Try something new. We dare you.

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Research by Scott Barry Kaufman and Gregoire [2016] revealed that openness to new experiences is the number one predictor of creative achievement in both the arts and sciences. 

In their new book, Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, they write “For not only artists but innovators of all stripes, novel experiences provide the crucial tissue of real-world material that can be spun into original work.”

What’s the link between creativity and novel experiences?

Creativity is all about making new connections.

Researchers at Washington University found that intelligence is determined by equal parts tip top gray matter and the strength of connections between different areas of the brain. Much like IQ, your creative clout is determined by your capacity to toggle between and connect different ideas in disparate parts.

Maria Popova, editor of BrainPickings, the online Aladdin’s Cave of thought-provoking curiosities, explains: 

“… in order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new castles…The more of these building blocks we have, and the more diverse their shapes and colours, the more interesting our castles will become.”

How can you open yourself up to new experiences, collect more blocks and build better castles? 

1. Turn off your auto-pilot. Psychologist Dr. Simone Ritter found that simply altering your daily routine [known as unlearning] can expose you to new experiences and boost creativity. Well-travelled neural pathways are abandoned and new connections made, leading to new and original ideas. Can you take a new route to work or put your clothes on in a different order tomorrow morning? 

2. Indulge your curiosity and learn a new skill. Always wanted to stuff a dead mouse or fashion a bike out of bamboo? Now’s your chance.

3. Challenge yourself not to return to the same restaurant or takeout for at least a month. Yup. No more repeat orders on Deliveroo. Live dangerously.

So, now we know how exposure to shiny, new things boosts creativity. How does it impact a group? 

Informational Diversity refers to differences in team member knowledge and outlook. It makes sense that a broad range of experiences in one room will generate a more diverse, creative output. However, planning for optimal Informational Diversity has other unexpected perks.

Working alongside individuals with alternative perspectives compels us to prepare in more detail, understand that consensus will be harder to reach [Loyd et al., 2013] and increases constructive conflict, maximising learning opportunities [Liang et al., 2010]. Diversity isn’t as simple as race, gender, social background or age. It’s about filling a petri dish with an eclectic mix or experiences and values, and seeing what comes out. 

How do you encourage Informational Diversity in your team? Do you borrow brains from elsewhere or open up idea generation to the world wide web?

Flick Hardingham