WORKPLACE / SEP. 08, 2014
version 4, draft 4

Why Your Latte May Be Destroying Your Creativity

If you’re anything like me, caffeine plays a pretty big part in your life. Whether it’s tea or coffee, I’m seldom without one throughout the working day. Whilst it may have a soothing effect on my day, it may be harming my work performance in a number of ways.

Let me explain. A recent study suggests that a dose of caffeine may be doing quite substantial harm to our creativity and innovation at work. Given how so many organisations are now striving to be innovative, this is pretty bad news, right?

The hypothesis of the research is that when we drink coffee or tea, the caffeine we consume blocks the adenosine chemical in the brain. What does the adenosine chemical do I hear you say?

Well, it is almost like a chemical policeman in the brain, as it acts to inhibit various other chemicals. However, those chemicals are often quite useful. For instance they act to reduce our energy levels, thus helping us to get to sleep. I’m sure using caffeine to stay awake is something we can all related to.

So how does this impact upon our creativity?

There is much to suggest that we are at our most creative when our mind is free to wander and explore lots of different things in a rather aimless way. It’s why we often have those Eureka moments at unexpected times.

With innovation being such an important topic, there have been a whole host of studies into how we get that spark of inspiration. A common theme in many of them is that our mind is allowed to wander and forge connections between ideas that seem to have no commonality. These random ideas then come together and form novel and innovative combinations.

So, the theory is, that when we’re hyper focused on something, we lose our ability to innovate. It’s why our modern working lives are often not very constructive when it comes to innovation as we are literally overwhelmed by stimuli. Caffeine has a similar impact.

It allows us to focus in on things like a laser. Now that’s great of course, if focus is what you need at that particular moment in time.  If you need a bolt of energy at the same time, then even better.  Just don’t expect to be coming up with any cracking ideas whilst you’re at it.

Is salvation at hand?

So what can we do? I’m sure most of you would not want to go without your caffeine fix throughout the day. I know I certainly wouldn’t. Thankfully, a study conducted by researchers from the University of East London suggest that the placebo effect may come to our rescue.

They found that as long as people think they’re drinking actual coffee, then they get the same positive boost of energy and focus as if they were actually drinking it.

So you get all the positives, without actually any of the negatives. You just need to creatively kid yourself into thinking that lovely latte is full of caffeine.

Are you more or less creative when you are drinking caffeine? Your thoughts and comments below please…

 

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