My system for fostering creativity using the Most Important Question System.

Think about your workday.  How much of it do you find yourself reacting?  How much of the day are you a catalyst?  How often do you have creative bursts and original ideas? 

If you can’t remember the last time you thought of something truly creative and original for your business, it’s time to make a change.  How much does the lack of creativity cost your business?  How much is a great idea worth to you?  The good news is that there are systems you can put in place that will help you to begin to respond versus react.  A reaction is a typically an immediate decision.  A response usually comes more slowly and is based on information from both the conscious and unconscious mind.  When you are responding, you are fostering your creativity.   

I first heard about this type of system from Josh Waitzkin.  He wrote the book The Art of Learning.  Tim Ferris interviewed him in Episode 2, 2014  Josh has a super interesting story, he was a child chess prodigy, then became a world champion in Push Hands martial arts.  Now he does a lot of cool things for work, but one of them is coaching hedge fund traders; taking them from great to elite. 

He teaches them this system on how to be proactive versus reactive and foster creativity.  If these guys and gals have a creative burst, it could be worth hundreds potentially billions of dollars.  I mention the traders because it made me take this process seriously and not brush it off as fluff.

I have adapted what I learned from the podcast and created my own system.  Although I’d love to be coached by Waitzkin, I am not one of his coachee’s.  If you’d like to hear this explained by Josh himself, click the YouTube link I mentioned above.

I call this system Most Important Question (MIQ) and I’m fairly certain that’s what he called it in the podcast.  There are a few parts to the system: ending the day in an area of high-quality focus, mindfulness (concentration), and journaling.   Exercising discipline, not surprisingly, is critical.  You might not see a huge benefit from it immediately but stick with it and have confidence in it.

The first step is to end your day in an area of high quality focus.  End on a high note.  Most of us are used to exhausting ourselves by finishing everything we can until our brain burns out.  Josh coaches not to do this.  Tim uses the example of Hemingway’s two core principles which were: ending the workday with something left to create and not doing everything he had to do.  Apparently Hemingway would literally stop writing mid-sentence.

Try doing the same thing.  Be sure to end when you’re in a positive place.  When you’re engrossed in high quality work.  Josh says “you…should be ending the day with quality which allows you to internalize quality overnight”.  Next, think of something you want or need an insight.  Write it down.  I typically pose it as a question and write it on a yellow Post-it note and put it in the middle of my desk.  For example “What is the best way for me to get content out to my followers?”  This is the Most Important Question (MIQ).

Then release it from your mind.  Really let it go.  When the morning comes, write on it first thing.  And I mean first thing like maybe brush your teeth and then sit down and write on it.  Don’t make breakfast, talk to your husband, and for goodness sake DON’T check email.

When you write on it first thing in the morning, you’re opening-up your unconscious mind and using the regeneration your sleep brought you.  This is how you have insights.  You’re using your mind in a proactive way.  You posed the matter in which you need an insight and you’re proactively responding to something you want. 

When your routine entails ending the day on a high note, internalizing quality, releasing it, and then using your unconscious mind to foster your creativity, you’re creating a system that is proactive.  Your not reacting, your responding.  When you consistently follow your system, it will help you get out of your own way.  It will allow you to eliminate the non-essential.  Further, you’re practicing how to turn it off and then turn it back on very intensely.  It’s like high interval training.  You work intensely hard and then you truly rest.  

When you are disciplined following your system, you’ll eventually be able to turn on the creative bursts multiple times per day.  So for example, you could do this after a workout, before your lunch break, before a bathroom break.  If you recall how you answered my initial question “How often do you have creative bursts and original ideas?”, then several bursts a day is a huge leap!  Most of us have 1 – 2 per year.

I’d recommend starting with one MIQ per day and posing the question after you end the day’s work on a high note.  That’s where I am right now and it definitely works.  I have successfully answered some critical questions in my life both personally and professionally using the MIQ system. 

I’d love to hear about your success once you’ve tried this a few times.  Write to me and let me know!