How to unleash your inner genius

Brand strategy expert Jane Melvin says the key is figuring out how your brain works

“I love it when people think that life is bigger than they thought it was yesterday,” Jane Melvin says enthusiastically. “We’re on this earth to live our big lives, and I have little techniques I can use to help people do just that.”

Melvin, an expert in brand strategy and leadership development and founder of Strategic Innovations Group, was addressing an attentive crowd of WeWork employees at the “Student for Life” session at the company’s Global Summit in Los Angeles, held in early January. Being a student for life, Melvin says, helps us connect with others, be more interesting to ourselves, learn new things, and live a vibrant and creative life. With those goals in mind, she looks for three key elements in anything she takes on: inspirational people, big ideas, and work that makes a difference. “With those three things, I actually always end up doing pretty great work.”

Using these insights, Melvin has spent over a decade helping companies like Starbucks and Microsoft articulate their culture, connect with employees, and think about how they can be better and make a difference, she says. In turn, that helps them operate efficiently, effectively, and—most important—creatively.

“Humanity and being human is genius,” says brand strategy expert Jane Melvin. “All of us have this in us.”

Melvin urges everyone she works with to figure out their goals and what they’re meant to be doing. She tells clients to ask themselves, “What are my optimal conditions?” in their life and career. Arriving at the answers, she says, will help harness the creative spirit, learn more about yourself as an individual, and work effectively as a team. “Plan your time like you plan your life,” she advises. “Say ‘yes’ more, start small, and depend on your friends.”

According to Melvin, we all have the capacity to be creative—we just have to figure out how our brains work. She shares Annette Moser-Wellman’s The Five Faces of Genius model, a go-to exercise Melvin implements when working with clients. Once we figure out which “face” we are, she explains, we can better learn how to unleash our creative genius and be an asset in any situation.

So with which genius do you identify the most?

The Seer: You see things visually. Images in your mind’s eye lead to new ideas.

The Observer: You’re detail-oriented, constantly asking why and looking for the answer. Forever curious.

The Alchemist: You enjoy collaboration. You’re extroverted and outgoing. You like taking two ideas and combining them to make something new.

The Fool: You’re absurd, and it works. You turn weakness into strength. Your uncertainty often leads to success. See: Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, and the Wright Brothers.

The Sage: You have the skill of simplification. When you get ideas, you ask, “What is the heart of the issue?” and reduce them to their essence. Your writing is simple yet profound.

“Your genius is your creative spirit,” says Melvin. When we begin to understand our skills and how we should use them, we can harness our capacity for creativity. Oh, and we should also step outside routine and efficiency every once in a while—they’re creativity killers. “Ideas appear in the time between active work and rest,” she explains. “Preserve that time. Be precious with it.”

But you don’t have to brainstorm in an empty room. Harnessing your full creative spirit is even easier when you have the physical space in which to do it, and she believes WeWork has made that possible for so many. “Every single one of us, when we connect, is inspiring to the other,” she told the crowd. “And you guys—at your core—are about helping people make their lives great, by creating the physical place where they can do that.”

In short, says Melvin, there’s no limit to what any of us can do creatively. “Humanity and being human is genius,” she says. “All of us have this in us.

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