There’s a neat list of variables that reliably (at least reliably in the lab) increase certain forms of creativity. There is, for instance, the blue room effect, and the benefit of spatial distance, and the bonus of living abroad, and the perk of thinking like a 7-year old. Here’s a new creative strategy:
Previous research has characterized insight as the product of internal processes, and has thus investigated the cognitive and motivational processes that immediately precede it. In this research, however, we investigate whether insight can be catalyzed by a cultural artifact, an external object imbued with learned meaning. Specifically, we exposed participants to an illuminating lightbulb – an iconic image of insight – prior to or during insight problem-solving. Across four studies, exposing participants to an illuminating lightbulb primed concepts associated with achieving an insight, and enhanced insight problem-solving in three different domains (spatial, verbal, and mathematical), but did not enhance general (non-insight) problem-solving.
So for those taking notes at home: if your work involves moments of insight, it’s probably best to work in a bright blue room, surrounded by pictures of lightbulbs and little kids.