Monday, April 20, 2009

5 Steps to More Creativity Using Brain Science

Want to be more creative? Whether you are an artist, writer, scientist, web designer, marketer, sales person or business executive, being more creative means you'll come up with more and better ideas and have more fun while you are doing it.

If you want to have more creative ideas you need to work with, not against, the part of your brain that comes up with ideas: the pre-frontal cortex. This part of the brain focuses on finding answers and solutions. It combines separate ideas from the rest of your brain and makes connections between them. But the pre-frontal cortex has some interesting and idiosyncratic ways of working, so there are things you can do that help it do its work, and things that hinder. Below are 5 things you can do to help the pre-frontal cortex, and thereby help you be more creative:

1.Find "your spot" and go there:  In order for the pre-frontal cortex to connect up different ideas in your brain, and come up with that great creative idea, it has to be quiet, still, focused and not distracted. This means you have to be doing an activity that does not require much conscious thought. Everyone has a certain activity/place that is where they get their most creative ideas. For me it is water... if I am in the shower, or washing dishes, or swimming laps my mind kind of "spaces out" and then all these creative ideas pop in. For some people it is when they are going for a walk, for others when they are gardening, or in bed about to fall asleep... Figure out the activity/spot where your creative ideas come to you and then make sure you do that activity regularly.

2. Forget about it: In order for the pre-frontal cortex to work you have to consciously forget about the "thing" that you are trying to be creative about... So if you are trying to solve a business problem, come up with a new design for a web page, or decide what to write in your blog, the best thing to do is to forget about it entirely. This allows time for your pre-frontal cortex to go combing around your brain for ideas. If you stay focused on the question and keep mind chatter going on about it, then the pre-frontal cortex will be too distracted to go solve the problem.

3. Give yourself time: You will need to be patient. You will need the time to forget. So give yourself enough "elapsed" time... you will need at least a couple of hours and sometimes days or weeks to come up with creative ideas. The more you let go and the more you go to your "spot" the faster the creative process will happen. Similarly, if you want others to come up with creative ideas you can't just say, "Quick, I need an idea about XXX!" and expect them to have a good answer. The pre-frontal cortex needs time.

4. Work with others: Multiple pre-frontal cortices are better than one! Give the whole team the problem or issue you are trying to solve, then let each person (each pre-frontal cortex) have time to work on it alone. Then bring the team together and let them share their ideas. And then take some more time to let the pre-frontal cortex absorb the ideas from the group. Then bring the team back and you will have some truly great creative solutions.

5. Act on your ideas: When I'm in the shower I get some really great ideas. The trick is getting them written down as soon as I get dried off! and then acting on them. Don't forget to follow through.

P.S. I had the idea for this blog on creativity... you guessed it, in the shower!

Photo: Creative Commons,


AC said...

The shower is my spot, too! I read an article many years ago that said water stimulates creativity. It spoke of an executive who had a shower installed in his office for when he needed some inspiration. I'm a believer!

Paul (from Idea Sandbox) said...

To avoid forgetting ideas I think up in the shower, I purchased a waterproof diver's slate - what SCUBA divers use to make notes to each other.

While just a pencil on a while plastic tablet, it has been an idea-saver many times!