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How to become a genius, from the internet news, 4th April 2005.

They claim to hold the key to brilliance, and have made millions teaching their techniques to others. Can they unlock your inner Einstein?

Clare Rudebeck meets the biggest brains around

Mark Brown

In Mark Brown's eyes, we all fall into one of two categories: the dinosaurs and the dolphins. The dinosaurs are those who are stuck in their ways and will eventually become defunct. The dolphins are creative and imaginative beings on a fast track to success.

Brown, who is visiting professor of innovation at Henley Management College, says people are often mistaken about which category they fall into. "Of course, most people think of themselves as dolphins, and one of my jobs is to convince them that no matter how bright you are, you can still be a dinosaur," he says.

The founder of Innovation Centre Europe, based in Alfriston in East Sussex, Brown has worked with firms such as Barclays Bank, Nestlé and Railtrack. The good news he brings to the dinosaurs of business - and the rest of us - is that we can all become dolphins. But how do we unlock our inner Einsteins? One big barrier is work itself. "I say to many of my clients that they are just too busy," he says. "They are driving at short-term deadlines and not looking at the big picture. They want their staff to be Homo mechanicus, not Homo sapiens."

His antidotes include encouraging companies to build "blue time" into their schedules and "blue rooms" in offices. "In the average office, going off to an art gallery, putting your feet on the desk or going off to see another company can be seen as career-limiting," he says. He wants to convince clients that unless they allow their staff time to think, their company won't move forward.

"Creativity often seems serendipitous - two ideas come together by accident. In an organisation, that would often happen at the coffee machine or the water cooler. You'd be swapping ideas with a colleague in an informal way and it would give you an idea."

Some of Brown's corporate clients are starting to encourage such moments. "In the blue universe, you can entertain the impossible. No idea is a bad idea," Brown says. In this environment, even the most gnarled dinosaur can evolve into a dolphin.

Anthony Willoughby

Like Tony Buzan, Anthony Willoughby believes in the power of non-linear notes. His favoured technique is "territory mapping" - describing problems and ideas in the form of maps. "Everyone can draw a map of their life story: the rivers they've crossed, the mountains climbed, and where they are trying to get to," he says. The benefits can be spectacular, especially if the map-maker looks beyond the conventions of Western civilisation.

For six years, Willoughby's company has taken City workers on trips to stay in Masai villages in Kenya. "When the Masai and the businessmen meet, they think they have nothing in common," Willoughby says. "But once they have drawn their life journeys, showing where they have picked up the knowledge, skills and experience that have made them who they are, they realise they are very similar." Willoughby says that accountants from the Home Counties and warriors from East Africa pick up much the same skills and experience at much the same times in their lives, whether by herding cattle in the savannah or chasing girls in Slough.

Willoughby, who has travelled widely, had the idea for territory mapping while in a village in Papua New Guinea 20 years ago. He was struck by how focused and happy its inhabitants seemed. "They seemed totally self-assured and confident of what was expected of them."

Determined to find the secret of their peace of mind, Willoughby asked one man what the single most important thing in his life was. He replied: "My territory." From this, Willoughby and his business partner Jo Owen developed the idea of getting people to draw their lives - and their businesses - as a physical map. Those who have used his services include GlaxoSmithKline and the London Business School.

In a typical "territory mapping" session, Willoughby asks businessmen to imagine themselves in the year 10,000BC, and to draw the challenges they face in the 21st century in terms that prehistoric man would understand. Suggested metaphors include rivers, mountains, stone axes, enemy hordes and, most important, a hairy mammoth. The beast represents the goal, the ultimate prize for which each person is searching. "Drawing these maps gives you a new perspective on your life," he says. "It enables you to crash through civilisation and see where you are and where you are going with new clarity." Those who are confused shouldn't worry: "There is no right or wrong in mapping."

Tony Buzan

"The difference between a genius and an ordinary person is not genetic potential, but the ability to direct day-dreaming," says Tony Buzan. He's the man who invented mind maps - the spider-like diagrams now found in every classroom and boardroom. He's written 90 books on unlocking the mind's potential and the benefits of blue-sky thinking.

"Blue-sky thinking - or creative thinking - is completely different to traditional, 19th-century, linear, logical thinking. Creative thinking, unlike traditional thinking, allows you to see the big picture, to have realisations and eureka moments." Mankind's greatest discoveries weren't made at a desk: "Einstein and Newton were looking up into the sky when they had their great realisations about the universe."

Good environments in which to unlock your inner genius include the bath, the shower, the lavatory and the bed. "What I teach is how to harness your facility for daydreaming," Buzan says. "One of the main exercises is mind-mapping. This is a note-taking form that reflects the natural processes of the brain. The language of the brain is imagination and association."

A mind map involves drawing the idea you want to think about as an image in the centre of a page. "You then make associations, radiating lines from the central image to represent each association," he says.

Buzan has taught this technique to schoolchildren, Olympic athletes, businessmen and chess champions. His guiding principle is that we are not stuck with the same IQ for life: the skills involved in thinking are not God-given, but can be trained.

Edward de Bono

"The human race has not really learnt how to think," says Edward de Bono, the famous creator of "lateral thinking". "We have been very good at judgement - and that works very well in science, because it deals with the predictable and constant. However, people are unpredictable, and so current thinking has been manifestly feeble in human affairs."

This has not occurred by accident. "In the Renaissance, Greek thinking as developed by Aristotle, Plato and Socrates came into Europe via the Arabs in Spain," he says. "At that time, church people ran schools and universities. They didn't need creative thinking. They didn't even need perceptual thinking. What they really needed was logical argument to prove the heretics wrong. So, education became based on analysis, logic and argument, along the Greek model."

An academic who has held posts at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and London universities, de Bono has dedicated his life to overturning these traditions. The author of 67 books, he remains best known for his book The Use of Lateral Thinking - "escaping from established ideas and perceptions in order to find new ones".

One favoured exercise is provocation - putting forward an idea you know to be absurd in order to move your thinking forward. He used this technique when addressing an environmental group in California. "They were concerned about factories on rivers, which pumped out pollution and blighted the environment downstream." De Bono proposed that factories be built downstream of themselves. "That was clearly impossible, but it led to legislation that dictated that if you build a factory on a river, your input has to be downstream from your output, so you get your own pollution first."

A suggestion on the Arab-Israeli conflict involves America pledging to give the Palestinian Authority $3bn in aid every year. Every time an Israeli is killed by a Palestinian, the aid package decreases by $50m. "This means that if a Palestinian blows up a bus, he or she would not be seen as heroic," de Bono says.

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Last modified: 02-11-2013