A 2010 survey by IBM of over 1,500 CEO’s from 33 industries has suggested that creativity is the most important skill required to succeed in the current business climate. However Research & Development budgets have been steadily decreasing in both in the public and private sectors in the past 25 years.
At the same time, there are suggestions that the current education system fails to encourage creativity among student. Although this may suggest that society in the future may not be able to rely on the creativity of others, there are still ways by which anybody can make the most of their own creative abilities by simply considering the sectors that still require innovation.
Relax and stay focused
A paper by Christina Ting Fong (The Effects of Emotional Ambivalence on Creativity – 2006) focuses on the part that emotions have to play in affecting creativity. Her study involved a group of 102 university students that were divided into groups that were asked to recall a single emotional event in which they felt happy, sad or ambivalent respectively.
The participants were then asked to complete a test designed to test creative ability by identifying associations between words that are not normally associated. She found that the participants that recalled an event in which they felt ambivalent performed considerably better than the other two groups and suggested that these emotions are instrumental to creativity.
Another study by Mark Jung-Beeman (Neural Activity when People Solve Verbal Problems with Insight – 2004) suggests the state of someone’s brain at any particular time can affect any potential solution that they may offer to address a problem. This paper found that an increased level of emotion reduces the ability to solve problems.
Don’t avoid the unfamiliar
The prospect of remaining in the comfort zone can sound appealing to many. However, it has been demonstrated (by Charlan Nemeth of the University of California amongst others) that the willingness to go outside of this safety net and encounter the unfamiliar can help to inspire creativity. This may be achieved by altering simple routines in your day such as utilizing public transportation or simply walking a new route to or from work. New observations and experiences can subconsciously help create ideas and lead to new innovations and opportunities.
Individuals as diverse as Charles Dickens and Steve Jobs have made public their creative processes. For Dickens it was exploring the streets of London; for Jobs it was “connecting experiences … and synthesizing new things.” Creativity requires a constant source of new stimuli to avoid stagnation.
Set your mind free
The above points are of no benefit to you without the willingness to also set your conscience free. A study by Kalina Christoff et al (Experience sampling during fMRI reveals default network and executive system contributes to mind wandering – 2009) suggests that ‘mind wandering may evoke a unique mental state that may allow otherwise opposing networks to work in cooperation’ which essentially means that allowing yourself to daydream can be an important factor in the creativity process.
The IBM survey in the introduction puts creativity as the most important skill for success ahead of other important abilities such as rigor, integrity or managerial discipline. The aforementioned abilities remain important attributes for success but such disciplines must be balanced with those required to inspire creativity, such as the ones mentioned above. By successfully achieving a balance between these abilities, true success may be much closer to becoming a reality.
About Author: Serge is a product engineer at Edictive, working on a cloud solution to bring creative film industry to the rigor of technical project management.