I was watching footage of one of my favorite (one-man) bands, Iron & Wine when he was asked the question “when do you find time to write music?” he answered “ Morning’s best ‘cause you are barely awake and kind of close to the subconscious…” this got me thinking. Is it about finding the most creative time of day for creative thinking or is it more about being in the right frame of mind?
I have always encouraged clients to hold idea generations in the morning, where possible. In the morning (but not on a Friday or a Monday) when the contributors are at they’re ‘freshest’. I have no scientific evidence to base this on but it just feels right (probably because I‘m more productive first thing). So I thought I’d look into it.
Back in 2012 Mareike Wieth of Albion College and Rose Sacks of Michigan State University did some research into this. They found that when you are most productive and when you are most creative are not the same. They asked 400+ willing folk to solve six problems throughout the day. The self-identified ‘morning people’ actually did better on tasks that required original thinking in the evening. Conversely the ‘Night owls’ performance had more of their “aha!” moments in the morning. They concluded that during our less productive times we allow our mind to wonder and give it more scope to use less linear associations rather than jump to the fastest most obvious solutions.
In other studies people that have suffered frontal cortex damage or have high levels of alcohol in their systems also show heightened insight problem solving performance. They have an inability to focus in common. Their minds are drowsy and disorganized, humming with associations that they’d normally ignore. Those stray/random associations are the source of the answer.
That said we do need to switch on our creative problem solving heads during the working day. We can’t hold meetings in the shower or engage our team in pillow talk. So where do we go from here? This is where recreating that uncertainty, those seemingly left field associations in a deliberate, systematic and disciplined way comes into its own. We have to fake it to make it. The fundamental foundation of brainstorming. Forcing a new starting point in order to arrive at a point you would never have arrived at when clear headed. It is all about deliberately thinking differently. Here are 5 ways you can boost your creativity at work without a frontal lobotomy, drink or drugs!
- Be awkward – “ The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man” – Bernard Shaw
- Embrace the absurd – “If at first, the idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it” – Albert Einstein
- Get lost in music – No, not going to quote Sister Sledge here. Just to say that we can use music to reach that place that is “kind of close to subconscious”.
- Use the collective brain – “None of us is as smart as all of us” Japanese proverb
- Be disciplined – I’ll give the last word to our friend Iron & Wine: “Treat it like a job, be disciplined and hope it pays you back”
If you can carve out 17 mins of your day to watch Iron and Wine, I promise you won’t regret it.
Written by Anahita Milligan.