Most of our organisations want us to be more creative, and this has resulted in various projects and initiatives to try and coax great ideas out of us. Fortunately, various studies suggest that it might not require such things to prod creativity out of us. Instead, all it takes is a bit of psychological tomfoolery.
Let me explain. A recent study saw five experiments undertaken to determine if our creative juices could flow by doing nothing more than changing the way we sit. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Using your hands
It’s quite common for innovative or creative thinking to require comparing things from two different perspectives. Verbally we might say that on one hand it is abc, whilst on the other it is xyz. It’s something we’ve all done, I’m sure.
Well, the researchers discovered that if we were to physically hold up one hand, and then the other, we tend to come up with better ideas than if we had just held up one hand on its own. They suggest that this simple routine tells our brain to think about the situation from various angles.
How to literally think outside the box
It’s a bit of an annoying saying, but we’re all familiar with having to think outside the box, or in other words, to think of things in a lateral manner. The researchers asked participants to come up with some creative ideas to a problem. Half of them were sat inside a box, half of them were sat outside of a box. It sounds far fetched, but you can probably imagine which group performed best, right?
Going for a walk
It’s fairly well known that going for an aimless ramble is good for encouraging our neurons to create the connections required for creativity. What is perhaps less well known is that the way we walk plays a big part in this. The research found that if you walk in a square shaped pattern, it actually resulted in worse performance than if you didn’t go for a walk at all. The best approach was to walk in a random pattern.
Convergent thinking is often thought of as good for creativity, as it makes use of probability and judgements to drill down into various options. Researchers found that they could trick our brain into utilising this mode of thought.
They did this by asking participants to take two piles of playing cards, and sort them into a single pile. The theory was that doing this simple task would encourage convergent thinking, and lo and behold, the participants performed better on a test conducted at the end of the experiment.
Triggering your imagination
The final experiment made use of visualisation. This is commonly used in sports, whereby coaches encourage their charges to envision themselves succeeding prior to their event. The research found that a similar thing can encourage us to be creative.
They asked participants watch an avatar of themselves doing the various things described above in the virtual world Second Life. It emerged that those who watched their avatar doing ’creative’ things, subsequently performed better on creativity tasks than the control group.
There you go. Five simple ways that you can trick your brain into being more creative. I hope you find them useful.