There is a myth that creative geniuses are born, not made—but the idea that you can only be creative if you were born that way is so false. Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that creativity is a skill that can be built up, and very easily. Indeed, research has shown that only 30 percent of creativity is genetically predetermined. The remaining 70 percent is up to you.
In my first book, The Creativity Formula, I described 50 scientifically proven ways to boost creativity. Here are six you have probably never heard of.
1. Crank up the volume.
Although silence is great for many different types of work, when it comes to innovation, research suggests you should turn up the volume. Researchers from the University of British Columbia found that 70 decibels (the sound level of a busy café or city street) is the optimal noise level for creativity. It leads to a greater amount of distraction compared to lower noise levels, and some distraction is important for creativity.
2. Look for the odd one out.
Enhancing our ability to create new and original solutions to problems can be as simple as staring at an image for a couple of minutes—as long as that image represents the concept of “being different.” One study compared the ideas generated by people looking at a poster depicting an “odd one out” image versus people seeing an image representing conformity. The “odd one out” viewers came up with significantly more ideas. In addition, their ideas were judged as being 25 percent more creative.
3. Clench your left hand.
Psychology professor Nicola Baumann set up an experiment where one group of people had to squeeze a ball with their left hand while the other group had to squeeze a ball with their right. It was found that this simple act of squeezing one’s left hand activated a brain circuit associated with thinking holistically and intuitively, and thus more creatively. So the next time you have a creative problem to solve, squeeze your left hand into a fist for optimum creative results.
4. Get sweaty.
Participating in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise has been found to increase our ability to think creatively. And our increased creative ability can last for up to two hours post exercise.
5. Raise your eyebrows.
Researchers at the University of Maryland theorized that facial expressions associated with widening and narrowing our visual perception affected creativity. They thought that broadening your visual field, such as raising your eyebrows, could increase performance on a creative thinking task. Likewise, they hypothesized that furrowing your brows, which narrowed your attention field, would have the opposite effect. Participants in the study were asked to hold one of these expressions for two minutes, while completing a creative thinking task. The raised-eyebrow group generated significantly more original ideas and a greater quantity of ideas.
6. Sleep on it.
Ultimately the success of our creative thought rests on whether we make good decisions. Research suggests that we make far better decisions in the morning, when we have strong cognitive resources available to us. These resources deteriorate throughout the day with each decision we make. So the earlier in the day you make decisions, the better those decisions will be.
Whether you see yourself as a highly creative thinker or someone who doesn’t have a creative bone in your body, try incorporating some of these simple changes to turbocharge your creative thought.