Are you stifling your creativity?

Learn about 5 bad habits that stifle creativity and how to prevent them.

1. Creating and Evaluating at the Same Time

Guilty! I am the type of person that is often observing and evaluating EVERYTHING. And when it comes to creating, generating new ideas, visualizing, looking ahead, and considering the possibilities, I get into a blocked mental state because my brain is also trying to evaluate, analyze, or pick apart ideas into those that are possible and impossible, thus stifling the creative process.

Rather than evaluating too soon or too often, separate creation from evaluation. Start by throwing out ideas first then judging their worth later.

2. Fear of Ambiguity

I like things to make sense. If you were to ask any person that knows me well to tell you something about me, I can guarantee they will say I am a neat and tidy person; however, life is not neat and tidy. There are things I don’t understand and problems I can’t solve which really bother me, but I have realize that some things won’t make sense and I need to be ok with that.

Most great creative ideas emerge from a swirl of chaos. It’s important to develop a part of yourself that is comfortable with mess and confusion, and become comfortable with things that work even when you don’t understand why.

3. Lack of Confidence

For years I have been expecting perfection with every creative act. Let’s be honest, I know I’m not the only one that expects every attempt at Pinterest recipes or crafts to come out perfectly.

You must have confidence in your abilities in order to create and carry out effective solutions to problems. It’s healthy to have self-doubt and fail. This experience builds confidence and increases understanding of how creativity works.

When you understand that ideas often seem crazy at first, that failure is just a learning experience, and that nothing is impossible, you are on your way to becoming more confident and more creative.

4. Being Overwhelmed by Information 

Have you been stuck thinking about a problem and the information you gathered but end up with a mental block that you lose the ability to act? “Analysis paralysis” is caused by overthinking.

Successful people know when to when to stop collecting information and start taking action. Many subscribe to the “ready – fire – aim” philosophy of business success, knowing that acting on a good plan today is better than waiting for a perfect plan tomorrow.

5. Discouragement from Other People

Although it’s easy to take the easy route and conform, be sensible, and not rock the boat, you must ignore the naysayers and carry out with your creative endeavors.

The path to every victory is paved with predictions of failure. Embrace a “growth mindset.” You’ll begin seeing failure as a way to grow and therefore embrace challenges, persevere against setbacks, learn from criticism, and reach higher levels of achievement.

Once you have a big win under your belt, all the naysayers will shut their noise and see you for what you are — a creative force to be reckoned with.

If you recognize some of these problems in yourself, give yourself a pat on the back! Knowing what’s holding you back is the first step toward breaking down the barriers of creativity.

How about you? What mental habit has been hardest on your creativity? Comment below. 

Leadership, People Development, Storyboarding

It’s All CARP


You’re probably asking yourself “did I read that right?” – Yes, CARP. And no, this post is not about the fish.

If you design presentations, documents, advertisements, web sites, or any other creative product, you should be following CARP rules to evaluate the layout and overall design. You don’t have to be a design student to create visually appealing and engaging designs as long as you think of CARP. 😉

So What is CARP?

CARP aka The Four Key Principles of Design: Contrast, Alignment, Repetition, and Proximity.

Take a look at this infographic about Rewiring the Brain by Csaba Gyulai. What are your first thoughts? 

Infographic_Rewiring the Brain-cropped2


The idea behind contrast is to avoid elements on the page that are merely similar. If the elements (font, size, line thickness, shape, space, etc.) are not the same, then make them very different. Contrast is often the most important visual attraction on a page.

Infographic: We can see examples of contrast all over this infographic. The most evident is the change in text color within paragraphs to draw the reader’s attention. It emphasizes important information the author wants readers to remember.

Although graphics are more engaging, text is just as important. Headings are used to separate different sections of information. For example, the designer of this infographic chose to change the text size and font for each heading and made them stand out further by making them bold. Subheadings, like the ones shown in the synapses section of this infographic, are the the same font as the paragraph text but made bold to have them stand out, e.g., birth, 3 yrs old, and adult brain.


Nothing should be placed on the page arbitrarily. Every element should have some visual connection with another element on the page. This creates a clean, sophisticated, fresh look.

Design beginners tend to make the mistake of putting text and graphics on page where ever there happens to be space, often without regard to any other items on the page. This creates a lack of alignment which is probably the biggest cause of unpleasant-looking documents.

The purpose of alignment is to unify and organize the page.

Infographic: When looking at the synapses section, although each human silhouette is a different size, it is evident they are related to each other because they are equally spaced and aligned. The text pertaining to each age group is also aligned to the related graphic.

Further down the infographic, the use of horizontal and vertical break lines help readers determine which text and graphics are related to the information given. This is clear with the sections about pathways and neuroplasticity.


Repeat visual elements of the design throughout the piece. You can repeat color, shape, texture, spatial relationships, line thicknesses, sizes, etc. This helps develop the organization and strengthens the unity. Repetition adds visual interest which is more likely to be read.

Repetitive elements also help to create movement by leading the viewer’s eye from one area of the design to the next. Sometimes the repeated items are not exactly the same objects, but objects so closely related that their connection is very clear.

Infographic: Repetition is evident with the designer’s color palette. As I mentioned previously, emphasized text is a different color. In this infographic, the reader is trained to pay close attention to maroon text throughout the infographic because it contains information that is more important to remember than the rest of the text.


Items relating to each other should be grouped close together. When several items are in close proximity to each other, they become one visual unit rather than several separate units. This helps organize information and reduces clutter.

Proximity is perhaps one of the most important principles of design because it acts as a glue for all other principles. I recommend starting with proximity when designing a layout.

Be conscious of where your eye is going: where do you start looking; what path do you follow; where do you end up? Then after you read it, where does your eye go next? There should be a logical progression through the piece, from a definite beginning to a definite end.

Infographic: It is common to see many infographics with a narrow vertical layout such as this one. I think this is a logical way of keeping short pieces of information together or condensed rather than spread out horizontally along a page. Using break lines was a great design choice to keep text and graphics from spilling over into unrelated sections.

More About CARP

CARP is also known as CRAP 🙂

Hope you learned something new about design today. Want to learn more about CARP? Take a look at the following video by 2GeeksThinking.

Gamified Learning: Pros and Cons

Gamification, Training, Workforce Management

I’ve always been excited about gamified learning. Instructors (and designers) have seen an increase in student engagement when learning is made fun; however, this trend has also received some backlash because according to critics…

“Gamification is a fad that doesn’t help teach students anything meaningful and many professors scoff at using games in their college classrooms since they do not see it as serious learning.”

I bring this up because my department (a health care call center) would like to implement gamification into our workforce management system and I have the option to enable the gamification feature in the LMS I manage.

I’m hoping I could get your opinion about the pros and cons of using gamified learning. 

From what I gathered…

Pros: Increases learner engagement, creates enthusiasm, provides instant feedback, and makes social connections.

Cons: decreases learner attention span, cost, student assessment (not easy to track progress), game logistics (Is it accessible, additional costs?).

I think the best way to make this backlash less likely or severe is by taking the time to ask questions prior to implementation and not overusing it when delivering training. Most of the backlash that comes from this trend is because of poor planning.

What experience have you had with gamification? What did you find successful? 

Course Design: How to Identify Triage Hot Words for Non-Clinical Agents


Over the past three years, I have been delivering training for a startup health care call center in Denver, CO. The call center services multiple primary care clinics around the Denver metro area assisting them with scheduling appointments, provider-to-provider referrals, and 24/7 phone access to nurse triage services. At the start of 2018, I decided to change my department’s focus and have a more active role evaluating call transfers between our non-clinical agents and clinical team.  head-scratching-3084884_640

One of the primary responsibilities of our clinical team is to triage patients over the phone which effectively reduce unnecessary medical costs for our patients. This service has been in place for about 30 years, however, three years ago they were integrated into the one-stop-shop virtual resource center idea which expanded our staff numbers when non-clinical positions were introduced. This new team would be responsible for inbound and outbound scheduling and referral management phone calls.

To continue reducing unnecessary costs for patients, our non-clinical team (aka Resource Specialists) were asked to use their active listening skills and capture any potential emergency or urgent symptoms a caller may share while trying to schedule an appointment or get information about their referrals. These “Hot Words” serve as trigger words which require the call is transferred to a nurse for triage.

Learning Need


Resource Specialists would now need to improve their active listening skill and basic medical knowledge to ensure patients requiring triage aren’t being missed. As member of the Training and Development team, I am responsible for delivering training and learning material to our non-clinical team so I have begun brainstorming a variety of ways to improve our team’s skills and knowledge to ensure all hot words are being captured. Prior to the start of my Instructional Design master’s degree, training was inadequate.

I have recently completed a Training Needs Analysis and discovered the team has been missing hot words primarily because they lack the necessary medical knowledge to think critically about potential outcomes when symptoms worsen. They may also benefit from realistic simulations to improve their empathy skill and raise motivation.

Learning Objectives

  1. Recognize emergency and urgent “hot words” during inbound and outbound patient phone calls.
  2. Obtain and transfer necessary patient information over the phone to complete a warm transfer to the clinical team.
  3. Apply active listening techniques to build trust, show understanding, and acquire information.
  4. Formulate follow-up questions during phone calls when emergency and urgent “hot words” are identified.


The team is made up of about 30 adults between ages 25-70 and the majority have a general understanding of medical terminology. Fortunately, I have found enormous success using e-learning courses to deliver training because all our learners are comfortable using technology. Courses are typically very linear which are easier to follow and motivates learners by rewarding when questions are answered correctly and courses are completed.

Training Structure and Tools

blogging-3094201_640Learning will be structured primarily as an e-Learning course created using Adobe Captive and uploaded to TalentLMS. The course will include a variety of micro-learnings such as software simulations (how to videos), caller-agent scenarios, knowledge checks, and final assessment. In addition, I will create an infographic with an overview of the general nurse triage process as well as a handout with a list of common hot words. The infographic will be created in Adobe InDesign with many of its graphic elements created in Illustrator.

I am excited about this training and can’t wait to see the results!