As they share in their book, The Eureka Factor: Aha Moments, Creative Insight and the Brain (Random House, 2015), psychology professors John Kounios and Mark Beeman believe your environment can promote a brain state that’s amenable to creative insights and “aha” moments.
Their research summarizes six ways the brain becomes ripe for discovering new solutions to business problems. Creative insights and valid intuitions are characterized by:
- Remote associations
- Broad, flexible attention
- Abstract thought
- Positive mood
- A sense of psychological distance
- A promotion orientation
As well, the physical place where you work contributes to creativity, especially your own office. Some studies show that expansive surroundings (high ceilings, a view) allow greater creativity and broaden attention.
The ideal environment for creative thinking is open, airy, rounded and calm. Change everyday routines. Interact with diverse people and situations. Nonconformists can be strange, but their creative thinking is contagious. Being around them primes the brain for enhanced insightfulness.
8 Tips to Enhance Creative Insights
The threat of a deadline narrows your thinking and restricts ideas. Frequent breaks and long periods of incubation are likely impractical, but finding ways to maintain a creative mindset is paramount.
Try the following strategies to enhance creative insights:
- Periodically consider your larger goals and values, and how you can promote them.
- Reserve time for long-range planning and creative daydreaming.
- Cultivate a positive mood by thinking about the people and things that bring you joy.
- Schedule vacations that will stimulate creative thinking.
- Do something new. Take up a new hobby, or delve into a topic unrelated to your occupation.
- Walk, run or engage in another physical activity to promote brain growth.
- Meditate and disengage periodically.
- Get ample sleep to rejuvenate brain cells, improve associative thinking and consolidate memories.
The research is clear: Leaders must give as much time to maximizing the flow of creative ideas as to minimizing performance errors. The combination offers a significant reward: high performance.