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Three surprising (but proven!) ways to stimulate creativity

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Building creativity into your workday, or that of your teams, and getting the most out of yourself and your people, is hard to achieve and even harder to measure the impact of. But there are scientifically proven ways to boost creativity – here are some of the most unexpected:

1. Working away from the rest of the team

When you think about creativity at work, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is brainstorming and bouncing ideas off other people. But in fact, some isolation can help to stimulate creative thinking particularly amongst introverts.

Specifically, remote working can be hugely beneficial to creativity. Research suggests that a work schedule of between 20% and 60% remote working is the most conducive arrangement for creativity – creating a balance between isolated, self-driven work-time, and time spent with colleagues.[1]

2. Noise that’s loud enough to be distracting

But isn’t distraction inevitably a bad thing when you’re trying to come up with solutions to problems? Naturally, if you’re working through complex detailed tasks, it’s to be avoided. For creative tasks though, the reverse is true.

Ambient noise creates a good level of distraction that can boost creativity levels. Specifically, background noise of about 70 decibels (around what you’d find in a coffee shop) caused individuals to “significantly outperform” peers working in spaces with less, more or no noise at all.[2]

3. Do creative work when you’re tired

This might sound counter-intuitive, but a 2011 study showed that night owls did their best creative work in the morning, whilst larks performed better later in the day or evening.[3]

This applied specifically to creative problem solving work, rather than analytical tasks, but the researchers concluded that when individuals are at their least ‘sharp’ their creative side is better able to take over.

[1] Jim Clifton and Jim Harter, It’s the Manager, New York: Gallup Press, p. 159

[2] https://99u.adobe.com/articles/16711/turn-it-up-how-the-right-about-of-ambient-noise-increases-creativity

[3] https://www.fastcompany.com/3018084/why-were-more-creative-when-were-tired-and-9-other-surprising-facts-about-how-our