Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘creativity research’

Are You Lowering Your Verbal Creativity Doing This Common Thing?

Posted by Plish on February 28, 2019

You’re working on a creative project involving verbiage.  So, you crank up the tunes and listen to your favorite creative mix of instrumental music.

Do you think you’ll be more or less creative than the following scenarios?

  1. Listening to background music with foreign (unfamiliar) lyrics
  2. Music with familiar lyrics

If you’re like me you probably thought that you’d be more creative than scenario #1, but less creative than scenario #2.

You’d be wrong, as I was.

Actually, turning on music in the first place is the problem.  Even if it puts you in a good mood.  According to recent research from Lancaster University, silence or simply background noise (like a library) enables better verbal creativity and verbal insight problem solving.   It appears that the nature of music (of any type!) distracts verbal processes in the brain, which for creative verbal insight problem solving, is a bad thing.

This might not hold though for other types of visual-spatial creative problem solving.  In those cases, background music may actually benefit.  One theory is that the distraction provided by music actually may provide more room for creative wandering so to speak.  That extra space may let ideas flow. ( A fascinating description on the role of background music in verbal versus visual-spatial states is on pages 12 and 13 of the study here.  )

Still, the fact that music is not helpful in a type of creative activity is a shock to those who love music and often turn it on out of habit.

What’s the lesson then?

Understand what type of creative problem you’re solving before adjusting your environment.  We can do things to make ourselves more creative.  Sometimes habits, even pleasing ones, can work against creativity.

What do you think about this research?




Posted in creativity, innovation, Innovation Tools, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Uncategorized, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Can Too Many People be Creative?

Posted by Plish on November 16, 2009


According to this blog over at MIT, the answer is “yes”.

Researchers broke down society into creators and imitators.  Their task was to see what optimum amount of creativity is needed to benefit society through the dissemination of innovations.

Turns out that if creators are doing their thing 50% of the time, and imitators imitating 100% of the time, approximately 30%-40% of the population should be creators, the rest imitators.  As the quality of ideas goes up, less creators are needed.

While it’s an interesting study and worthy of some pondering, three shortcomings bother me.

1. The study assumes all creative ideas are meant for sharing. 

In fact, most of our creativity isn’t ‘public’ but is meant for us personally-meant to make our own lives easier.  Most ideas don’t get disseminated and hence don’t get built upon; nevertheless, these people are part of society and so indirectly improve society through their hidden innovations. 

2. Each creative idea does not result in negative repercussions.

Most solutions that get adapted result in unwanted consequences of some sort. This results in additional idea generation, often by others who at some earlier time were only bystanders (imitators) but could very well have been creators in a different realm.

3. The study assumes there is a portion of the population that is only imitating.

I don’t think this is a valid assumption (see Point 1).

While, I realize that this fascinating attempt to model the impact of creativity on society is not meant to be 100% accurate, if we apply this model to corporate cultures, we realize that only a small percentage of people in a company could truly be called creators -most are imitators and (gasp!) are expected to be imitators. 

Therefore, according to this model, those few creators in the company need to be amazingly brilliant and doing their creation the overwhelming majority of the time.   But, given that the minutiae of day-to-day workings insidiously creep in on most people without their knowledge, those creators are probably not even working on creating as much as they should be (imitating?) and not contributing to the overall level of corporate fitness.

The result (at least according to this model) is that most corporate cultures never reach their optimum level of fitness. 

This is something that, unfortunately, most people would not argue with.

Posted in Authenticity, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, idea generation, innovation, problem solving, Research, Society, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

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