Newsweek published an article titled “Forget Brainstorming”. Brainstorming became popular in 1953 with the publication of a business book, Applied Imagination. But it’s been proven not to work since 1958, when Yale researchers found that the technique actually reduced a team’s creative output: the same number of people generate more and better ideas separately than together.
In fact, according to University of Oklahoma professor Michael Mumford, half of the commonly used techniques intended to spur creativity don’t work, or even have a negative impact.
So what does work?
Tell people “Do something only you would come up with—that none of your friends or family would think of.”
This can double the number of creative responses.
Almost every dimension of cognition improves from 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, and creativity is no exception. The type of exercise doesn’t matter, and the boost lasts for at least two hours afterward.
Take a break.
This is not multi-tasking. More projects get completed on time when you allow yourself to switch between them if creative solutions don’t come immediately.
Reduce screen time.
According to University of Texas professor Elizabeth Vandewater, for every hour a kid regularly watches television, his overall time in creative activities—from fantasy play to arts projects—drops as much as 11 percent. With kids spending about three hours in front of televisions each day, that could be a one-third reduction in creative time—less time to develop a sense of creative self-efficacy through play.
Explore other cultures.
Those who have lived abroad outperform others on creativity tasks. Creativity is also higher on average for first- or second-generation immigrants and bilinguals. Just studying another culture can help.
Follow a passion.
Kids do best when they are allowed to develop deep passions and pursue them wholeheartedly—at the expense of well-roundedness. “Kids who have deep identification with a field have better discipline and handle setbacks better,” she noted. By contrast, kids given superficial exposure to many activities don’t have the same centeredness to overcome periods of difficulty.
Ditch the suggestion box.
Formalized suggestion protocols, actually stifle innovation because employees feel that their ideas go into a black hole of bureaucracy. Instead, employees need to be able to put their own ideas into practice.