5 Ways to Boost Your Creativity in Under 5 Minutes

Creativity might seem like an innate ability, but there are some simple ways you can improve your creative thinking! Find out how with these tips from Dr Amantha Imber, Founder of Inventium. 

When we think of creative geniuses, images of eccentric, super bright people who have strikes of inspiration in the middle of the night, fill our mind.

Indeed, the media loves to perpetuate the myth that creative geniuses like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk are born, not made. However, scientific research shows us that creativity can be increased with relatively simple methods.

Here are five ways you can increase your creativity significantly - in less than five minutes! 

1. Watch some stand up comedy

Our mood has a big impact on the chances of coming up with insight and inspiration. And if we get ourselves into a happy state, creative ideas are much more likely to abound. In one study, participants were asked to watch a five minute bloopers reel, which put participants into a jovial mood. The participants who had experienced a good belly laugh were able to solve significantly more insight puzzles compared to those who had watched a short clip about mathematics.

2. Raise your eyebrows

We know that creativity is associated with widening our experiences – the broader the range of experiences we have to draw from, the more possible combinations of ideas exist within our brains. A group of researchers at the University of Maryland took this a step further – they thought that facial expressions associated with widening our visual perception could increase creativity.

They asked participants in a study to broaden their visual field by raising their eyebrows and had another group furrow their brows, which narrowed their attention field. Participants in the study were asked to hold one of these expressions for two minutes, while completing a creative thinking task. The eyebrow-raising group generated significantly more original ideas and a greater quantity of ideas.

3. Look for the odd one out

Enhancing our ability to create new and original solutions to problems can be as simple as staring at an image that depicts the notion of “being different”. One study published in the European Journal of Psychology, compared the ideas generated by people looking at a poster depicting an ‘odd one out’ image versus people seeing an image representing conformity for two minutes, while also tasked with coming up with different uses for a brick. The ‘odd one out’ viewers came up with significantly more ideas. In addition, their ideas were judged as being 25% more creative.

4. Stare at the Apple logo 

Gavan Fitzsimons from Duke University was also interested in the impact of images on creativity and in his study, he looked at the impact of a couple of famous brand logos – those of Apple or IBM. One was famous for thinking differently, and the other for providing plain beige box computers. Participants were briefly exposed to either the Apple or IBM logo. They were then asked to solve an idea generation task. Individuals who were exposed to the Apple logo performed significantly better than did the IBM group. They generated more unique ideas, and overall, their ideas were judged as being more creative. The researchers explained that because the majority of people associate Apple with innovation and being different from the norm, seeing the Apple logo can trigger this type of thought. This then leads to a significant increase in creative behaviour.

5. Turn up the volume

Ever noticed how overwhelming silence or too much noise can make it difficult to concentrate and get creative at work? A study from the University of British Columbia found that there is an optimal noise level that can help boost our thinking ability - 70 decibels. This moderate level of ambient noise is equivalent to sitting in a busy cafe or city street. 

So the next time you are questioning your creative ability, watch some comedy, raise your eyebrows, stare at a picture of something odd, step into a cafe and look at the back of your iPhone – creative juices should start to flow.

Dr Amantha Imber is the Founder of Inventium, Australia’s leading innovation consultancy. Her latest book, The Innovation Formula, tackles the topic of how organisations can create a culture where innovation thrives.

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