1. GO CROSS-EYED (ALMOST!)
The academic journal Brain and Cognition described a study in which participants were required to think of alternate uses for everyday objects. Half the subjects were instructed to stare straight ahead. The other half were told to follow a moving object from left to right and back for 30 seconds. Both groups then had to repeat the task. The eye movement group came up with many more unique uses for the objects. This is thought to be because eye movement may enhance coordination between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. So next time your boss asks for a new idea, remember – the eyes are the windows to creativity!
2. POT PLANT ANYONE?
Psychologists have found links between the physical environment and creativity. Studies show an increase in ideas from males, and in flexibility in problem solving in females, when in a room with indoor plants and flowers. Pictures of nature don’t have the same effect so send each other flowers!
3. SHIFT THE GOALPOSTS
Change your definition of creativity. Creativity is about using your imagination to generate new ideas or solve everyday problems in any sphere of life. This idea challenges the traditional view of creativity where a few talented individuals were assumed to have genius ideas, and the rest of us, unfortunately, were not. By seeing creativity as encompassing a broad range of activities (such as cooking, printmaking, sewing and building websites, as well as finding ways to solve problems at work/home) it allows us to be less perfectionistic – and we don’t assume that we must have a high level of skill. Our assumptions about what creativity is and isn’t can sometimes block creative expression.
4. DON’T GO WITH THE CROWD
Do things individually, instead of in groups, because a number of studies have found a greater variety of ideas are produced when participants brainstorm individually rather than with others. This goes against conventional wisdom, which says the more people there are, the more ideas will be generated (in other words, two heads are better than one). If working in a group, there is evidence that periodically changing at least one person in the group produces a greater number of ideas.
5. MIND GAMES
The power of the unconscious in problem solving is often cited, so when you get stuck on a problem, do something unrelated for a while. The answer is more likely to come to you when you’re relaxed, such as when you’re in the shower or taking a walk. While this may be true, a similar but faster route based on research is to: 1) ask yourself what problem you are trying to solve; 2) take a look at a difficult crossword puzzle, sudoku or any task that occupies your conscious mind; 3) now write down the thoughts and solutions that you can think of in answer to your original question. The idea is that if you occupy your conscious mind, your subconscious has more of a chance to be heard.
6. DREAM THE GREEN
The colour green represents safety, growth, change and energy and is associated with positivity and relaxation (think green open spaces while having a picnic with family). In contrast, the colour red is often linked with danger, fire, war and terror. In studies that have examined the effects of colour on creativity, red has been found to hinder problem solving whereas green has been shown to enhance creativity. Eliminate red in your workspace, add green to your environment and try writing on green paper to promote concentration and inspiration.
7. LET THE IDEAS FLOW
Allow yourself to think broadly rather than limiting yourself to generating two or three good ideas. Don’t worry if you only have part of an idea, the rest of it will probably come to you later. Stay away from judging your ideas when you come up with them despite any desire to evaluate how good your suggestions are. Evaluating is an analytical process and can narrow your thinking, whereas brainstorming is about widening your thinking.
8. BE OPEN
Research suggests that creative companies and environments encourage creativity by having an atmosphere where people feel able to challenge the way things are done, make suggestions about new ways and act on them. Stay open to new possibilities and ways of doing things.
9. THINK UNSEXY THOUGHTS
Psychologists have found that thinking about sex triggers local processing, which promotes analytic thinking, interfering with creativity. Thought to be due to sexual desire being focused in the ‘here and now’, this induces a short-term perspective.
10. LOVING FEELING
Thinking about love as opposed to sex triggers global processing, promoting creative thinking. Researchers believe this is because thinking about love involves a long-term perspective.