Many of us go throughout our days and weeks never changing up our routine, but science shows us that changing our habits can improve our creativity. For example, researchers gathered a pool of Dutch college students and divided them into two groups. One group was asked to prepare a butter and chocolate chip sandwich (apparently this is a common Dutch breakfast).The other group was asked to prepare the same sandwich but was told to do so in a weird way. Both groups were then given a test to measure cognitive flexibility and the studies found the students who prepared the breakfast sandwich in the unconventional way scored better on the cognitive flexibility test than those who made the sandwich in the usual way.
Sometimes, when we want to brainstorm, we bring like-minded people together to collaborate. But this doesn’t help creativity, it actually stunts it. For example, researchers placed a group of college students in a room and asked them to brainstorm ways to improve their campus. Half the individuals brainstormed in groups of four, while half the individuals brainstormed alone. The findings showed lone brainstormers produced significantly more novel ideas than group brainstormers.
Ever sat down and thought about 20 different ways your organization could improve? You might find the more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision. Having more choices can actually hinder decision making; this is often referred to as the paradox of choice.
We all want to have more creative moments, but many would be surprised that changing the lighting in our environment can make a big difference. Researchers put three subject groups in three different rooms of different lighting, and found individuals who worked in dark rooms had more creative insights than individuals who worked in well-lit rooms.
Researchers have found that different colors can improve task efficiency, but it’s important to think about the task at hand before using a color set. The research shows that individuals who viewed the color red performed better on tasks that measured precision (detail-oriented tasks), while individuals exposed to blue performed better on tasks that measured creativity (flexibility-oriented tasks). Therefore, next time you are thinking about the tasks in front of you, think about the colors that would be most useful.
Navigating the creative waters is never easy, but if you make a few small efforts day in and day out, you’d be surprised how much this can add up. Remember, you don’t have to do all of these, but give one or two a try and maybe it will start you on your path to creating your next hit song, company, or screenplay.