How to Foster Creativity in a Work Environment

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We all approach creativity in different ways. Discover which types of creativity are compatible with your personality and how you can foster and inspire it.


What is Creativity?

Creativity is the process of developing and executing something useful or original. Though many factors influence creativity, such as knowledge and experience, cognitive neuroscience—the decision-making and problem-solving performed by the human brain during the creative process—also plays a role.

Divergent thinking is a type of creative thinking, according to psychologist J.P. Guilford coined the term in the 1950s. Guilford classified thinking into two types: convergent thinking, which involves gathering facts to arrive at a single answer, and divergent thinking, also known as lateral thinking, which involves formulating multiple ideas from various sources. Brainstorming is a type of divergent thinking that involves gathering as many ideas and approaches to a creative problem as possible.

Arne Dietrich, a neuroscience professor, classified creativity further based on brain activities. His research introduced a creative quadrant based on how the conscious brain generates creative ideas.


Creativity Comes in Four Forms

Arne Dietrich defines four types of creativity as follows:

1. Intentional and cognitive creativity. Deliberate and cognitive creative people are research-oriented and prefer repeated experiments and investigations to achieve their creative goals. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the brain allows for extended periods of focus and information gathering, which is characteristic of this type of creativity. Thomas Edison's work on the light bulb, which took many trials, is an excellent example of deliberate and cognitive creativity.

2. Deliberate and emotional creativity. The amygdala and cingulate cortex regulate intentional and emotional creativity, which combines logic and facts with emotional sensitivity. Individuals in this category prefer quiet time, which aids in the generation of random "a-ha" moments of clarity and creative inspiration.

3. Spontaneous and cognitive creativity. A "eureka" moment, such as the one that allegedly inspired Isaac Newton's gravity theories, defines both spontaneous and cognitive creativity. Creative people in this category frequently need to shift their focus away from the problem at hand and toward other activities. The basal ganglia of the brain activate unconscious awareness at these times, allowing the PFC to draw on their body of knowledge and connect information. When an idea or external inspiration triggers the brain, solutions emerge.

4. Spontaneous and emotional creativity. Great artists, such as painters, authors, and musicians, frequently meet the requirements for spontaneous and emotional creativity. The amygdala, which regulates emotional thinking, produces epiphanies, or sudden bursts of inspiration that allow people to see a situation in a completely new light. Epiphanies do not have to be forced or manufactured; they simply require patience.


How to Foster Creativity

There are numerous ways for all creative types to ignite their creativity. They are as follows:

Collaboration. Working on a project with others may benefit people who identify as deliberately and cognitively creative. Collaboration introduces numerous ideas, many of which require repeated testing to determine their effectiveness. This gathering of information and emphasis on investigation speaks directly to this type of creativity.

Setting boundaries. Imposing rules or requirements on a creative project diverts attention away from the problem at hand. To meet the new limits, the creative type must shift focus—a critical component in both spontaneous and cognitive creativity.

Walking. Exercise and relaxation help to reduce anxiety and stress, both of which impair creativity. Getting outside also allows the basal ganglia to take over and allow the PFC to form new connections; walking opens the door to inspiration for both spontaneous and cognitive types, as well as spontaneous and emotional types.

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