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Q: I work in a creative agency where we are frequently asked to come up with ideas during brainstorming meetings. Is there any tip or tools from neuroscience research that can be helpful in being creative?
Creativity is a very ‘loaded’ word. We tend to judge things as creative differently based on context. For example, if you trained all your life on thinking one way (say, writing in Hebrew from left to right) and everyone else in your team was trained differently (writing English right to left) you may seem creative if you suggest doing something that breaks the mold. No one will assume that for you the ‘creative’ idea was actually the straightforward one. This is why diversity is useful in creative teams. Aside from the equality component — which is important in itself, to make the world just and fair — diversity is good because it creates opportunities for diverse ideas that are intuitive for one person but totally counterintuitive for another person.
Once you are able to bring different minds into a creative team, there are a number of tricks that are helpful in being creative.
One idea that I find extremely useful, which I preach to my students frequently, is “constraints generation”. Or, in one line, “if you want to be creative, generate constraints.”
Here’s what I mean. Let’s try this example of a creative exercise:
In the next 30 seconds, try to come up with a game. Ready? Start. 30, 29, 28, …
Now think: How easy or hard was that for you?
Let’s now try the same exercise again, but with a small change:
In the next 30 seconds, try to come up with a game. This time, make sure the game includes a “ladder” and a “flower”. Ready? Start. 30, 29, 28, …
Now, again, think how easy or hard was that?
For most people, the second game was easier. Somehow the constraints of the items “ladder” and “flower” help narrow our plethora of options and give us a good starting point. From that starting point, we can work out a set of options more easily.
Turns out our brains benefit from some structure and a starting point when we’re asked to come up with an idea. The brain has an easier time breaking, bending, or connecting exemplars into new ideas versus generating content out of thin air.
In theory, there was nothing stopping you from adding the ladder and flower constraints to the first task, but somehow it is hard for us to recognize the benefits of the constraints when they aren’t imposed on us.
So next time you are asked to come up with a creative idea in a meeting, one thing you can do is create a random constraint for yourself (for example, decide that the idea has to start with the letter “f”, or that it has to cost less than $40). This will give your brain the necessary boost to start converging.
By the way — as a bonus — when your brain actually starts running with the creative …read more
Source:: Business Insider