The public love a great innovation success story. We put people like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos on a pedestal as creative geniuses. Unfortunately, all this glorification can lead us to mistakenly think that great innovators are born, not made. And if we haven’t been blessed at birth with the gift of creative genius, then we should probably aim for a career in accounting instead. That’s a joke – I want my accountant to be very creative.
However, the notion that creativity is a super power that we simply have no control over could not be further from the truth. For example, research into monozygotic twins demonstrates that creativity is only 30% genetically pre-determined. That means that the rest is up to us.
Here are some research-backed ways that you can instantly boost your own creative genius.
Pump up the volume
Are you planning a brainstorm session or design thinking workshop? Make sure you think carefully about your playlist. Simone M Ritter from the Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, compared the creative performance of a group of people who listened to happy, upbeat music with a group that worked in silence. Those who listened to the happy music produced significantly more creative solutions.
So make sure you pop some positive, upbeat tracks on your playlist for your next workshop. Or when working solo, put on some fun 80s pop music to get your creative juices flowing.
Go for a walk outside
Suffering from writer’s block? Getting unstuck can be as simple as going for a wander outside. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology demonstrated that compared to sitting down or walking inside on a treadmill, going for a walk outside increased people’s ability to produce creative solutions to problems.
If you happen to be planning a meeting or workshop where creative thinking is an essential ingredient, rather than just have a standard indoor coffee break, instruct people to go for a walk around the block to improve creativity upon their return.
And when working solo, build in some regular outdoor walking breaks to maintain creativity.
Have a cuppa
Need an excuse to take a tea break? Thanks to Yan Huang from Peking University you now have one. Huang and his colleagues found that drinking a cup of tea, as opposed to a cup of water, increased creative thinking performance.
Not only did tea drinkers perform better in a task requiring spatial creativity skills (as measured by building a creation out of blocks), but they also outperformed the water drinkers in a task requiring the creative use of language.
So when a team mate catches you taking your 11th tea break for the day, you can simply respond by saying you are warming up your creative juices.
Close your eyes
Could an act as simple as closing your eyes boost creativity? Ritter and her colleagues published research in Frontiers in Psychology that examined this very question. Participants were asked to either close or open their eyes while competing a creative problem solving task.
Ritter found that those who closed their eyes produced significantly more creative solutions than their eyes-wide-open counterparts. The researchers suggested that the inward direction of people’s attention was the key in increasing creativity.
Just go and ‘be creative’
One of the longest standing findings in the creativity literature is the notion that simply telling someone to “be creative” leads to more creative ideas. So if you find yourself staring at a blank sheet of paper, just ask yourself to “be creative” and by doing so, some great ideas should start to flow.
So if you have some creative work to do today, go for a walk in your local park, come back and make yourself a cup of tea, and then sit at your desk with your eyes closed while listening to Cyndi Lauper, and watch your best ideas flow.
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