When it comes to creativity, you may think it’s something you either have, or you don’t. New research shows that encouraging creativity in yourself or others is more about how much time you give yourself, and it’s more like a workout than we thought.
Warm-up periods of stretching and generally getting your body ready to exercise is necessary for peak physical performance and to avoid injuries. Some people need less of a warm up period for their bodies, and the same is true for the brain. People who utilize their creative brain “muscle” on a regular basis may not need as much time to warm up, but that doesn’t mean that you or other members of your team aren’t creative because you don’t produce results as quickly.
Providing yourself or others with time to warm-up gives the best results and puts those who aren’t as creative-minded on the same ground as those who fire off more quickly. A study from Cornell University found that, especially in a workplace, feelings of inadequacy about their ideas keep a lot of employees who aren’t in positions at the top of the managerial structure from sharing their ideas. However, when given two sessions of warm up periods, participants were able to match the creative level of the leaders in the group.
As predicted, creative-minded leaders were able to produce more creative ideas in the first round, but by the end of the second warm up, everyone was at the same level. The first round of warm-ups consisted of two one-minute sessions, and the final warm up gave participants as much time as they wanted. For the second part of the study, the researchers increased the rounds from two to five and allowed as much time for everyone to complete as they needed, and the results were the same.
The concept of being creative can be polarizing if someone doesn’t think of themselves as creative in the ways we most often think of, such as being artistic, which is generally thought of as something that’s innate or natural to oneself. Everyone has the same capability of being creative and flexing their creative powers. Much like any other muscle, warm-ups can take cognitive function to the next level.
Sahoon Kim, Brian J. Lucas, Jack A. Goncalo. Low power warm-up effect: Understanding the effect of power on creativity over time. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2023; 107: 104474 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2023.104474