The San Francisco Chronicle ran an interesting piece on how to stimulate creative, innovative thinking. Written by Paul Charney, founder of a “creative agency,” it describes the latest research on how to foster a productive-thinking environment:
Brain-imaging studies from Northwestern University and Johns Hopkins University reveal that a relaxed brain in a “mind-wandering” state is ripe for developing imaginative concepts. Psychologists from the University of Chicago have demonstrated the critical importance of the “flow state,” the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment of the process. It is in this precise sweet spot, scientists tell us, that humans are most likely to generate innovative and original ideas.
And in Charney’s experience, one group of professionals is best at stoking this creative fire:
It turns out that the best creative experts, in our experience, are improvisational sketch artists and professional comedians. These are people who are really engaging, whip smart and well … funny. They act as a creative lubricant, immediately breaking down barriers and getting everyone in the room excited about the project at hand. They’re not afraid to throw out crazy ideas, which makes it easier for employees to turn off their self-critical voice and share new possibilities unabashedly.
So what happens when you bring a group of comedians into a room with corporate suits? Plenty. Specifically, we’ve seen teams from a range of traditional companies, including Pandora, Clorox, Fox Studios and HP, collaborate in new ways. They share some laughs, and that leads to more trust, cuts through company bias, and fosters an environment where people feel comfortable tossing more innovative ideas into the ring. They are able to reach consensus much faster.
I know for me, some of my best ideas have come from mind-wandering while jogging. And I’ve certainly had some interesting breakthroughs in the manner Charney describes, when I’m relaxing and talking with friends.
So the bottom line? If you want to be creative, get relaxed and laugh a lot with people you trust. Not a bad recipe for happiness, either.