Need a New Idea? Here Are Three Ways to Boost Creativity

Stuck in a rut? Trying to come up with a new innovative solution? Try these three evidence-based methods for increasing your creative potential.

Whether you’re trying to drum up new content ideas, design new membership benefits, or revamp a tried-and-true product, you probably won’t get very far without a healthy dose of creativity.

Yet, everyone has days when they’re not at their most inventive. So, to help, here are three evidence-based ways to get you thinking outside the box:

Take a walk. Findings from a new Stanford University study [PDF] suggest getting a little exercise can help spark creative ideation.

Creative activities really can provide you the opportunity to learn something new about yourself.

To conduct the study, researchers asked about 200 college students and adults to complete tasks that relied on their ability to think creatively while walking, sitting, or being pushed in a wheelchair (to simulate the visual movement of walking while seated) both indoors and outdoors. Researchers found that individuals who walked, either indoors or out, generated twice as many creative ideas compared to people who were sitting.

“Whether one is outdoors or on a treadmill, walking improves the generation of novel yet appropriate ideas, and the effect even extends to when people sit down to do their creative work shortly after,” study authors Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L. Schwartz wrote.

Walking didn’t boost all types of thinking, though. According to the study, while walking was beneficial for creative brainstorming or in the beginning stages of creativity, it did not have beneficial effects on completing tasks that required one correct answer, such as word association tests. So maybe don’t commit to that treadmill desk quite yet.

Get a hobby. A couple of weeks ago Associations Now covered a study on the professional benefits of pursuing creative activities outside of work. In the study, San Francisco State psychologists found that indulging in a creative hobby, which could include things such as watching TV, cooking, and playing sports and video games, increased employees’ problem-solving skills and boosted their willingness to help coworkers.

The study’s lead author, Kevin Eschleman, theorized that these types of activities may lead to better job performance because they increase self-knowledge: “Creative activities really can provide you the opportunity to learn something new about yourself.”

Go abroad. Exposure to different cultures and countries can also enhance one’s ability to think creatively. Time recently highlighted several studies illustrating the impact of living in another country. For example, one study found that the degree to which MBA students studying abroad adapted to and absorbed new cultures predicted how complex their thinking became.

“People who have international experience or identify with more than one nationality are better problem solvers and display more creativity, our research suggests,” the study’s lead author, William Maddux, wrote in the Harvard Business Review. “What’s more, we found that people with this international experience are more likely to create new businesses and products and to be promoted.”

There’s also a study from Indiana University that found students studying abroad were able to come up with more answers to a question posed by researchers—to name as many modes of transportation as they could think of—than students who had remained on campus in the United States.

Ever hit a creative roadblock? Let us know how you pushed through in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!