Creativity is often seen as an elusive gift—a talent some people have been blessed with and others have missed out on. But this perception is simply untrue, because countless scientific studies demonstrate methods any of us can use to tap into our inner creative genius.
In The Creativity Formula, I list 50 research-based ways to boost creativity. Here are three you’ve probably never heard of:
1. Stare at your iPhone’s Apple logo.
Accessing your inner creative genius can be as simple as staring at the Apple logo on the back of your iPhone, thanks to the effects of priming. Researchers from Duke University brought a group of people into their laboratory and exposed them to either the Apple or IBM logo. Participants were then asked to think of as many uses for a brick as possible.
Those exposed to the Apple logo performed significantly better on the creativity task than did the IBM people, generating more unusual and creative ideas. Because the majority of people associate Apple with innovation, the researchers explained that simply seeing the Apple logo is enough to trigger this type of thought. This then leads to a significant increase in creative behavior.
2. Set a big roadblock.
Letting your mind wander wherever it needs to, starting with a blank canvas and being free of rules are all considered conducive to creativity. However, the latest psychological research has shown the complete opposite to be true.
In one study, a group of adults was asked to make a construction using LEGO bricks. One group was told they could build whatever they liked. The other group had several constraints placed upon them, such as being only allowed to use one type of brick. The constructions built by the “constrained” group were judged to be significantly more creative and lateral than those in the “free expression” group.
Placing constraints or roadblocks in the way forces us to search for new and creative ways of completing a task or solving a problem. So when you’re faced with a problem, impose some big and deliberate constraints in the way and watch your creativity soar.
3. Imagine yourself on a hot date.
When it comes time to mate, male bowerbirds spend much of their time making colourful and elaborate nests. They use moss, sticks, leaves, grass and flowers and even paint the nest using berries. When selecting a mate, a female bowerbird is attracted to the males that have built the most creatively decorated nests.
A group of researchers from the University of Arizona hypothesised a similar link between mating and creativity among humans. In a series of experiments, two groups of participants were required to complete several creativity tasks. Both received the same instructions about the task but the second group was first asked to imagine themselves on a hot date. Those assigned to the “hot date” group performed significantly better on the creativity tasks.
Why does this happen? The researchers suggested that humans evolved in a way that required them to demonstrate their creativity to attract members of the opposite sex. Throughout history, creativity has been regarded as a sign of a person’s adaptability and problem-solving skills, which in turn suggests an ability to rise to the complex challenges of life—a valued characteristic in a partner.
Regardless of how creative you currently see yourself, try these techniques to give yourself an instant boost of creativity.