How to Protect Your Ideas from the Dreaded Reptilian Brain

Individual Creativity

Nothing is worse than coming face to face with the triggered Reptilian Brain – one part of our anatomy dedicated solely to protecting us from anything that might challenge the status quo.

The scenario; you’ve been asked by some stakeholders to come up with a solution to an existing problem – some nut that old thinking just hasn’t been able to crack. You apply your best creative problem solving skills to the conundrum until, “EUREKA” – you have it! With a slight swagger, you present it to those who are going to truly benefit from your genius and, like a bird dog with a prize pheasant, you gently lay it at their feet.

And…crickets. Your audience seems frozen stiff on the spot – the only signs of life; their wild, darting eyes. The room is still, save the sounds of shallow breathing and the pounding of your heart. Quick – it’s time to break out the brain defibrillator and jump start some synapses before it’s too late

Here’s a few sneaky ways to get your critics out of their paralyzed state, relax those brains and back into real idea consideration mode…

Stand down!

I know, I know – if it appears someone is reaching into their pocket for a Magnum, the first instinct is to throw yourself in front of your baby. But stop. Defending implies that the idea requires it. But remember that your audience isn’t attacking you. They’re just scared and it’s your job to reassure them. So start by smiling, being open and acknowledging there’s an issue. This will begin to put them at ease and create an environment for discussion (which is your secret weapon).

Outsmart the Bouncer

Remember it’s their brain stem (reptilian brain) that’s causing the brain freeze. Think of this primordial response as a bouncer who’s trying to block you from getting into an amazing club. Trying to push past him won’t work. But he’s not too bright. So you need to trick or seduce him into letting you in. Try asking open-ended questions. What’s making them nervous? Can they be specific? What’s the disconnect between what they asked for and what you’ve brought them? Does the idea have any redeeming qualities for them at all? Keep smiling and asking (not solving) until you feel like they’ve really expressed their concerns and you’ve actively acknowledged them.

Trick their brains into problem solving

Now that they’ve armed you with all of the ammo you need to change their minds, ask them whether, theoretically, if the problems they identified were solved, whether the idea would be viable? The answer to this is usually yes because they can’t imagine how this might happen. If they say “No, we hate it, it stinks” – you’re probably out of luck. But if there’s a glimmer, you can move them through the final stage of brain thawing using ‘affirmative idea evaluation techniques’ (Google the term for a whole bunch of options) that allow THEM to identify the plusses, minuses and potential solutions, which has a powerful psychological effect. Odds are, before long you’ll have moved one or two of your audience onto the idea champion side, their brains will be dripping on the floor like popsicles in the sun, and your idea may be back in business.

By Think Jar Collective member Leslie Ehm, President & Chief Fire Starter at Combustion

Other articles by Leslie

Why Rejection may be the mark of great innovation

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