Combing through the research, what are the overarching principles that we need to know to be more innovative thinkers in everyday life? Here they are, with links to the research backing them up.
What is most likely your daily creative peak? Your morning shower. For many of us it’s the most relaxing part of our day — and the most creative.
Just being happy can make you more creative for days; seriously, just smile. Watching comedy clips helps, trying too hard hurts. If you tend to be hard on yourself, being less critical can make you more creative. Anger can boost originality in the short term — but it doesn’t last.
It’s probably no surprise that boring work is better done at the office and creative work is better accomplished at home. Hopeful employees are more original. Trust can even make your hairstylist more creative. On the other hand, rudeness from superiors craters original thinking as does time pressure. Thoughts of money often bring pressure and the best art is created when there’s no cash involved.
2) Expose Yourself To New Ideas And New Perspectives
Unusual or unexpected events increase creativity. A proven way to stimulate this effect is travel. Living in a foreign culture can make you more creative. Countries with more international business travelers patent more. Merely having friends from other cultures can get the muse going.
Imagining you’re a child again or that you’re solving a problem for someone else was enough to increase creativity. Even frowning when you’re happy — creating dissonance between your mind and body spurred original thinking. Doing everyday things in unconventional ways can do the trick.
Being exhausted or drunk increases creativity because they make you look at the world differently. Bilinguals are more creative, probably as a result of their dual perspective. Even sarcasm is enough of a perspective shift to help.
3) Get Ideas Crashing Into Each Other
Overlapping different projects allows new connections to burgeon at the margins, helping to create innovative ideas. Bill Gates reads all his books for the year in two weeks because this allows new information to be better juxtaposed and contrasted. Just being curious offers a boost.
A disorganized brain is often a more creative brain — and this may be why those with ADD and wandering minds are gifted idea generators. Larger cities are disproportionately innovative as are people with bigger networks.
You want a mix of fresh and classic. The most creative teams are a mix of old friends and new blood as well as experienced and inexperienced workers. The most creative ideas are fresh but also fit into a recognized formula. Originality requires both freedom and constraints. Make little bets and iterate, iterate, iterate.
And brainstorming’s mantra of refraining from judging or negating ideas is wrong. Let ideas duke it out.
4) Work Hard
As Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs.”
You don’t need fancy degrees to be a creative genius. Some of the most brilliant artists of all time had the equivalent of a college-dropout level of education — but you do need to work hard at your craft. Studying your field extensively doesn’t reduce creativity, it increases it. Future geniuses are often unpopular in high school because they spend so much time working on their projects.
Chris Rock relentlessly tests and tweaks new comedy acts onstage over a period of months to get them right. “Some historical studies of patent records have in fact shown that overall productivity correlates with radical breakthroughs in science and technology, that sheer quantity ultimately leads to quality.”
Artists are more likely to have mood disorders. What’s the connection? Depression makes you obsess about things — which is a benefit when you’re trying to make breakthroughs. Dwelling on your problems makes you more creative.
- Expose Yourself To New Ideas And New Perspectives
- Get Ideas Crashing Into Each Other
- Work Hard
Challenge yourself to use them today. :)
This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.
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