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Take care of your brain: Your reward? More ideas

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The lines were huge. Nerds, geeks and electronics enthusiasts waited to be among the first to snap up the most advanced personal device on the planet — the iPhone 5. For cellphone fanatics it was a major “I’m cool” coup. Or was it?

The new version is packed with terrific features, but it didn’t have its game on in a few ways. For example, if you used its navigation feature to search for the airport in Denver you were sent to a facility that was shut down 17 years ago. Despite its incredible attributes the latest gadget was linked to selected information that was exceptionally out of date.

The error was corrected, but it makes me wonder: How did it slip through? Likely because of overworked software engineers and over-pressured quality-control managers racing to meet deadlines.

As you manage the competitive push for fresh ideas, new products and innovation in your boating and marine business, how do you maintain, initiate novel programs and prevent errors tied to ongoing pressures to produce? What steps can you take to keep your brain clear, spirit energized and creative juices flowing?

In an article in Inc. magazine (Aug. 21, 2012), Geil Browning, founder of Emergenetics International, shared “Eight Ways to Keep Your Brain Innovative.” It got me thinking (good thing since this involves the brain) how these eight elements also can be used to help reduce errors and ratchet up competitive progress.

If you’re working smarter in a less pressurized state you are more apt to keep your brain open to inspiration and produce a higher-quality result. How do you get started? All aboard: It’s time for a cerebral excursion.

1. Work fewer hours — working the longest hours of anyone is foolish. I’ll add that it’s possible to work fewer hours, but many don’t know how. For the executive who considers responding to 3 a.m. emails to be a badge of honor, working fewer hours can be a tough goal to reach. I’ll cut to the chase: Yes, you’ll have to work long hours at times because we all do. The big “but” is that if you’re doing this all the time there’s something wrong. You’re mismanaging your role, group and business. You’re also setting yourself up to be low on inspiration and high on exhaustion and making mistakes. Fix it by delegating, hiring help and eliminating activities that don’t yield high enough benefits to the business.

2. Clarify your goals and core values — periodically revisit what you want to accomplish vs. where you’re spinning your wheels. Continuing my comment above about eradicating effort that doesn’t build business benefits, it’s easy to be consumed by the crush of day-to-day activity and fail to push goals to the next level. Are you producing innovative market approaches and growing revenue or are you stuck in the same place you were a year ago? Inhale a deep dose of fresh air and clarify where you are, what you want your future state to be and how you’re managing your team to get there. Click the refresh icon for your goals and values and openly consider what develops (it’s OK to exhale now, if you haven’t already).

3. Track your time — ruthless efficiency allows you to block out chunks of time for non-work and the flow of inspiration and innovation. Yes, I see a theme taking shape. Part of the science of invention is actually making time for it to occur. Once you realize where you are not spending time efficiently it will be easier to slot time for free-flowing cerebral sharing with your group. Brainstorming is often overlooked, yet rich with returns and essential for inventive, quality output.

4. Don’t overpromise — this can be particularly challenging for small businesses because their resources are limited and they need to satisfy demanding clients in record time for the most competitive price. I’ve found that stress, anxiety and exhaustion are the enemies of inspiration. How can you come up with a bright idea when your brain is screaming “Get some sleep!” Realistically manage what you can handle and you’ll generate more ideas for how you can handle it. Resist buying another six-pack of energy drink and stop promising more than you can deliver.

5. Say no — taking on a nightmare job will squash innovative vigor. You’ll power the art of inspiration and boost your brain’s creative energy by learning to walk away from projects you can’t handle. What you do well is your sweet spot for success. Working too far outside your sweet spot? As a manager, learn to walk away and enthusiastically look for the next opportunity.

6. Hire help — hiring help also means you’re willing to release your tendency to be a perfectionist or control freak. Hiring ties in nicely with No. 1 on the list — working fewer hours. Refusing to delegate and working longer hours hurts you in the long run by taking a whack at your innovative spirit. Great managers learn to let go in order to grow, encourage and enable others.

7. Get a life — working too hard should not be an escape for avoiding something else. Being a workaholic is a great way to zap energy and inspiration, too. Does your life outside work bring you fulfillment and enjoyment with family and friends? Not interested in much outside of work? Start looking. Try a new activity or hobby till you find an option that generates personal satisfaction and excitement. Getting a life outside work can help you enjoy your work life even more.

8. Unplug — turn off cellphones and set email aside. It will be there when you return. Technology has found a way to make connections to work available anywhere, anytime. Constantly being plugged in — if not addicted to the office — has made downtime rare. Ditching your downtime? Dumb. Unplugging provides the juice for plugging back in. Give your brain the luxury of free-flowing thought, and inspiration will pop into your head. Can’t unplug when needed? Stand up and stretch, take a walk, jump into the stairwell and climb a few flights (my favorite) instead of taking the elevator. You’ll be amazed how problems are easier to solve, complexities are clarified and how much better you feel after you’ve unplugged.

* * *

Finding ways to encourage your brain to be innovative can likewise influence your ability to better manage your business. More ideas, more solutions, more success. Whether you’re at the office managing your everyday challenges or standing in line to buy the latest electronic wonder to hit the market, tap into these eight ways to boost your brain’s brilliance and put them into play in your daily work environment.

You’ll find you’re working smarter, having more fun and firing up your team to produce bigger and better results. The added bonus is that you’ll experience a renewed cerebral energy that helps minimize mistakes and keeps your innovative cycle humming. I’d call that inspirational — if not genius.

Mary Elston has spent more than 20 years in management in the transportation, consulting and technology industries. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of the book, “Master Your Middle Management Universe, How to Succeed with Moga Moga Management Using 3 Easy Steps.” Contact her at

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue.



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