or groups have the capacity to come up with ideas when they are in a conducive state or environment, such as relaxing in a quiet and comfortable place or while taking a shower. Relaxation allows the subconscious mind to continue to process information and make connections.

Capturing Ideas

Where do you look for ideas? You don’t need to go far. Ideas already exist within individuals working in an organization or they can be easily sourced from the external environment, including the market, customers, competitors and the Internet. We can improve the process of capturing ideas by:

  • Actively looking for ideas around us through observation and listening e.g. talking to people, newspapers, the environment
  • Building idea sources such as reference books, the Internet, thought leaders
  • Recording and banking ideas in journals, notebooks, electronic databases or mobile phone apps

Discovery through serendipity results in a random coincidence or accident that triggers an idea or concept. An attentive mind is important in recognizing and capturing these random ideas. Alternatively, synchronicity or focused awareness is more powerful since the individual is actively seeking an idea or a solution to a problem.

Constructing and Harvesting Ideas

When ideas are generated and captured they are usually in a raw form and require further constructing or processing into a concept or application. For this to occur a number of creative thinking tools can be used including brainstorming, morphological analysis, scenario building, rearranging, cross-linking or randomizing. The final step involves harvesting the developed ideas that will either, satisfy an existing market need, solve a known problem or provide a new opportunity for further development. At this stage some people will include an incubation step to sleep on the ideas before the evaluation stage.

Evaluating and Protecting Ideas

The previous steps in the idea management process all involve some element of creative input, while, the evaluation stage involves traditional analysis of the ideas using a number of predefined criteria relevant to the individual or the organization. Although, intuition may also play a role.  In evaluating ideas an initial feasibility should include a preliminary market, technical and risk assessment to determine the viability of the opportunity. It should also include an intellectual property search to determine whether someone else has already patented the idea, and to confirm that you have the freedom to operate. This step is followed by determining the value of the idea to the organization and the costs associated with the implementation phase. Paralysis by analysis should be avoided if the idea is to progress to implementation.

Implementing Ideas

One of the most difficult steps is the implementation phase. To develop great ideas and not to action them is the same as not having any ideas at all. Implementation requires planning, hard work and discipline to achieve successful outcomes. Many people underestimate the effort involved in converting their ideas into successful products, services or processes. A typical implementation process may involve:

  • clarifying the objective,
  • developing the plan,
  • identifying key processes and tasks,
  • prioritizing activities,
  • resourcing and budgeting,
  • funding,
  • assigning responsibility, and then
  • doing it!

Developing a compelling business case or business model with a clear path to market is a key factor of success.

Measuring Outcomes and Results

Progress can be monitored using appropriate measures to determine the effectiveness of the idea. Measures include value currencies such as revenue, cost savings, efficiency gains, social benefits and environmental benefits. Remember, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

Your next idea could be the breakthrough innovation, new solution, new product, new service or organisational system that could add value to your organisation or to society.

Dr John Kapeleris

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We have now reached the middle of the calendar year which is a good time to review your major goals and objectives that were set at the start of the year, and determine progress along your personal development journey. I challenge you to allocate some time and action this important task. Your goals, objectives and personal action plan are not set in stone. Circumstances change and new opportunities emerge that you need to consider and build into your plan.

If you have maintained a journal to document your action plans for your major goals and objectives, and tracked your journey and progress, then this will be the first place to start. Alternatively you may have your action plan documented in electronic format or you may be using a task list. Review the action plan for each of the goals and objectives that your set to determine your progress; whether you need to focus and give more attention and time to your plan, or whether you need to revise or delete a particular action plan. Add a review note next to each action or task. I usually use a “Status” column where I add the words: Completed, On target, On hold, Needs revision, Delete task or New task. If a task or action needs to be revised then I document the necessary changes. Most of my revisions relate to the due date for the task or action, particularly for goals that were over ambitious, which is common amongst high achievers.

If you have missed certain opportunities then you should ask yourself, “What could I have done differently to capitalise on the missed opportunities that would have added value to my personal and professional life?”, and document potential changes and actions for the future. This could include learnings such as:

  • Focus on the specific goal or action,
  • Allocate more time to a particular goal,
  • Take action – “Just Do It”,
  • Invest more time to personal development instead of wasting time on non-value activities, and
  • Seek assistance from mentors, peers or role models

I also review my journal entries that I have recorded, particularly the ideas and information I have captured over the last six months. The ideas and information can be quite valuable for further reflection and implementation. Who knows; one of your ideas might be the next “blockbuster” product, service or business opportunity! The recent review of my journal entries identified thirteen new business opportunities that I have extracted and recorded separately. I am now in the process of developing individual goals and action plans for each of the business opportunities. Many of the action plans will concentrate on undertaking further research followed by conducting a feasibility for the business opportunity, while other action plans will be in the form of implementation plans.

As I have stated previously “The rest of your life starts now!”, therefore focus on your future goals and plans, and don’t spend time regretting the missed opportunities of the past.

What does your revised personal development plan or life plan look like?

Good luck and I wish you every success for the remainder of 2010!

Dr John Kapeleris

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It is no surprise that successful and productive people keep journals or notebooks that capture ideas, inspirations, thoughts and daily reflections. Notable people such as Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison kept journals and notebooks to record their ideas, thoughts, observations and projects. The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci are well known, containing notes and illustrations of nature, art, science and anatomy. Leonardo’s journals also capture many of his ideas and inventions, but also reflect the character of the person.

Journals allow you to capture ideas and gather information into one location. Ideas can easily come and go, and the only way to remember these ideas is to record them in a journal as soon as they come to mind.  You can then review and work on these ideas at a later date.

I have been keeping journals for many years and have built excellent resources of information, knowledge and wisdom. My “Ideas Journal”, that I keep separately, contains ideas and thoughts that I have recorded since 1994, during the early days of my career. I also like to record notes, ideas and actions from the books I read and the seminars that I attend. Journals have the power to take you from where you are now to where you want to be.

The main type of  journal that I use to capture inspirations, thoughts and information is an A4 artist’s visual diary consisting of thick white sheets of paper bound in double wire, with a hard black plastic front cover and thick cardboard back cover. I prefer to use blank white paper to allow the free-flow of ideas and information. You may want to use a leather-bound journal or just a small simple notebook. Each person will have their own preference.

I take the journal with me everywhere I go in case I have an inspirational thought or idea that I can record immediately. I keep the journal by my bedside when I sleep, I take the journal with me to work, I have it next to me when I am on the computer or reading a book, and I take it with me when I travel or attend seminars. When I completely fill a journal I number and  label it, and then place it on my bookshelf.

What do I record in my journal?

  • Ideas, thoughts and inspirations
  • Interesting observations or experiences
  • Goals, objectives and action plans
  • Learning notes from reading books and attending seminars
  • Business opportunities
  • Names of contacts, leads and interesting people
  • Feelings and impressions
  • Achievements that I have accomplished
  • Interesting words, quotations, internet sites, references and book lists
  • Sketches, logos, brainstorms, mindmaps, inventions and dreams
  • Research topics and outcomes
  • Creative writing and poems
  • Recipes and wine label details
  • Travel experiences

Journals can also be used to manage projects and monitor progress of action plans.  I usually use a separate “Project Journal” to focus on one specific project. For example, when I started to learn about the internet and web publishing I got myself a notebook and labelled it “Internet Journal”. In the journal I recorded my self-education notes and learning journey about the internet. I also recorded website examples, log-in details, potential domain names and other notes. Other examples of project journals include an inventor’s journal or notebook, a travel journal, and a visual journal containing sketches or photographs.

Journal writing can be used to record your life journey. It has the potential to develop your inner self and become a channel of discovery and learning. It can also be a means of self expression or emotional relief. Journaling can also be fun and inspirational by recording creative writing, capturing sketches, brainstorming, solving problems, setting goals, developing action plans or just simply thinking on paper. In the current digital economy which is dominated by the computer keyboard, monitor and mouse it can sometimes be reassuring to grab an old style fountain pen and a page in a journal consisting of thick white paper that encourages us to express our inner creative human spirit!

Periodically you will need to review the ideas and information you capture in your journal. The ideas and information can be quite valuable for further reflection and implementation. Who knows; one of your ideas might be the next “blockbuster” product, service or business opportunity!

I look forward to reading your thoughts on journaling.

Dr John Kapeleris

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