A few months ago the results of a study were released that looked at the impact of music on creativity at work.
The researchers conducted three experiments and the subjects listened to:
- music in an unfamiliar foreign language,
- music with no lyrics at all, and
- music with familiar lyrics.
Whilst listening to one of these types of music the participants had to complete a set of tests. Or rather Compound Remote Associate Tasks, CRATs, if you’re interested in details. These tests are apparently good gauges of measuring creative thinking.
The result of the study was that listening to music at work stunts your creativity!
“To conclude, the findings here challenge the popular view that music enhances creativity, and instead demonstrate that music, regardless of the presence of semantic content (no lyrics, familiar lyrics, or unfamiliar lyrics), consistently disrupts creative performance in insight problem solving as measured by CRATs.”
This might be a scientific experiment and you can’t argue with science and data. But here at Clever Marketing we’re big fans of music whilst we work. And we’re still creative too, in our business development, design and digital marketing too. After all, we are Clever Marketing and we have a set of values and a reputation to stand up to.
So if we have studio full of people listening to punk, rock and alternative on BBC Radio 6 Music, loops of dub techno mixes on YouTube and Charles Aznavour on personal headsets, then how do you stimulate creativity when it’s being impeded by music? Allegedly.
1. Exercise makes you more creative
It has been a common-held belief that regular exercise encourages creativity. They, whoever they are, say that you’ll find a “sound mind in a sound body”. There are studies to prove the link between exercise and the mind. Just see the 2013 study on The impact of physical exercise on convergent and divergent thinking.
If you can’t exercise fully, by taking a 30-minute bike ride or a stroll to work, then at least park your car in the furthest away spot, use the stairs not the lift, get up every hour and take a break and use the whole of your lunch hour to get up and go out. Walk and talk. Walk and eat. Don’t just sit there, do something!
As the famous psychologist Friedrich Nietzsche once said “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”. But don’t just take a dead dude’s word for it, Stanford University research shows that walking can boost your creativity by up to 60%.
So get as much exercise as you can. Your creative muse will benefit greatly from it.
2. Embrace failure
Nobody likes to make mistakes, but neither should you fear them. After all, how are you going to know what’s good when you don’t know what bad looks like? This is where you need to be allowed to make mistakes so that you can learn quickly. Failing stimulates the impetus to look for solutions.
Being prepared for failure is a key part of the creative process. For example, one of our designers recently created some bold and fresh logo designs for a client but also included some designs that we thought were “a bit 1980s”. Despite the opinions of the team, the client picked the designs that we didn’t think they’d actually go for! Anyway, have you ever heard the phrase “there’s no such thing as failure only feedback”?
Learn what works and what doesn’t work. It’s better to have ideas than no ideas.
For further reading see the BBC opinion piece How creativity is helped by failure
3. Do different things. Or is that do things differently?
As the old saying goes “Do what you’ve always done and you’ll get what you’ve always got”. If you want to stimulate creativity then open up to new ideas. That doesn’t necessarily mean to have to do anything big or expensive like going to faraway exotic places, just do something that you wouldn’t normally do. Embrace new, odd and different things. Even something as seemingly mundane as sitting in a different seat than “your favourite place” will quite literally give you a different perspective on things.
The same goes for routines and habits; break them. Then remake them. By going a different way to work, using a different tool, reading books you wouldn’t normally give the time of day to, using different ingredients; you’ll be stimulating parts of the brain that you wouldn’t normally fire up.
About ten years ago one of our team attended a conference where his friend, a designer, was about to stand up on stage to speak to his audience about web design. Five minutes before the lecture the web designer asked our digital marketing guy if he could go up on stage with him and answer any questions on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). With no prep, our resident SEO consultant just said “Yeah, why not!” and thoroughly enjoyed his new experience and baptism of fire.
Opening your mind to new ideas and experiences expands your skill set and that can only be a good thing. Challenge yourself!
4. Get some downtime
We’re all pressed for time these days, deadlines are in every project timeline. Tight timescales can cause stress and pressure. Some people may thrive under pressure but then many others don’t.
So, whichever camp you’re in, boost your creativity and make sure you get some downtime. Take a break, relax, go for that inspirational walk. Better still, at the end of the day take a complete breather and do something else. When you go to bed relax and revisit that problem you were going to address earlier. Sleep on it. Quite literally.
In 1993 psychologist Diedre Barrett PhD at Harvard Medical School published A Study of Dream Incubation for Problem Solving. The study showed that half of students who thought about an imminent problem just before they went to sleep dreamed of their problem whilst a quarter of students actually woke up with a solution!
5. Capture your ideas
Did you wake up with a brilliant solution to the problem you went to bed thinking about? If you’re one of the lucky twenty five percent who had a light-bulb moment first thing in the morning, then write it down. How many times have you had a great dream, a great idea and the fleeting vision and idea is soon forgotten? It happens so often.
So keep paper and pen (or pencil) to hand – by your bedside.
If you daydream then be a true creative and carry your notebook with you wherever you go. If a pad and ultra cool clutch pencil are too much in this digital age then use your phone. Take notes, get a drawing app out, scribble, capture the moment.
6. Commune with Nature
No, really! By connecting with your inner hippy you will find benefits to your creativity. We’re not talking about dropping LSD and bringing psychedelia into your corporate design projects, man!
A 2002 research paper entitled The Potential Role of the Physical Environment in Fostering Creativity found that participants who had a view of the natural environment and were surrounded by natural materials were more creative than those who lacked a view of nature and had more overtly man-made surroundings.
Similarly it’s been reported that a view of nature aids in recovery so what’s not to like?
Boost your creativity and get healthy too by connecting to the natural world. Man!
There you have it. Six ways to boost your creativity. If you whistle whilst you work then you might as well give it a boost and stay creative in whatever way you can. Believe us, it works!