Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Do fence me in: How limits boost creativity, identify weak spots

When I do public speaking or presenting workshops, many of the exercises have to take place in short timeframes, with little time for preparation--a result of the schedule, or the number of people, or other factors. In no way do I pretend it's an ideal situation.

But a recent participant gave an unusual insight on a feedback form: "By forcing us to work quickly and without too much preparation time, you got us to show what we normally revert to," he wrote. "That let us see what needed correcting, for ourselves."

Setting limits can help you identify your communication weak spots or advance your creativity, whether you're writing, shaping content for a Facebook page or a Twitter feed, planning a speech, and more:
  • Limit your words: I think Twitter helps boost your creativity--the built-in limit of 140 characters forces you to get creative with your spelling, your editing, and your thinking. But you can do the same with an Ignite talk (5 minutes + 20 slides), or by setting a word count before you issue a writing assignment (and I don't mean 10,000 words).
  • Limit your time: How much can you do in 15 minutes? Set a timer and find out. I've been writing an ebook this way, in between conference calls, and I'm 15 chapters in. You? Or, write a timed piece, a three-minute speech or five-minute essay.
  • Limit your choices: Force yourself. Choose just 3 options on which to focus, decide to hone in on one angle, pick a format. Then adhere to it.
  • Limit your ability: No one likes this choice--in fact, I've had trainees say "If only you had told us precisely what to do at the outset, we would have succeeded" (but learned very little). But if you throw yourself into situations where you are a novice, you'll learn much more. The toughest of limits, but one that yields great rewards, if you are willing.
  • Limit your vision: In practicing public speaking, most people despise hearing their own voices or seeing themselves on video. And yet that view--the one view that is not your own--is the most useful, dispassionate and practical one. You'll learn all sorts of things by watching your speaking on video. Here are 8 things to look for when your speech is recorded.
What limits do you set to boost your creativity--or figure out your weak spots?
(Photo from sillydog's photostream on Flickr)

Clip to Evernote
Use the Evernote clip button, above, to save this post in an Evernote notebook. Subscribe to For Communications Directors, my free monthly newsletter, which features content before it appears here on the blog.

No comments: