Category: neuroscience of creativity


7 Reasons Why Introverts Are Your Secret Weapon

Although businesses, especially creative ones, are full of myriad personalities, when talking about how to manage, we tend to group people into two main types – extroverts and introverts. And, while every strong team can benefit from a balance of both, we tend to value and admire the outwardly expressive personality types, projecting them with positive qualities such as warmth, confidence, and intelligence, overlooking their more introspective peers.

That’s big mistake, according to our Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder Kate Canada Obregon, who shared her insights with Everyday Power in her article “7 Reasons Why Introverts Are Your Secret Weapon.” Read the full article here and find out how introverts can capitalize on their secret strengths.


Relax Your Brain with a Staycation in Style

It’s the holiday season and the end of another year. You’ve probably got loads of work projects waiting for your attention in 2017 and meetings stacked and scheduled deep into January. The client wants your ear, while office problems demand your know-how and problem-solving skills.

But, the supply chain, the creative teams, the leadership retreat and the new product release can wait. Now is the time to stop and retreat. Yes. Retreat into the waiting outdoors or, if weather’s an issue, take a tumble into the inviting coziness of your living rooms. The adventure of quiet awaits.

Your whirling and multitasking brain needs time doing little beyond daydreaming, pausing and refreshing. The neuroscience and cognitive benefits of time away from our overthinking work lives are clear. Your brain requires quiet, calm and loads of free space to revive and look at things differently.  So, hunker down with family, friends and binge a few shows, but don’t forget to overindulge in nothing in particular.

We’ve curated some of the great aesthetic escapes of the last couple decades as our way to inspire you to do nothing, albeit always with style.







Better Together: How Introverts and Extroverts Can Leverage Their Skills for a Stronger Workplace

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you get your best ideas while talking to others or do you prefer quiet time processing your thoughts? Whatever your personal disposition, if you’re charged with leading others, or you want to move into managing others, you’ve got to understand introverts and extroverts, and how they do their best work.

Let’s define what we mean by Introverts and Extroverts. According to Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Briggs, and their now-famous Myers Briggs [Personality] Type Indicator, we tend to fall along a spectrum of personality and behaviors called Introverts and Extroverts. As the names imply, both use their inner and outer worlds differently in their thinking, learning and interaction styles. Introverts are more inclined to delve into inner worlds of thoughts and feelings while extroverts prefer outside stimulation with activity and talking. Introverts prefer less outside activity and draw meanings in their minds from these experiences. Extroverts focus on feeling experiences and figure out meaning in experiences.

Many psychologists and organizational behaviorists tell us introverts and extroverts don’t always understand one another’s communication style. These confusions can lead to unproductive meetings, unnecessary conflicts and decreased productivity.   

If you’re managing or leading teams, understanding personality and knowing the value of introverts and extroverts, will not only garner you respect from employees, but it can also increase productivity, and improve the quality of work products, and conflict resolution.

Consciously appealing to different personalities also improves morale, because we humans work best, and are happier, when we feel understood and respected. And the bigger truth is that we can’t avoid it.  All of us are born somewhere on the introvert / extrovert spectrum and the key is making the most of how these two personality types can best work together.

We carry with us stereotypes about introverts versus extroverts. Sometimes, the reality in every meeting proves our bias. So for instance, extrovert-oriented talkative types speak often, displaying confidence while quieter types listen, conveying inactivity in meetings or brainstorming work sessions.

As Susan Cain argued in her bestseller, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” introverts are forced to work against the “Extrovert Ideal — the omnipresent belief, the gregarious, alpha (who is) comfortable in the spotlight.” It’s easy to buy into the Extrovert Ideal and default to idealizing their personality as the best approach to leading initiatives. But, while extroverts can provide a burst of energy and take the initial reins, introverts have equally valuable contributions to make.

We need extroverts to kick things off and bring a fresh energy to the room. If you’ve ever sat in a meeting where no one wanted to speak up, then you know what a relief it is to have that person who’s willing to go first or just “spitball.” However, it’s important to remember that while introverts may be sitting there quietly, they are actually quite engaged. The truth is they may just be taking it all in. Introverts are internal facing, meaning they can absorb and consider facts, and combine ideas in their head, which they may verbally express at a later time.

Another way these personalities balance each other out is through their approach to thought. While extroverts tend to express their ideas as they think of them, often trying to get a better grasp on what they’re actually saying, an introvert can listen to what an extrovert is saying and summarize what they’re really thinking. Sometimes, an extrovert is able to inspire an introvert, and an introvert is able to give the extrovert focus and structure.

As stated earlier, we often look to extroverts to jumpstart the energy of a meeting, but during long meetings or brainstorming sessions, extroverts can sometimes extend themselves into exhaustion. It’s the introverts who can save the day by swooping in and bringing energy back to the room.

It can be challenging to operate in a business environment where we tend to default to the loudest or quickest ones to talk to lead the conversation, but it’s important to remember that both extroverts and introverts have their own unique advantages and resources. They can actually strengthen each other. In the end, we’re all just trying to make ourselves heard, even if we go about it in different ways.


Five Minutes With – Kate Canada Obregon, PhD

As the Co-Founder, Partner and Director of Strategy and Research of Oishii Creative, Kate Canada Obregon has been with the company from the beginning, since co-founding it with her business partner, and now husband, Ish Obregon, in 2006. Read on as she offers her insight into what the company’s philosophy, “Think Like a Tourist,” means for her, what inspires her, and what she really does all day.

How do you “Think Like a Tourist” (how do you embody that philosophy for yourself)?
For me, “Thinking Like a Tourist” is not only our company mantra, but truly my experience coming into this industry. I had such an outside background that I feel I’ve been able to bring some fresh perspective and understanding to the world of branding. I originally studied political philosophy and culture at university. The more I studied and researched, the more I began to see the small, but powerful, tools people used in culture, language, and perspective — how culture and institutions in society are in a perpetual conversation.

While working in a basement library archive, researching and examining a replica of the Bayeux Tapestry and William the Conqueror’s attempt to win over his new English subjects after defeating the beloved King Harold in 1066, a friend gave me career advice. “You should try out the field of brands,” she said. I looked at her, and we both had a good laugh. “Why not apply your knowledge to different kinds of problems? You know history and science,” she urged. “You should think about applying your skills and passion to more contemporary problems.” And as I completed my PhD studies, I began meeting with creative agencies doing interesting work in strategy, and I was curious and inspired. Around this time, I met Ish, and we immediately clicked. He wanted to shape “branding” into a standalone and serious discipline for his clients, separate from the function and process of marketing, and I wanted to apply social science to study audiences and culture. I wanted to be a “social” scientist, not just study culture for science.So, luckily for me, I still apply my background and outside approach to the industry, and I get to “Think Like a Tourist” everyday — creating actionable strategy and insights using science and good data for companies and brands committed to understanding what their audiences or clients like, want or value.

What do you do when you’re feeling creatively blocked?
Get outside! Even if it’s just for a short walk, getting yourself moving and exposed to fresh air, sunlight and a new environment can jumpstart your creativity.

What three elements would a perfect day include?
Definitely time with my family, a project that I can sink my research teeth into, and maybe a really good cup of coffee.

What do you do all day?
Today, my days are spent working on the strategy and research side of projects at Oishii. As each client comes in, I study their brand, goals, and needs, and help them figure out where they want to go. It’s been a great fit, because like any academic, I’m obsessed with pursuing good knowledge whatever the project or outcome. In my former academic self, I couldn’t have understood English history using hearsay or bad science, and today, my clients deserve no less. Strategy for me is the ongoing pursuit of what makes companies and brands pleasurable for audiences, and that should always involve history, science and rigor.

Do your family understand what you do all day?
Well, my co-founder, Ish Obregon, is also my husband, so I would hope so!


Music on My Mind: Finding the Right Tunes for Your Creativity

Even with all of the buzz surrounding the Rio Olympics over the past week, one moment held the internet’s collective attention — Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps prepping for his semifinal race in the 200-meter butterfly– hoodie up and Beats headphones on (many speculate it’s Eminem blasting in them) — scrunches up his face, giving a deadly glare to no one in particular. Meanwhile, South African opponent Chad le Clos, earbuds in, shadowboxed and danced in front of him. A meme-worthy scene to be sure, but what’s really striking is the universality of the two men using music, albeit probably very different genres and with different reactions, to get themselves in the right frame of mind.

It’s no secret that athletes can get a boost from the right choice of tunes, but what if the same can be said for creatives? After all, even President Obama had admitted to also playing some Eminem before a big speech, so why not before your next big presentation? Or, even to get yourself in the right frame of mind for a particular project or to just relax your mind?

Many creatives are multi-talented across disciplines, including being musicians themselves, but even for those of us who are closer to tone deaf than the Deftones, we can still harness the power of music for our own creativity. While science has shown that music can relax, energize, inspire and even increase creativity, it’s all about knowing the patterns that will influence your work positively.

Here are five tips on when to hit play and when to pause.

Play: You’re looking to brainstorm or get lost in the style frames of your project. Just as we storyboard our design inspiration, we can also get our mood references from audio. Netflix’s Spielbergian tribute Stranger Things is a perfect example of a soundtrack that puts not just the viewers, but the show’s creators, in the ‘80s suspense mindset.

Pause: Learning new tasks. While learning an instrument can actually improve our cognitive skills and studying music has been linked to academic achievement, when it’s time to learn a new task, music can actually hinder your brain’s ability to process new information, especially if you’re reading or the music you’re listening to has lyrics.

Play: Repetitive tasks combined with a loud office environment create the perfect storm of distraction. Music can actually help in this scenario because it can block out the excessive data input that your brain is trying to process from the background noise, as well as triggering a release of feel-good neurotransmitters to help you feel relaxed and more focused.

Pause: When listening to something new, studies have shown that it’s best to listen to old favorites rather than explore something different. This is because your brain will be more easily distracted by something it’s not already familiar with.

So, when you’re preparing your summer work playlist, be sure to curate plenty of old favorites, a few lyric-free tunes, and some mood-setting options. And, if you need a good pump up, there’s always Eminem.


Thriving in the Balance Between Career and Life

Summer is in full swing, and the warm weather has us thinking about taking a vacation. And whenever we plan time off, it makes us face the important question of if we can really afford to be out of the office for even a few days. With Americans working more hours than any other industrialized nation, and with research making it clear that all of our overworking isn’t getting us ahead, it’s time to take a look at our work/life balance.

As we’ve explored before, creative brains lose focus when they don’t get enough sleep and can greatly benefit from disconnecting. But in an industry where there’s a seemingly never-ending line of projects to finish and deadlines to meet, sometimes, things fall a little off balance. A recent study found that 87% of knowledge workers admit to working more than a typical 40-hour workweek, and 23.4% put in more than 50 hours a week. And 71% of responders admitted that they were unhappy about putting in the extra time. The corporate, and even creative, work cultures have unwittingly created an environment that is literally wearing us down.

As a leader of a creative company, I see the importance of maintaining work/life balance not only for myself and my own well-being, but for our employees, too. If we’re not setting a good example at the top, it’s likely the rest of the team won’t feel they have the freedom to take care of themselves as well. With that in mind, we put together a list of ways that we maintain work/life balance for ourselves and encourage our employees to follow:

Put Health First
From mental health to physical ailments and even sick family members, when our well-being is on the line, we must take the time to take care of ourselves (or our loved ones). From exercising and eating right to taking a sick day when we need to, in order to bring balance back to our lives, we need to put our health — and that of our employees — first.

Encourage Passion Projects
We are firm believers that passion projects drive innovation, and encouraging those passion projects for ourselves and our team members allows us all some much needed creative freedom and the ability to take a sanctioned break from our day-to-day. The result, hopefully, is that we’ll all feel re-inspired and reinvigorated.

Respect Personal Time
When Wieden+Kennedy’s London offices recently announced their initiative to ban emailing during night hours and encourage employees to reclaim time spent working on weekends, we were struck by how simple, yet important it had become for our industry. Certainly, there are times where work cannot wait, but by making it clear that they valued their employees’ personal time, they’ve set a good example for all of us in this industry to make sure we’re not losing sight of our or our team’s humanity.

Promote Vacation Time
Maybe we can’t all offer unlimited vacation time, and there’s some controversy on whether or not it actually discourages employees from taking time off, but we can make it clear that vacation time is meant to be taken. From working with employees who never seem to use their two weeks, to touting the benefits of travel directly and taking our own vacations, we need to ensure that taking time off is seen as a worthy path to nurturing the creative soul.

That’s just a small list of how we can begin to incorporate better work/life balance into our days. How do you or your company encourage better living through less?


Your busy, chatty brain needs some quiet

One of the fundamental principles of Buddhism is that the world is constantly in flux, and therefore, each of us is in flux, experiencing constant change. According to Buddhism, by not embracing change and trying to hold on to life around you too tightly, be it the negative or the positive, we bind ourselves to suffering. To accept change is to accept ourselves and those around us as constantly changing creatures, who are not bound to our past failures or successes.

While initially frightening, whether or not you follow Buddhist teachings, once you embrace the idea that nothing is permanent, it can be very freeing. You aren’t who you were yesterday when you lost that pitch or even who you were this morning when you felt the stress of a budget meeting. You are only who you are in this moment, and that allows you to let go of your expectations, fears and doubts about yourself and take on new challenges, views and states of mind.

And it’s in that new mindstate that’s the key to embracing change. By adopting mindfulness — the practice of watching one’s breath and noticing thoughts and sensations — during your work hours, it can help you reflect upon the evolution of self, embrace it and even thrive from it. But don’t take our word for it. Companies, and even business schools, have embraced the adaptation of mindfulness for success: Google’s created a course on it, while eBay and Twitter both offer meditation areas for its employees.

And especially creatives can benefit from mindfulness. Creative work requires a quiet mind, your brain’s neurons quietly humming on autopilot. Tapping into quiet shuts down the chatty parts of your brain, the areas that plan, plot and worry. Whether it’s a walk around the office or an early morning sit down in your living room before anyone gets up, quiet and stillness makes room for ideas, connections and creativity.

So, how can we incorporate mindfulness into our already busy schedules? The good news is only a few minutes a day can make an enormous difference. When you’re feeling stressed, whether it’s because of long commutes to and from work, conflict with a coworker or just generally feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath, relax your body and let go of your thoughts. It sounds deceptively simple, but studies have shown that mindfulness makes us happier, less stressed, more empathetic and more cognitively mobile, increasing memory and helping us think more clearly. And, with 47% of us admitting to spending our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing, a little mindfulness can go a long way.

Of course, if you need a little more help, there’s an app for that.


Don’t Fear Conflict. Work Through It!

Your workday was going fine. The pitch went well, you just delivered your latest project (and on time!), and then suddenly, a coworker wants to “have a word” about a grievance. Suddenly, your day has been upended, and with just a few words, your heart is racing and your stomach is turning. You’ve just been faced with conflict in the workplace.

Negatively processing and reacting to conflict is bad for us. Aside from the immediate “fight or flight” response your body experiences, ongoing conflict elicits large amounts of stress in our bodies and can have a lasting impact on our memory, mood and even lifespans. Studies have shown the toll of the stress from conflict on our bodies can even lead to increased work-related injuries.

So, what can we do to minimize the negative impacts of workplace conflict on ourselves and those we’re interacting with? According to the Harvard Business Review, choosing your words carefully is the best start. When emotions are high, we often don’t take time to carefully consider what we’re saying to the other person, or how we’re coming across, which can further escalate the situation. Another issue is that in our rush to get our point across and convince the other party why we’re in the right, we fail to actively listen to them, thereby shutting ourselves off from a potential resolution and further aggravating the situation. Here are six more do’s and don’ts for dealing with workplace conflict.

Don’t rush. Take a breath. Take a walk. Take your time to respond to that email. Even if you have to excuse yourself for a few minutes, do not push yourself into a response before you’re fully calm. When things are tense, the wrong response could make them worse.

Do listen without interrupting. This could be difficult, especially when you feel you’re the wronged party, but it’s imperative to moving forward that both sides feel they’ve had a proper chance to express themselves.

Don’t focus on a winner. It’s a win-or-lose mentality that gets people into conflict in the first place. By letting go of the need to be the victor, and instead focusing on a resolution, you can shift the focus to healing the matter together.

Do accept responsibility. Also in Harvard Business Review, leadership author and Harvard Business professor Linda Hill, advises not to act like there’s only one point of view. “You need to own your perception. Start sentences with ‘I’ not ‘you,’” she explains.

Don’t fear conflict. It’s inevitable in any workplace, or in life. And if you’re in a leadership position, it’s just part of your job. By ignoring the situation, you’ll only make it worse. So, take a deep breath, relax your muscles and try to focus on a solution.

No one says it’ll be fun or easy, but properly dealing with conflict is mental strength training for all of us.


The Science of Sleep

Are you yawning as you settle down to read this? Or perhaps you’ve just refilled your coffee cup for the third time in an effort to “stay focused.” We are loathe to admit it in a work environment that prizes being “on” at all hours, but, as a whole, we are not getting enough rest. Recent studies have confirmed that Americans do not get enough sleep, with more than a third of adults getting less than seven hours a night, which may be just as bad at not sleeping at all. So, we may very literally be working ourselves to death.

Even Arianna Huffington, the queen of productivity, has gotten onboard. Her latest book, “The Sleep Revolution,” touts the benefits of getting more shut eye in order to be more creative, productive, and even happier. In her 2010 TED Talk, where she advised attendees to “sleep their way to the top,” Huffington tackled the culture of “sleep deprivation one-upmanship” that has led people to brag about how little rest they’re getting and how much they’re doing.

We’ve adopted a culture where we struggle to recognize or justify our own value unless we’re in a constant state of being in-demand. When we’re too busy, have too many conflicting deadlines and back-to-back meetings, it’s easy to trick ourselves into believing that just compromising on a few hours of sleep is the best answer. But ongoing sleep deprivation, even losing just a few hours a night, can lead to health risks, lowered creativity, trouble concentrating or even an inability to function through the workday. And, according to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is something that can’t be caught up on later.  

What can we do? Powering down all electronics, at least one hour before bed may be our biggest goal. By signaling to your brain that it’s time to relax, it can start the necessary process to prepare for sleep. Having a nightly ritual, like meditation, reading or putting on some extra comfy pajamas, can help ease your mind to make the transition from the busy workday to the world of Morpheus.

So, next time you’re getting lost in your work at 2 am and feeling that charge that comes from knowing your ideas are flowing and you’re bringing value to the table, just remember how much you’ll suffer for missing those extra zzz’s tomorrow. Or as Huffington says, “I urge you to shut your eyes and discover the great ideas that lie inside us, to shut your engines and discover the power of sleep.”


Lost and Found on the Creative Path

Everyday is a new creative adventure, whether you’re working on a passion project or trying to come up with the next big idea for your client. We should try to strive to let ourselves embrace, explore and be inspired by our own personal creative paths.

But sometimes, we wander off the path and get lost on the way. The journey may still feel enjoyable, but we’ve stepped away from the process in an unplanned or unhelpful way that takes you too far from actually achieving your goals. And in those instances, no matter how pleasurable the experience, sometimes, if you go off-course, you’ve got to find your way back. Here are three tips to getting yourself back on track.

  1. Find a guide. If you’re truly lost, perhaps you need a little guidance to find your way? Maybe it’s revisiting the original creative brief to see if you’ve strayed too far from the original concept. Maybe it’s asking your colleagues, team or boss for advice when you’re facing a mental challenge that has you sidelined. Or, if your struggle is a bigger challenge of feeling adrift in your job, a mentor or even a career coach may be the answer. As creative consultant Jeffrey Davis said of feeling sidelined, “I’ve seen talented minds go to waste out of sheer stubbornness, pride, and shame in not asking for directions from others… Every thriving enterpriser I know, interviewed, and have studied has a mentor and a group of trusted allies.” Don’t be afraid to admit how you’re feeling and to ask for help.
  1. Focus. This is the tough one because struggling with focusing could be what caused you to feel lost in the first place, but sometimes, the only answer to getting back on track is to buckle down and do it. While we always need to allow ourselves a balance of creative freedom, having the concentration and discipline to see ourselves through challenging projects, situations and even time periods is essential to seeing things through. So, next time you feel yourself drift off your path, work on training your mind to focus, just like you would any muscle.
  1. Give Yourself Time to Get Lost. We’ve explored before how important a little time off to daydream and wander is for the creative brain. Perhaps you’re getting lost due to creative fatigue. In a digital era where we’re always connected and an industry where we can technically do our work from anywhere with a wifi signal, it’s easy to understand how fast we can get to a state of burnout. Wieden + Kennedy London even recently went so far as to institute email-free hours and limited meeting times to help combat the “always-on” expectations. If you’re feeling disconnected in your creative work, maybe it’s time to schedule some time to be actually disconnected.

Sometimes, the best way to find your way back is to embrace the journey for a bit. After all, as Tolkien said, “Not all who wander are lost.”