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Jolt #16 – Practice Brain-Stilling, not Just Brain-Storming

This Jolt is an excerpt from a forthcoming book by Debra R. Miller and William C. Miller of Values Centered Innovation

Pam Henderson, co-founder and CEO of NewEdge Inc, wrote a book titled “You can kill an idea, but you can’t kill an opportunity.”

Any time you take a healthy inhale where you define the soul of your innovative project, welcome emotions as a friend, anchor your confidence in essence, and comprehend with direct knowing, you create an opportunity. It’s a near-unstoppable force, a vortex of energy that awaits a vibrant, innovative solution.

Now it’s time to launch the exhale by generating a diverse and comprehensive set of creative ideas. And that’s where the idea-killers lurk! Sometimes we just think them in our own head, and other times we say them out loud.

Sometimes we judge an idea: “That’s not practical”… “That’s not bold enough”… “That’ll never fly”… “Where’s that coming from?” And sometimes we judge ourselves or others: “Get your head out of the clouds!”… “You’re too set in your ways.”… “Stop flying off in some new direction!”… “You’re not being imaginative!”

Generating creative ideas for your opportunity requires flowing with and guiding the vortex of energy, which can’t be done in an atmosphere of judgment, constriction, or control. We need to balance brain-storming with brain-stilling.

Brain-stilling enables the continuous, moment-by-moment shift from our dualistic mind to our holistic mind… from the “good-bad, right-wrong, you-me, win-lose” judgements that originate from the limbic/amygdala portion of our brains… to the wholeness, connection, and integrative insights based in the more advanced neo-cortex portion of our brains. It allows ideas to express and evolve themselves organically, from a place of curiosity and compassion.

What’s the secret to brain-stilling? W. Edwards Deming, one of the founding fathers of the Total Quality Movement worldwide, gives us a clue. He was once asked to boil down his 14 principles for sustaining high quality to the single most important one. He responded with principal #8: “Drive out fear.”

Brain-stilling reduces the fear and habitual thinking that short-circuits the process of creative ideation. It releases us from our judgmental impatience with familiar ideas we don’t immediately recognize as creative, or novel ideas we don’t immediately resonate with. It opens the neural pathways that allow us to generate ideas that are practical yet adventurous, imaginative yet focused.

The poet Rumi invites us to explore the vibrant world of brain-stilling…  

“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”


 Now it's your turn! Try on this Process Jolt in your own life and work using the Conscious Innovator® process:

  • Become aware– What is 1 new awareness you have about yourself, others and your situation?
  • Identify your capability– What is 1 personal value and 1 strength you can draw from and put into practice?
  • Take versatile action– What is 1 action you can take to apply your awareness and capability in ways you have not thought of before?

Are you ready to take your design thinking to a richer, deeper level?

Learn about VCI’s workshops and blended learning courses on “Innovation Styles®

Last updated: 19 Oct 2022
Debra and William Miller
Guest Authors and Founders, VCI

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