What are simple ways to meaningfully boost creativity?
Creativity is hard work. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start honing your skills now.
Research suggests all sorts of ways to nudge yourself into more creative practices. Here are a few of our favorites. Explore the papers in this section to start asking better questions, getting and giving better feedback or critique, and learn why going for a walk is never a bad idea and often leads you to very good ones.
Commentary from the d.school
Paying attention to your mental and emotional state is a key, but often overlooked, influence on creativity. The “sweet spot” seems to be “calm, but alert.” Too excited? Calm down and, as the research suggests, take a walk. Too relaxed? Stand up and get moving...
A scholar’s perspective
“Boring But Important: A Self Transcendent Purpose for Learning Fosters Self Regulation”
David Yaeger, Angela Duckworth, et al. in Attitudes and Social Cognition, 2013
A sense of purpose helps us “stick it out” through the boring parts of learning
Remembering the big picture may matter: the simple act of articulating a purpose beyond ourselves might improve self regulation and performance. This paper explores the effect of a “prosocial, self-transcendent purpose” on 2,000 students’ learning behaviors and performance through four studies. The findings suggest that writing a purpose bigger than self-interested goals, such as, “I want to learn things that will help me make a positive impact on the world,” versus, “I want to expand my knowledge of the world,” has lasting effects.
Temporal construal effects on abstract and concrete thinking: Consequences for insight and creative cognition
Jens Förster, Ronald S. Friedman, Nira Liberman in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2004
You can imagine yourself in the future for better insights now
Looking to the future may help in solving certain types of problems. Researchers set up tasks requiring different thinking styles. When participants were asked to imagine themselves doing this task a year from now, this facilitated insight discovery and generative thinking. Results suggest imagining yourself in the future helps with abstract thinking.
Idea Generation and the Quality of the Best Idea
Karan Girotra, Christian Terwiesch, Karl T. Ulrich in Management Science, 2010
Putting your ideas first: think alone, evaluate together
Encouraging people to generate their own ideas before evaluating others' ideas results in a greater number of better ideas and improves idea selection. Researchers began projects with either individual or team interactions. A “hybrid” model—where people first work alone and then work together—came out on top.
Feedback valence, feedback style, task autonomy, and achievement orientation: Interactive effects on creative performance
Jing Zhou in Applied Psychology, 1998
Keep it casual: informal feedback supports creativity
How we give feedback also contributes to the creative process. Researchers tested the affect, tone (e.g., positive or negative), formality, and perceived ownership of feedback in a task experiment. One combination outshone the others: feedback delivered in a positive, informal, and high-autonomy style delivered the best creative generation results.
Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking
Marily Oppezzo, Daniel L. Schwartz in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 2014
Take a hike: walking outside improves creative ideation
Taking a lap may mean better ideas. Researchers found walking outside improved imaginative analogy production (less so on convergent thinking), resulting in analogies that had the best quality and novelty compared to other treatments (e.g., walking inside, sitting inside, or sitting outside).
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