By Bradley Stockwell
There’s a sea of small business tips at your disposal and while many have merit, behind almost every successful business you’ll find a few key things that go against the grain. Finding these hidden gems to success is not easy and takes a lot on your part. The purpose of this article is not to tell you what these gems are (because that is truly unique to you), but to shed light on some scientific shortcuts to possibly finding them.
1. Solve Creative Problems When You Are Tired
As backwards as this sounds, it makes sense when you look at it scientifically. The brain on average is made up of 86 billon neurons, but relies heavily on neural pathways to make connections to ideas and concepts. Think of the brain as a network of roads and while there are many possible routes to a destination, often our brain will use the routes it’s most familiar with. This may be the reason behind the often cited and untrue statistic that we only use 10 percent of our brains.
Creative problem solving requires outside the box thinking, or in other words using new neural pathways. The reason why this is difficult is you are literally breaking the pathways in which your brain is used to relying on. However if you’re tired, the brain has difficulty staying on these pathways and often gives into distractions. While a tired brain is not ideal for working efficiently, it is ideal for exploring and finding these new pathways. This is why great ideas sometimes come in the middle of the night, or just upon waking.
This excerpt from an article in Scientific American explains why distractions can actually be beneficial for creative thinking:
Insight problems involve thinking outside the box. This is where susceptibility to “distraction” can be of benefit. At off-peak times we are less focused, and may consider a broader range of information. This wider scope gives us access to more alternatives and diverse interpretations, thus fostering innovation and insight.
2. Don’t Multitask
Multitasking is inefficient because it is impossible. What we call multitasking is actually called context-switching, meaning our attention is just quickly switching back and forth between tasks rather than doing them simultaneously. Research from the book Brain Rules has shown error rates go up 50% and it actually takes you twice as long to finish tasks.
Why you ask? Because you’re splitting your brain’s power and giving less attention to each task. Also the switching itself uses vital brain power making it more susceptible to mistakes, mistakes you’ll later have to correct.
The same concept for paying off credit card debt can apply to accomplishing tasks. Think of tasks as debt, mistakes as interest and brain power as money. The fastest way to pay off debt (complete tasks) without wasting your money (brain power) on interest (mistakes) is prioritizing the debt (the tasks) and tackling each one individually. You’ll pay off debt quicker (finish tasks quicker) and save money (brain power) on interest (mistakes).
3. Make Mistakes
Mistakes are your best ally in the pursuit of success. This is because your brain stores information more accurately when it’s related to a mistake. This can be traced to your brain’s most basic survival instinct. High-stress situations, such as being humiliated for giving a wrong answer, releases adrenaline that makes your brain take point by remembering every detail to protect itself from happening again.
Mistakes can also make you more appealing to others due to a social psychological term called the Pratfall Effect, which basically means those who never commit mistakes are less likable than those who commit the occasional blunder. Mistakes give you humility while perceived perfection creates distance.
If you’re afraid of making mistakes or taking risks, you’re limiting your full potential. A 2004 University of Michigan study published in the journal Organizational Science showed employees who received incentives for attempting something new, regardless of success, actually produced more successful ideas than those who were only offered incentives for successful ideas. Once the fear of making a mistake is taken away, it no longer has the power of holding you back.