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What does awareness have to do with creativity?


Awareness is crucial to creativity. Despite common beliefs, creativity doesn't just happen. You absolutely have to know how creativity works in order to use it intentionally to advance your work, whether it be professionally or personally. Awareness is a tool that can be implemented for any problem solving situation.

CINC's mission is to help people and organizations develop their creative capacities. This time we want to point out how you can use components of creativity theory strategically. Previously we blogged about the strategic use of breaks - but this time we want to talk about breaks in terms of strategically applying them to relive fixation, while being mindful at the same time. An intriguing aspect revealed through rigorous studies is the revelation of how meditation, mind wandering and constructive daydreaming can play an important role in increasing professional creativity and overall social skills. Aren’t we all on such a quest?

One of CINC’s ‘Five Key Concepts’ of NeuroCreativity is incubation – the mental state you yearn to achieve to help you relieve fixation. Fixation refers to the mental ‘glitch’ that typically happens when you’ve been working on a task for a long time yet tend to fall back on previously thought of solutions. Here you become unable to diverge to Remote Associations and your Cognitive Inhibition field becomes more rigid. Thus you become fixated on something, which inhibits you from coming up with clever solutions. Being able to form Remote Associations is one of the keys to creative thinking. The relief of fixation through breaks or incubation is well known; we all know famously documented cases such as Archimedes' eureka moment. Throughout history many creative people have talked about this phenomena; the moment of enlightenment that often follows a break, whether it is in the form of daydreaming, taking a shower, going for a walk or any other temporary distraction or interruption. The act of taking a break to incubate namely relieves fixation and lowers inhibitions in our brains, the ones that inhibit us from coming up with creative risks, ideas or solutions.

As previously written here on the blog one intervention we recommend is to apply intentional breaks, which can be in the form of meditation or daydreaming. Daydreaming and meditation are proven to positively impact creative output. It’s a strategic way to accomplish tasks while at the same time bringing mindfulness, rather than stress, to the creative person. (Remember, we’re all born with a creative brain). Daydreaming is another way. Wouldn't we all then find comfort knowing that it’s beneficial to our creative output, while being applied strategically? In fact, breaks in any way, shape or form, lower Cognitive Inhibition levels and consequently lead to what is known as incubation. One study showed that specifically 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work proved to be most productive. While not being exact science, the importance of breaks is emphasized.

Learning how the brain works can help you become aware of the pitfalls you can fall into while solving problems or working on projects. Sadly one preconception we, as creativity scholars and passionate advocates, want and need to dismiss is that creativity is just about coming up with the idea. Of course creativity is the prerequisite of that ever happening, but that's not the only thing creativity is useful for. You use creativity every single day, probably without ever realizing it. Creativity is essentially the way you tackle problems, whether it’s what’s for dinner, how to pinpoint a customer segment for your value proposition or fix an unexpected problem in the production line.

Creativity is everywhere, all the time. If we’re aware of it and how to manage creativity then the potential for greatness is unlimited.

On behalf of the CINC team, Dagny Valgeirsdottir

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