I think we would all say we would like to be more creative or would agree that we value creativity. But what exactly is creativity and how can we interact with and embrace the creative in our lives? Creativity is defined as coming up with something novel that is also useful, producing something that is original and works. “Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way,” Edward De Bono, pioneer in teaching thinking and creativity as a skill. Understanding what is taking place mentally, chemically, emotionally, and physiologically is important because all these areas are interconnected.
Creativity is powerful because it is fun, engaging, and helps us see things from a different perspective. Because of that it is a great tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties. When we play, dilemmas and challenges naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out. This ties to a key of creativity which is allowing you time to think about something else. Mozart claimed he came up with his ideas for symphonies while taking carriage rides after meals. This practice of defocusing lowers activity in the prefrontal cortex, where decisions are made and dangerous risks avoided, while heightening activity in the right temporal lobe.
Researchers theorize that creativity so engages attention that the brain doesn’t have any resources left to devote to stress. It helps put ideas together in a novel organization and can literally bypass natural defense mechanisms that can be holding us back or keeping us stuck. Creativity is powerful in bypassing natural defense mechanisms that can hold people back and keep them stuck. But Isn’t creativity only for “Artsy” people? Actually creativity is no longer relegated to only “right brain types.” In fact, most recent research suggests that moments before the proverbial light bulb switches on, a spike in gamma brain waves appears to bind cells in several regions of the brain into a new neural network- a whole brain activity. Creativity benefits everyone. When you feel happy, your brain has released specific chemicals or neurotransmitters called endorphins. These “feel-good chemicals” produce strong brain pathways and connections.
What type of environment promotes creativity?
An environment that is safe. The perfect environment to promote creativity is a safe place where others are supported and free to journey through a process of discovery.
An environment that offers passionate engagement. Teresa Amabile, professor at Harvard Business School, has shown that people are most creative when they are on a mission, intrinsically motivated by a love for what they are doing. I would expand this to the idea of being connected to something bigger than ourselves.
An environment that asks “what if?”
Leading people always involves change. Helping them embrace change creates the perfect environment to also promote creativity.