Brain Boot Camp: Secret Strategies to Become Instantly Smarter

Brain Boot Camp: Secret Strategies to Become Instantly Smarter

by James Bannerman

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This book isn’t going to turn you into a genius, but you already knew that. What it will do is increase the number of genius moments in your life. You know, those amazing times when you cleverly solve a problem that others have been struggling with, or come up with a brilliant idea that makes the ordinary extraordinary.

We could all do with a touch more inner genius: The ability to see what others miss. The ability to shape an ingeniously persuasive argument. The ability to create, adapt, adjust, rethink, tweak, and polish. This is the stuff upon which amazing careers and great businesses are built.

And while we can’t all be the next Einstein, Shakespeare, or Steve Jobs, we can all develop and hone our genius thinking skills.

With this book you’ll be able to:
  • Solve problems and dissolve obstacles
  • Spot opportunities that others miss
  • Win arguments with persuasive lines
  • Turn the distinctly average into something truly special

Those who think creatively are given a massive advantage—in the workplace and at home—and everyone can do it, with a bit of help. This deceptively simple book will show you how.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781628738735
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 01/02/2014
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
File size: 6 MB

About the Author

James Bannerman is a creative change agent who combines creativity with psychology to help businesses innovate. As an innovation consultant, he has worked with many leading organizations including British Airways, Orange, Starbucks, Rolls-Royce, and HSBC, as well as the National Space Center on a mission to Mars. He also lectures on business creativity and innovation on the MBA programs at Warwick Business School, Grenoble École de Management, and Oxford Brookes School.

Read an Excerpt




The 5 essential Cunningly Clever Tools for fixing everyday challenges – big or small

'Millions saw the apple fall but Newton was the one who asked why.'

Bernard Baruch

Later in this book you will be introduced to 26 different mindtools for stimulating your own Genius Ideas. Here, we're going to be focusing on just a smaller selection of tools and applying them to a very broad range of situations. It's the fast-track guide to Genius Thinking, for those of us who need to know the secrets instantly, and who need a touch of genius in all areas of our lives.

So, if it's Snappy Genius you're after, stay right here. CUNNING CANDO will quickly introduce you to the 5 principle ways for helping you to generate new ideas, whatever the situation, whatever the context.

If it's Spready Genius you're after, however, in terms of a much wider selection of tools for your toolbox, then you might want to keep on reading, or turn now to p. 93.

If you were to take all the creative thinking tools and techniques in the world and then distil them down to just 5, and only 5, these would be those 5 ...

In a moment we'll be exploring what they actually mean and, more importantly, in what ways you can use them to help you fix all kinds of little problems, and BIG problems, in your life.

Before we begin, however, you may be wondering what we mean by CUNNING and by CANDO. Let's start with CANDO.


Evidence suggests that genius, like success, comes in CANS not in CAN-NOTS.

This is why many geniuses throughout history — from commercial geniuses to artistic geniuses and even political geniuses — have done their best to highlight the importance of a CANDO attitude:

* 'If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you?re right.' (Henry Ford)

* 'He can who thinks he can, and he can't who thinks he can't.' (Pablo Picasso)

* 'Nurture the mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.' (Benjamin Disraeli) It's also why we tend to think of the CANDO Mozart as a genius rather than the CAN'T DO Emperor Joseph II, who famously told Wolfgang his music had 'too many notes'!

Or why we think of the CANDO Wright Brothers as geniuses for inventing the first ever plane to fly in 1903, rather more than the CAN'T DO astronomer Simon Newcomb who sceptically pointed out in 1902 that, 'Flight by machines heavier than air is impractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible.'

And so, at the end of the day, one could deduce that, if you want more Genius Moments in your life, here's the secret:

Create a life for yourself where there are more squiggles and fewer straight lines. Why? Because ...

Non-Genius minds are full of statements and exclamation marks:

'I can't afford it!?

'It can't possibly work!?

'This problem can't be fixed!?

Genius minds are full of explorations and question marks:

'How can I afford it?'

'How can I potentially get it to work?'

'In what other ways can I look at this problem to help me fix it?'

Admittedly, it sounds pretty obvious, but (as we'll discover later) genius doesn't always have to be complicated.

Yet before we move on to the CUNNING bit, there are two additional reasons why CANDO was deliberately, rather than accidentally, chosen for this part.

Firstly, it could be argued that the tin can (invented by Peter Durand in 1810) is a powerful visual symbol of what Genius is all about. After all, this genius invention helped to revolutionise the way food was preserved and transported around the globe. In fact, Ezra Warner's invention of a tin can opener was possibly an even better idea, but that didn't come along until over 40 years later!

Secondly, it might be worth considering how even a very old, very naff, and very overused cliché like the CANDO cliche can also have one good thing going for it: clichés are easy to remember.

And memorability is important, especially if you want the mindtools in this book to benefit you as much as possible in your day-to-day life.

Right. Now we've got that out the way, what about the CUNNING bit?


Well, George Bernard Shaw might well have said, 'You see things and you say "Why?" But I dream things that never were and I say "Why not?"? But he was a bit of a pompous genius, so let's forget about him.

Here's the real answer.

CUNNING is without doubt a strange word.

On the one hand we associate it with being rather sly and deceitful like a wily fox, a Machiavellian politician, Dickens's Artful Dodger, or, worst of all ... a second-hand car salesman.

On the other, we often secretly admire 'cunning minds' for their amazing ability to think laterally and step around the very problems that 'fox' the rest of us.

This book is aimed solely at the second category, or what could potentially be called ethical cunning. It is not about encouraging you to be 'dodgy' in business or life, or to trample on others in a ruthless pursuit of personal or professional success. Far from it.

It is about showing you how, in order to have more of the Genius Moments we mentioned earlier, we often need to learn the art of being Cunningly Clever ...

So here goes. And if at times you find Cunningly Clever Creativity rather childlike, fantastic! The more childlike the better ...


The first CUNNING CANDO technique you can use to help you fix life's tricky problems is Cunning Connections (also known as 'Bisociation' as we'll discuss later).

The good news is that it's fairly easy to use. All you have to do is ask yourself the following question: 'What might happen if I connected this with that to create something new?' For example, here's how others have experimented with unusual connections in the past to come up with all kinds of fresh concepts and clever inventions:

Connect tin with copper, and what do you get? ... Bronze

Connect a woman with a fish? ... A mermaid

Connect breakfast and lunch? ... Brunch

Connect sawdust with glue? ... Chipboard/MDF

Connect the sail of a tiny boat with a surfboard? ... Windsurfing

Yup. Virtually everywhere you look the chances are you'll begin to see evidence of Cunning Connections Genius at work, from a patchwork quilt to wallpaper, a radio-alarm clock to Gin & Tonic, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to a supermarket (which, let's face it, is nothing more than loads of different shops merged together under one roof from a butcher to a baker, and a greengrocer to a newsagent).

So why not have a go at looking at one of your own day-to-day problems, and then — like an octopus reaching out in all directions — imagine what might happen if you could suddenly mix and match it with something different or unexpected. Please don't expect instant miracles, however, simply have a go and see where it takes you ... After all, these days we might not view muesli as being particularly innovative, but once upon a time (1900 to be precise) it all started when a Swiss scientist called Dr Bircher-Benner asked the question 'What if I connected and combined whole oats with fruit and grains and milk and a few other bits and pieces?' And how nuts was that?


One of the most amazing Geniusconnectors of all time was John Logie Baird (the inventor of the TV).

Back in the 1920s, in the English seaside town of Hastings, Baird began experimenting away with all kinds of weird and wonderful apparatus to create a moving picture machine. These included the following:

A cardboard disc cut from a hat box + a tin plate cut out with scissors + lenses from bicycle lamps + sealing wax + darning needles for spindles + a small electric fan motor + tea chests and many other little bits and pieces along the way. (source:

Subsequently, of course, other cunningly clever brains have connected additional elements to TV and film, too, adding colour to black and white, and also an extra dimension to 2D to give us 3D and now even 4D, too ...


OK. Enough theory? Now comes the important part. Sure, we might get the point that loads of inventions and solutions to problems come from combining things we often wouldn't necessarily think of combining (such as sugar and vinegar to cure hiccups), but so what? Let's look at how the same underlying principle of Cunning Connections can potentially help you in your life.

The point is that it's about thinking differently. It's about shaking the tree, not trimming the hedge! It's about using a provocative technique for stimulating ideas you probably wouldn't have come up with any other way. By asking yourself, 'What could I add in here that I would never normally think of adding in?' you will start to use your brain in a totally new way.

A quick aside: before you set about experimenting with new connections, however, please ensure that you keep yourself safe and others safe at all times when applying any of the tools and techniques in this book. Yes, I know this sounds a bit over-parental and Health-and-Safetyish, but it's genuinely important: connect saltpetre + charcoal + sulphur, for example — as Genius Chinese alchemists did around AD 800 — and there's a good chance you'll have enough gunpowder to fly off into space like a firework!

Similarly, as any lover of D.I.Y. would point out, go easy when connecting sand + gravel + limestone + water (as the Genius Romans did to help build arches, domes and vaults) or you could end up knee-deep in concrete. So please please please go easy, and only focus on Cunning Connections that help you to make your personal life better, not worse. Some connections can be lovably harmless, rather like a big fluffy St Bernard's Dog which is basically a mastiff + a Great Dane + a mountain dog from the Pyrenees. Other connections, however, can sometimes go awry, as Dr Frankenstein knew only too well ...


PROBLEM A How can I separate two cups that have accidentally gotten stuck together?

CUNNING CLEVER SOLUTION Connect cold water and hot water

If pure and naked brute force is likely to chip or damage your precious kitchen cups, simply put the bottom cup in a container of boiling hot water, and then pour ice cold water into the top cup. This expand/contract effect should be enough to prise them apart.

PROBLEM B How can I loosen the lid on this overtight jam jar?

CUNNING CLEVER SOLUTION Connect the twisting action of your hand with an elastic band.

More often than not, if you find it tricky to loosen the lid on a jam jar, it's got nothing to do with you being wimpy and weak rather than macho and strong. It's because you need a firmer grip. So have a go at double-folding or triple-folding an elastic band around the outer rim of the lid. That should make it much easier to turn.


CHALLENGE C I don't know what to buy them for a present.

CUNNING CLEVER SOLUTION Connect different types of presents with a central theme.

Buying presents for some people, as you may well have discovered, isn't always easy (especially if they're very fussy or you don't want to end up spending a fortune). Where most people often struggle, however, is finding the 'single' perfect present. If this is true for you, forget about the idea of a single present and go for a Genius blend instead.

For example, suppose you were planning to give your young niece a book for Christmas and you thought that Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol might be suitably seasonal. Good idea? Well, possibly, but there's also a good chance your niece will look on you as the most boring old Uncle or Aunt on the planet! Connect the book with a packet of humbugs, however, and, by the law of averages, at least one of them is likely to put a smile on her face.

PROBLEM D My memory's shocking and I'm forgetting really important things.

CUNNING CLEVER SOLUTION Connect ordinary information with extraordinary information.

Many of the world's leading memory experts — from Tony Buzan to Dominic O'Brien — tell us that the key to a good memory comes down to 'linkages' and fusing 'imagination' with 'association'. My cousin, for example, used to continually forget his godchild's birthday year-on-year, which happened to be on the 4 of May. So what did he do? He mentally connected this ordinary day — which is much like all the other 364 days in the year — to Star Wars and ended up with ... 'May the 4th be with you'. He's never forgotten his godchild's birthday since. Genius!

PROBLEM E I don't have enough hours in the day to do everything I need to do.

CUNNING CLEVER SOLUTION Connect tasks you wouldn't Normally connect together

Time management is a big challenge for many people, largely because it's not really about time.

It's about how we manage ourselves.

This means it's closely linked to our personality type, our values, our 'life scripts', and even the knock-on effect of other people's poor time management issues too. But unfortunately we don't have 'time' to go into this right now.

One tip-top piece of advice time management experts often give, however, is for us to 'cluster' activities we'd normally keep separate.

For example, they suggest we use 'chunking' to make all of our phone calls in one go, or send all of our e-mails in one go, or perhaps even do all of our worrying in one go?

Clearly, this might not always be feasible, but sometimes it can help.

I once ran a time management coaching session for a client, for example, who genuinely did worry a lot. His work performance was suffering as a result, and this caused him to worry even more!

But when we actually sat down to work out how much time he spent worrying in the average week the figures were quite staggering. It was at least an hour a day, and often a couple of hours each night too because he wasn't sleeping very well. In other words, without realising it, he was wasting over eight hours a week just worrying!

So we discussed a strategy for him to do all his worrying at a set time — a 'worry hour' or 'worry half-hour', so to speak — when he could write down each and every worry, and then explore practical steps for dealing with them one by one. As a result, he started to feel far more in control, far less stressed, and yes ... he even ended up with more hours in his day to do all the things he needed to do.

So there you have it. Whatever personal challenge you might currently be facing in your life, you might find it helpful to explore additional and alternative connections you haven't contemplated before. For example, if you're a chemistry teacher who finds it difficult to engage and inspire the 'bored' children in your class, how about combining 'chemistry' with 'dance'? A little odd' Certainly. However, I was once told about a teacher who did precisely this at a school in South Africa. Different children dressed up in different coloured T-shirts (e.g. red for hydrogen and blue for oxygen) and then moved around the room clustering together and then splitting up to form new combinations. Not only was it much more fun and interesting for the kids — rather than 'talk and chalk' and ping-pong balls — but, suddenly, complicated chemistry became much easier to understand!

Also, please note that Cunning Connections is the reason why we have everything from seat belts in cars to fluoride in toothpaste. It's even the reason why we have the electric battery (created by Volta in 1800 when he connected zinc + silver), and the modern bra! Why? Because many moons ago the Genius inventor Mary Phelps Jacob felt that traditional corsets were too uncomfortable to wear and decided to connect two silk handkerchiefs + a ribbon as a Cunningly Clever alternative.

BY THE WAY ... if you're into Genius shortcuts for fixing everyday problems, in Japan they call it URAWAZA and there's a useful little book on the subject called Urawaza by Liza Katayama which can offer some top tips. For example, if you connect lemon juice + salt it can evidentally help you to get rid of the rust on your bicycle ...


Next time you feel stuck, here are 3 Cunning Connections questions you might want to ask yourself to help you break through the impasse:

(1) What can I potentially add to what I'm doing to help fix this problem?

(2) What can I potentially mix with this to improve it?

(3) What if I could potentially end up with the best of both worlds?


'Creativity is just connecting things.'

Steve Jobs (the Genius behind Apple, Pixar, etc....)


Excerpted from "Brain Boot Camp"
by .
Copyright © 2012 James Bannerman.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

About the author xi

Author's note xiii

Introduction xv

How to get the best out of this book xxi

Instant Genius 1

Cunning Cando: The 5 essential Cunningly Clever Tools for fixing everyday challenges 3

Cunning Connections 8

Cunning Alterations 20

Cunning Navigations 28

Cunning Directions 42

Cunning Oppositions 54

The deceptive power of a 'Twist of Thought' 65

Genius at Work 77

Introduction 79

7 answers to 7 questions 81

How to get the most out of the rest of this book 87

The 5 Golden Guidelines for using Cunningly Clever Creativity to generate ideas 89

Be specific 89

Keep separate 89

No buts 90

Crazy's good 91

Keep moving 92

The Cunningly Clever Creativity Toolkit 93

Analogy 94

Bisociation 97

Clever copycat 100

Delete 103

Enlarge 106

Future thinking 109

Goat 112

Halo 115

Indiana Jones 118

Jumble-it-up 121

KISS 124

Lovely limitations 127

Multiply 130

Nutty Nero 133

Outlaw 136

Personalisation 139

Quick-slow 142

Reduce 145

Swapshop 148

Transfer 151

U-turn 154

Variations 157

Wobble 160

X-ray 163

Yogurt 166

Zebra 169

And finally… 172

Ideas into action 173

The 4 Cs 174

1 Choose 174

2 Check 175

3 Cycle 176

4 Climb 180

Conclusion 183

Further information 185

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