Creativity: what is it and how to stimulate it?

Creativity: what is it and how to stimulate it?

Who wouldn’t want to be creative? Not only scientists, writers and artists need creativity, but everyone seems to treat it as something that the employer can boast about. Creativity, innovation, ingenuity – these are some of the synonyms that are used to describe the ability to invent new things, non-standard ideas and solutions, or works of art. However, is this talent, an innate predisposition to a certain behavior, or rather something that can be learned, at least to some extent – and if so, how?

Creativity from the neuro-scientific side

Is the ability to think creatively more similar to sexual orientation or to chess? In other words, is it almost strictly determined by brain structure and genes, or is it the result of proper exercise and sufficiently large stimulus exposure? Adopting the first view would mean that we have a special structure in our head, wonderful neurons that would activate in parallel with others, like their shadows, and which would throw original ideas into the “ordinary” current of thought. This claim is unsustainable. It is true that we can intuitively think that creativity is similar to language skills (in particular to learn foreign languages), because there are indeed big differences in this skill in the population – from geniuses who know a dozen or so languages ​​to people who, unfortunately, hardly comes even English. However, this is at least a false analogy. Linguistic abilities are special, they are separated in the brain from others (they are located in separate brain modules – the Brocki area and the Wernicke area) – there are cases of people who use the language completely normally, and at the same time with impairments of other intellectual skills. In the case of creative thinking, it is not necessarily a full mapping, because it is difficult to study something such as creativity, it is difficult to parameterize it.

In 2013, a meta-analysis of works based on various research paradigms by Gonen-Yaacovi was created, which sheds some new light. Namely, it turns out that there is a certain area of ​​the brain characteristically activated during the exercises used in the analyzed studies – these are different parts of the prefrontal cortex and regions related to memory. However, this is not analogous to language modules, because damage to these parts of the brain can increase creativity – contrary to language. This should not be a surprise to people who have had close contact with people affected by Alzheimer’s disease – the degree of creativity of confabulation on almost any aspect of life and facts about the world in such patients is extraordinary.

Creativity: what is it and how to stimulate it?

Creativity as originality vs. creativity as a value

Creativity can be understood in two ways. In the first of them, the main burden lies on the novelty as a key aspect for creativity. No one can be considered ingenious (in this way of understanding this word is a close synonym), if it mostly repeats the ideas of others. Originality is a value in itself. This approach has some justification in less “life” fields, ie in art and science. In both these areas, sometimes completely innovative ideas are needed for a breakthrough. Therefore, the criterion of value is sometimes in the shadow.

“Don’t be afraid to express eccentric opinions, because every opinion accepted today was once considered eccentric.”
Bertrand Russel

However, originality alone is not always enough to be creative. An additional evaluation criterion may need to be applied to the assessment. A work of art can be creative when it is original, but also beautiful. The philosophical or scientific idea is innovative, while it is surprisingly innovative and brings us closer to the truth. Creativity would therefore require interaction between spontaneous, creative thinking (brainstorming style) and controlled consideration of ideas. In other words, you need to be able to come up with different ideas, but at the same time be able to determine whether they are valuable.

Stimulating creativity. What activities develop creativity?

Brain research, combined with the consideration of various theories of creativity, allow us to find some ways to stimulate creativity. How to do it?

sleep well – nothing kills creativity than the state in which our eyes close themselves. However, it is not only about a sufficiently long night sleep, because sometimes a nap that is long enough to enter the REM sleep phase (i.e. over an hour) is very beneficial. The apparent loss of time to sleep during the day will be compensated by much more creativity a few minutes after waking up.
use paper and pen – the traditional way of taking notes has the advantage over the computer and smartphone that it involves more regions in our brain. Requires, among others greater coordination of the movement with thought, and also allows the shape of the letter to release emotions. By the way, we can, while thinking about the next sentences, draw something in the margins or calligraphy, which gives us a chance to come up with something new. Well, besides, notifications from Facebook will not be displayed on the card.
look for inspiration among people – it’s easier to do something in a group, and at the same time you can meet interesting people. That is why it is worth joining social organizations, becoming an activist, doing something that makes sense to us and which we will be motivated to do. In this way, we can come across ideas that will be useful in other areas of life.
to choose the music – although in general a kind of ambient is recommended, not too loud, serving rather as pleasant noise in the environment, de facto everyone should test different genres and subjectively choose to their taste. However, it is known that silence does not help creative thinking.

Creativity: what is it and how to stimulate it?

People work better when they do something that interests them

This would seem obvious, but most (especially large) companies do not accept this. Google paved the trail, which allowed its engineers to allocate as much as 20 percent. working time to develop their own ideas related to the general direction of the company’s activities, although not directly their daily tasks. Effect? In this way, Gmail, Google News and shuttle buses were invented to transport employees to the company’s headquarters in Mountain View.

Creativity: what is it and how to stimulate it?

Movement is fuel for the brain

It is no accident that there is a basketball court at TBWA headquarters in Los Angeles. Studies show that “sweat is like WD-40 for the mind: it lubricates rusted hinges in the brain and makes thinking smoother. Exercises allow the mind to gain access to new ideas, hidden in the subconscious so far, “Christopher Bergland, a world-class triathlete, trainer and writer, wrote in Psychology Today. As proof of this, the athlete cites, among others the example of Albert Einstein, who devised his theory of relativity by riding a bicycle.

This is confirmed by research carried out at Middlesex University in Great Britain, which compared the creativity of people immediately after a physical exercise session with that shown by people who have been at rest for a long time. The former were able to present many more solutions to the problem they signaled than people from the second group. That is why it is sometimes worth stopping work and going for a run, walk or go up the stairs. All you need is 10 minutes of activity for your brain to work more efficiently.

Cult of creativity

Sometimes you can become consterned by browsing the job offers. In almost every job offer, the employer claims to be looking for an ingenious, innovative employee who demonstrates his own initiative. It seems that currently such requirements are even set for candidates for completely routine, repetitive and schematic positions. Is it really such a universally needed ability? It certainly doesn’t bother, but from the individual point of view such a constant desire for creativity can be harmful – not everyone is always able to be creative, it can be compensated by diligence. Is it always worth spending time and effort to become a bit more ingenious or innovative when you are not predisposed to it, instead of developing the talents that you actually have?

Well, if today there is indeed a peculiar cult of creativity, it may just be fashionable to be considered creative, but ultimately the verification of this ability is carried out by others, including employers. It is definitely worth trying to create and invent things yourself, because it develops the intellect in a general way, but it’s probably better to do it with your own internal motivation and for yourself. It is known, however, that limitations and stress, often associated with work – in particular deductive – kill creativity because they prevent creative relaxation.

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