These tips might help you the next time you are seeking a creative solution to an issue. Psychology Today cites 4 steps, proven by research – see the full article for the references and a little more detail. One of these studies is from the Journal of Consumer Research, and actually says that providing the right level of ambient noise can spur consumers to consider buying more innovative products, presumably opening them up to purchase decisions they might otherwise not even consider.
Here are the four bits of advice:
- Tired is ok! For cracking straightforward problems, or linear thinking, being at your most alert is useful. But for creative, abstract, thinking, being a little less focused can be good. The mind wanders, and it lets connections come to the fore that it would otherwise ruthlessly pare away or dismiss. Those unusual connections may be just what the problem needs.
- Silence isn’t golden. Turns out, just the right level of ambient noise and hubbub “induces processing disfluency”, meaning, makes it harder to process information, just a bit. That jars your mind out of its usual ways of thinking, stimulating abstract thinking and open the door for creativity.
- Embrace the conflict. Accept the paradox that you are trying to address without stress and anxiety, see it as more of an interesting puzzle, and you may be better able to make sense of the contradictions you are seeing, come up with some creative resolution.
- Give yourself time and space. Carve out a specific time to mull over whatever the issue is, creativity needs that time set apart. We are not likely to be hit by inspiration while the mind is totally engaged and focused on other tasks.
Why do these work? Another Psych Today article, Unlocking the Mystery of Creativity: Why Great Artists Steal, adds some light – to be creative, we are using disparate parts of our brain, making novel connections across neurons that don’t often “talk” to each other, and these 4 steps may help free us up to do that.