I am fascinated by the creative process. Do you find that sometimes you are really in sync and great ideas come to you very easily and other times you struggle to even focus for a few seconds on a concept? Have you ever thought about what is happening when you are trying so hard to be creative?
Recent research shows that when you are distracted from a creative challenge for a few minutes, you are more likely to come up with a creative solution than if you focused your attention on it. In the study done at the University of Amsterdam, students were given a creative problem to solve. One group was told they had three minutes to think it through before giving their answers. Another group was given an unrelated task to do for three minutes to distract them. This task was a non-creative one that was designed to use their conscious thoughts. The third group was asked to come up with ideas immediately.
What was the result? Well, you might think the group that was given time to focus on a solution would have better results and more creative ideas, but the opposite occurred. It was the distracted group that generated more creative solutions. Here’s the reason given: the distracted group had a task that occupied their conscious thoughts, thereby freeing up their unconscious mind to do some creative work.
Don’t you find this is true yourself? How often have you tried consciously to focus on a creative solution and come up empty?
I remember trying to rename my radio show last January. I spent hours trying to think of a new catchy name. It wasn’t until I let it go and focused on other activities that the answer came to me, Head over Heels!
It’s an incredible “ah-hah” moment when the conscious part of your brain receives the answer from your unconscious.
There is a great lesson here for all of us. When we are attempting to find a creative solution, we need to distract ourselves and do something totally different for a while in order to free our subconscious brain to come up with the answer.
Let yourself be distracted and amazing things will happen.
Have you experienced this?
Noël Theodosiou says
Bonnie – thank you for the observations – it is a fascinating process! I facilitate a lot of workshops for “idea generation” and find that people really struggle to just relax, let go and allow their minds to wander! We are trained (especially in business, but generally in everything we do) to look for the RIGHT answer. Letting go of that so the conscious and unconscious minds can do what they do best (and just sitting back to watch / listen where your thoughts take you) is so challenging!
One technique frequently used forces people to make connections between things that they don’t normally relate to each other – I guess this is a way of creating a distraction (focusing on something else) and letting your mind work is magic.