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Archive for the ‘Yerkes-Dodson Curve’ Category

Breaking Down Creative Blockages and Dealing With Stress

Posted by Plish on March 11, 2011

We all get stuck.  

Dr. Stanley Block, over at Psychology Today, has a great process for breaking through the blocks, or rather the box that surrounds and constrains our psyches  –  in three minutes or less.  Rather than reproduce it here, I’m including a link to the process that you can read here. 

I’m a strong believer that the more relaxed we are, the better the quality of ideas.  Dealing with stress is important if you want to stay on top of your game. Here’s another interview with Dr. Herbert Benson,  founder of the Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine.

What do you do to deal with stress and keep the creative juices flowing?


Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, cognitive studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, idea generation, Interviews, meditation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Research, Science, stress, The Human Person, Wellness, Workplace Creativity, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Finding Trends Through Music – The Need to Breathe

Posted by Plish on September 8, 2009

While listening to the song Breathe by Anna Nalick it suddenly struck me that this isn’t the first song called Breathe that I’ve heard recently.  So I did a search.

The results are interesting.  Since the 1970’s there have been 30 major releases of songs entitled Breathe.  This doesn’t include tunes with the words ‘Breathe’ or ‘Breath’ in longer titles.  The percentage breakdown is as follows:

graph of percentages

Over 73 percent of all songs entitled Breathe  have been released since 2000.  Forty percent of all songs have occurred since 2005.

What does this point to?

I created a mindmap to categorize what the word ‘breathe’ might be connected to.

Click for Full Size

Click for Full Size

When I got stuck I did a quick search of idiomatic use of Breatheto see if any meanings were missed and there were a couple so I added them to the mindmap. We could learn even more by looking at the lyrics of every song, but I don’t think it’s necessary to dive in that deeply. 

Let’s take a breath and look at what this all means…

The word ‘breathe’ is a verb.  When it is used on its own in the English language it is used in the imperative form.  It’s basically a command.  What are the results of following the order?

Rest, relaxation, grounding, slowing down, functioning properly, etc.

Why do we need to slow down?

The 21st century has brought an increase Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Case Studies, Design, Health Concerns, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, meditation, Mind Maps, problem solving, stress, The Human Person, Trends, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Intensity Key to Repeatable Results

Posted by Plish on August 27, 2009

The Chicago White Sox, my favorite baseball team, have hit the skids in their quest to win the division.  They seem to have a lackluster attitude and they just don’t get things done.  They’re terrible at bringing people home when they’re in scoring position and they’re not making good defensive plays.  In other words, the team isn’t executing well…or at all!

Two losses ago, Scott Podsednik said the team needed to play with more intensity.  The Manager echoed those statements.

Well, the Sox lost the next game in spite of Podsednik hitting a clutch home run as a pinch hitter.

Captain Paul Konerko, then  said after that loss, “I’ll take execution and smart play over intensity.  That stuff will win out. ”


It’s not either/or. 

It’s both/and.

Podsednik had it right.  Intensity needs to be there.  In fact, execution and smart play is a function of intensity; as intensity goes up (to a point) execution and smart play occur in a more repeatable fashion.

Why does intensity going up  “to a point” make a difference?

Think of younger athletes playing a sport like soccer.  They run vigorously up and down the field, sometimes never even touching the ball but nonetheless they’re all sweating as if they’re playing active roles in moving the ball downfield and into the opposing goal.

The truth is that perhaps only one or two people are actually doing any useful work; the rest are running around willy-nilly.  To that end, Konerko is correct, execution and smart play is better than intensity.

But, I don’t think that’s what Podsednik meant.  When people focus their intensity, they enter that ‘zone’ where everything works.  People don’t usually make stupid mistakes when their intensity is focused.  People don’t fail to execute when their intensity is focused.

So why this baseball based diatribe?

Because it’s our lesson as well.

Repeatably being on the top of our games will not happen without some type of intensity.  Whether it’s solving problems with cool new ideas, coming up with a new piece of art or music, or keeping from getting into an accident while driving in a snow storm during rush hour, intensity is the lens that makes fruitful results possible.

So, next time you’re not getting the results you want, look at how well you’re focused.  It doesn’t take that big of a lens to start a fire using the suns rays.

You are that bright light…bring some fire to your world!



Posted in Authenticity, cognitive studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Cortisol Levels and Sleeping, Stress and Creativity

Posted by Plish on December 26, 2008

This recently published blurb in Wired gives three reasons why sleeping late may be better than going to bed early and rising early.

They are:

1. You may need more sleep than you think (i.e. You don’t sleep nearly enough)

2. Night Owls are more creative.

3. Rising early occurs during peak Cortisol levels so you may feel tension upon waking early.

When I checked the study responsible for point number 3, another interesting thing became obvious and it may account for point Number 2.

Cortisol is also at its lowest between 10pm and 1am. If stress hormone is low, creativity may be higher during these times.

FORMULA A: Less stress hormone (Cortisol)=more relaxed=more creative.

If I extrapolate a Creativity Curve based upon the cortisol curve we see the following:

Circadian Rhythm Graph with creativity

Possible Creativity vs. Cortisol Curve (michael plishka, 2008; red curve courtesy of http://www.phoqus.com)

Is the above relationship absolute? Probably not. The folks over at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine have shown that changes in stress (i.e the relaxation response) can produce “aha” moments. And, as I mentioned here, stress is essential to performance. So there are most likely some micro-stress trends within the larger trends that can help or hinder creativity.

Nevertheless, studies are starting to show that increased cortisol levels that don’t decline during the day may induce clinical depression.  So…

FORMULA B: Less sleep=greater stress=clinical depression=less sleep=greater stress…

It’s a downward spiral that will not help with creative endeavors.

What do we take away from this all?

1. We need sleep.

2. We have to be careful not to stay up too late. If we overshoot our lowest cortisol levels, we may have trouble falling asleep. Since cortisol rises quickly in the AM, we don’t want to be stuck getting stressed when we should be recouping. Rising cortisol levels also might maker it more difficult to stay asleep or get good quality sleep. That means waking up feeling sleep deprived and that puts us into FORMULA B above….bad news.

3. We need to learn to relax better- take time to meditate/pray/relax/play so that we minimize the effects of stress when we’re awake.

What are your thoughts on creativity and sleep?

Posted in Nature of Creativity, Research, Science, stress, Workplace Creativity, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , | 23 Comments »

Constraints Only Help Creativity To A Point

Posted by Plish on December 22, 2008

We hear it all the time.

“Creativity thrives in constraints”

“We need to have boundaries to get the most out of creativity.”

Well…. Yes….

…and No.

Constraints =  Stress

Stress only helps to a point.  A gander at the Yerkes-Dodson curve shows when we get overstressed our performance trails off. 

Yerkes-Dodson Curve Shows Optimum Stress for Optimum Results

Yerkes-Dodson Curve Shows Optimum Stress for Optimum Results

Over stressed can be one of two things.

High Load Over a Short Time

High Load Over a Short Time


A Small Load Over a Long Time

A Small Load Over a Long Time

What can we do to optimize creative output?

Get used to dealing with situations that are constrained.  This will change your stress threshold so that it takes more stress to make your performance decline.  What types of things indicate that our productivity will start falling off? 

Look for feelings of boredom, procrastination, frustration, anxiety and anger, to name a few.

Be careful though – Many (if not most) of us have a tendency to think we deal with stress better than we do.

Posted in cognitive studies, idea generation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity, Yerkes-Dodson Curve | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

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