Boost your creativity: Booze, barf and boredom
I am always on the lookout for ideas to boost creativity. Below are a few recent insightful readings…
Alcohol Benefits the Creative Process [Psychology Today] – Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago set out to determine if being intoxicated actually helped people think more creatively. They recruited people ages 21-30 and gave half of them vodka cranberry cocktails until their blood alcohol level reached .075. Then both groups completed a Remote Associations Test wherein they were given a series of three words (i.e. tar, arm, peach) for which they had to find a single word that would create two-word phrases with all three (i.e. pit). This kind of task was chosen to assess creativity because it is believed that the most obvious response is often not correct and therefore people must search for other more remote words in order to solve the problem. The findings indicate that the intoxicated participants not only performed better than their sober counterparts, they did so in less time and were more inclined to attribute their performance to a flash of insight; an “Aha!” moment.
Why might being intoxicated lead to improved creativity? The answer has to do with alcohol’s effect on working memory: the brainpower that helps us keep what we want in mind and what we don’t want out. Research has shown that alcohol tends to reduce people’s ability to focus in on some things and ignore others, which also happens to benefit creative problem solving.
I had a great excuse to practice this approach this weekend (admittedly, this was not the first time). I found that a yuzu-infused cocktail from Morimoto in Napa actually did catalyze divergent thinking. In fact, I generated a significant number of ideas for ideation and training sessions that involve yummy bites and liquid concoctions.
Produce First, Sharpen Second: What Dylan’s Vomit Teaches Us About The Creative Process [The Creativity Post] – This article references Bob Dylan’s creative process behind Like A Rolling Stone which involved a massive vomit of verses followed by a period of crafting and sculpting that rambling mass into an exquisitely refined piece of work. Dylan’s experience and other examples from the article illustrate a topic that I believe is profoundly important to understanding what creative thinking is and how to facilitate it. Creativity involves two polarized modes of thinking that can be described as opposites: divergent/convergent, imagination/logic, improvisation/composition, writing/editing, and so on. The key is to keep these two modes, vomit/cleanup, separate. Do not mix! In fact, a recent study at a Dutch university that is cited in this article concluded that taking a break between creating ideas and assessing them actually improves one’s ability to recognize the more promising concepts. Quick tip: The next time you are looking for great ideas, set yourself (or your team) a wildly large goal (i.e. 30-100 ideas) and don’t stop until you reach that number. Then take a break (10 minutes, 24 hours, whatever). Finally, go back and dive in to your ideas to cluster, organize, eliminate and ensure that the best ones rise to the top. Then give them refinement and strengthening that they deserve!
The reason we should “never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down” is because we initially don’t know which of our ideas are worthwhile. It’s only after we get everything down that we are able to recognize what works from what doesn’t. This is the lesson from Ritter’s research: we need to give the unconscious mind time to mull it over so it can convince the conscious mind to make adjustments.
Want To Be More Creative? Get Bored [Fast Company] – If you are looking for something to do between ideaphoria and analysis, a break that Edward deBono calls the “creative pause”, give some thought to not thinking at all. The author reflects on the importance of clearing the mind and the calendar and not doing a thing. Why? Because this space of quiet be-ing (not doing) is a lacuna from the litany of productivity and entertainment. It gives the mind room to breathe. Think of it as mental yoga, a place to pause between the inhale of ideas and the exhale of action.
I know it sounds strange, but I welcome boredom. It forces me to ponder. But to make sure we’re on the same page, when I speak of boredom, I’m not referring to killing time on your smartphone, your iPad, or your laptop. I’m not even talking about paging through a book. I mean bored as in doing absolutely nothing.