Creativity is back in fashion after years of silence in research! Social and technological changes are driving renewed interest in this subject, and the findings can be applied in many fields like art, psychology, and of course – business. The search for creative ways to make money in our developing world never ends. Think, for example, how important creativity is for different professionals in a company; starting with the manager, whose job is to push his team to innovation, continuing with the marketers responsible for designing interesting and appealing advertising, and ending with project managers who can look at the big picture with the right creative skills.
What is the Definition of Creativity?
The dictionary definition from Oxford Languages refers to it as the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. However, we think that there is more to it than that – we all want to know what the creative thinking process is, how creative people’s minds work, and how we can improve our creativity at work. Here is what we (and science) know about your burning questions.
What’s Going On in Our Brain When Thinking Creatively?
Many people think that if you can’t solve a problem, you should put it aside and go do other things. Your mind will “clarify” and new ideas will just appear in your head as a moment of illumination, a eureka. I’ve never experienced this eureka when I was a student doing my math homework, and I was disappointed. This traditional belief turned out to be probably wrong, or at least not completely right.
New approaches to creativity see it more as a seeking process in a giant mental space of possibilities, and not just as a moment of clarity. This process is defined as a procedure that aims to find original and helpful solutions. It consists of two main phases: exploration and exploitation.
- Exploration: Wandering the mental space looking for something valuable.
- Exploitation: Improving and upgrading the idea that was found.
Think of it this way – you are walking in a desert looking for cellular reception so you can call for help. There are plenty of mountains all around, and you just have to find the right one with the right spot on top of it. Once you find one mountain that looks nice, you start climbing it, you go up and down the hills, reception is coming and going, and only one spot is perfect for you – that is the greatest creative idea.
Creative People vs. Non-Creative People
So we get that the mental space is like a wilderness. But did you know that your desert and your friend’s desert are different, and they both are different from any other desert in the world? Your space of mind is like a fingerprint, and some people are more creative than others, you can actually see it in the brain!
The networks in the brain of creative people are different from less creative people. A study published in 2018 found that people with higher semantic creativity have less connections between ideas in the brain! It may sound illogical, but it actually makes sense. Creative people can think effectively and are using brain areas that are linked to functionality, while non-creative people are using regions linked to habitual responses. also, creative people can find their way inside their brains pretty fast – they are able to jump quickly between different ideas, and don’t need other links to help them get from one point to another. Look at it as if creative people are more “athletic” than non-creative people, and they can skip between two mountains in the desert without making a stop in a middle mountain.
How Can We Benefit from This Information?
First of all, let’s play a game. Take a paper and a pen, you have 5 minutes to write anything you can do with a brick, just a simple brick. Go!
Time’s up! This “game” is actually a creativity test used by counselors and psychologists, and it is called The Alternative Uses Test. It evaluates originality, fluency, and flexibility (those brain links I just talked about), and measures divergent thinking. For example, you can use a brick to “build a house” and to “use it as a doorstep” – those are pretty distinct ideas, though not the most original ones. Try practicing this game with other everyday objects, like toilet paper, a glass or a pencil. Improving your divergent thinking will help you think of better solutions for problems that pop up at work, or even increase your innovation skills.
Another entertaining game is The Remote Associates Test, that you may have played as a child. Someone gives you 3 words, and you need to find a word that links the others. For example, which word connects Wise, Work, and Tower? Think about it for a second… The answer is Clock! You can find many more examples in Creative Huddle’s article. This game enhances your convergent thinking, which can help you choose the right solution from many alternatives, so you could hire the best employee or buy exactly the services your company needs.
The last game can be played with your colleagues and friends; it is called Circles Creativity Test. All you have to do is give each participant a sheet with 30 circles, and you get 3 minutes to fill as many circles as you can with drawings. When you’re done, you can compare your outcomes and see who filled more circles, who thought of distinct ideas, and who drew more original objects. By playing this game with your team, you can all benefit from improving your divergent thinking and creativity for the good of your work.
If you are tired of games, and you just want to know how you can be more creative at work, deepTalk has some great and practical tips. Creative thinking is something you can develop, and those brain links can be changed and strengthened. The secret is training – just like you train your body to be healthy, you can train your brain to be more creative. Don’t run away from challenges, stick to them and try to deal with them your own special way.
Originally published on deepTalk, August 27, 2020.