Top tips to boost your creativity
There are two things that can hinder creative thinking so let's address those first.
The first one is stress. When we experience stress, this puts us in the fight, flight, or freeze mode, which is essentially our survival mode. When we are in this state, we become laser-focused on the threat in front of us, which leaves no space for creative thinking. Our brains do not have the capacity to think of new ideas when we are in a high-stress state. Researchers have carried out multiple experiments now to prove this theory and the results are conclusive; the higher our levels of stress, the lower our levels of creativity. So if we’re going to come up with good ideas and think outside the box, we need to learn to relax.
We know equally that we can’t put a time-pressure on creativity. Research has also shown us that when we are trying to be creative under the pressure of a tight deadline, it just doesn’t happen.
The other thing that can kill creativity is money. Yes, that’s right, a cash incentive can actually make us perform worse in creative tasks. Researchers proved this through running an experiment where groups of people were asked to solve the famous candle problem. If you haven’t seen it before, people are presented with a candle and some items and they are asked to fix the candle to the wall, using those items. You’ll find pictures online if you want to have a go yourself. Solving the problem isn’t rocket science but it does require thinking outside the box.
So a psychologist called Sam Glucksberg came along – a professor of psychology at Princeton University and he used the candle problem to test how people respond to financial incentives.
He split individuals into two groups and asked them how quickly they could solve the candle problem.
He said to Group 1: I’m going to time you to establish some averages for how long it typically takes people to solve this problem.
He said to Group 2: I’m going to time you to see how long it takes you to solve this problem. If you’re in the top 25% of the fastest times to solve this problem, we will give you $5
If you are the fastest of all the people we’ve tested here today you get $20
Which group do you think solved the problem quickest?
It took group 2 3 ½ minutes longer to solve the problem
This is down to what we call the overjustification effect. This is because financial incentives actually cause the opposite effect than desired. So offered bonuses or cash incentives usually stifle creativity and make us perform worse at tasks that require us to think creatively.