creativity

Get some colour in your life to get ahead

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business_professionals_standout_1600_wht_5372Wearing clothing with a splash of colour can help you get ahead.

According to a study of 2,000 British workers by a personalised telephone case company 20% of employees up to their mid-30s say having a splash of colour helped them get a promotion or a pay rise.

I’m not sure how they know that but wearing colourful clothes will make you stand out, and might help you to give the impression that you are more confident or creative. (1 in 3 British workers said they felt more positive wearing brighter clothes and 1 in 4 said it made them feel more confident).

Surely it all depends on where you work and the prevailing standards. If you work in a fashion or creative industry then it will be like a peacock’s tea-party and you might be better off wearing plain black a la Steve Jobs.

Experts (not sure who) cited Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and John Snow, the newsreader as high flyers known for wearing a splash of colour to make a positive statement. I can think of dozens of other high flyers who prefer a staid, although probably expensive, corporate look.

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Brainstorming revisited

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head_gear_500_wht_2011Brainstorming is still a popular method of encouraging creativity in groups (despite PC attempts to re-name it).

Joerg Melhorn in Scientific American Mind suggests some additional ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Most of you know that in the early stages of brainstorming criticism is discouraged and ideally here should be two stages; the first when ideas are generated and the second when they are critiqued and evaluated by a different group of people.

Melhorn suggests that you could hide the problem from the group and ask them to think about a broader topic e.g. attractiveness, before narrowing it down to the real issue e.g. packaging.

Brainwriting is another way of generating ideas. A group of 6 people are given a sheet of paper with empty boxes, say 3 columns of 6 where the columns represent different aspects of the problem.

Each person thinks about the problem then writes one idea in each of the top three boxes before passing it on to a colleague. The colleague then elaborates or expands on the ideas in each box and then passes it along again. Potentially there could be 108 different ideas using this method.

Brainwalking is similar but this time there are flip charts for each aspect of the problem and small groups work on these separately writing down all their ideas about that aspect before moving on to the next flip chart and adding to the ideas there.

The ideas produced tend to be much richer than traditional brainstorming.

You might recognise some of these are borrowing from OD methods such as World Cafe or Appreciative Inquiry, and there are other methods such as De Bono’s six thinking hats.

Source: Scientific American Mind Vol 17 No 4

Rudeness and the bottom line

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SGA_diagram_7-bad-graphWe seem to becoming less polite to each other at work. 15 years ago 1 in 4 employees said they were treated rudely at least once a week.

Ten years ago that number had doubled. 4 years ago 1 in 4 employees reported seeing workplace rudeness on a daily basis.

And it isn’t just rudeness between co-workers. 25% of customers reported rude behaviour from service providers. Half said they saw colleagues being rude to each other, half said they saw customers being treated rudely, and 40% said they experienced rudeness on a monthly basis.

Of course it goes both ways and customers and the public can be just as rude to service providers’ front-line staff.

Research shows that rudeness has detrimental effects on a business. People on the receiving end report losing focus and even having time off or thinking of leaving. They also begin to avoid the perpetrators.

Rather than rely on subjective self-reports (after all one person’s rudeness is another person’s bluntness) researchers Christine Porath and Amir Erez designed a series of experiments to study the effect of rudeness – both indirect viz being rude about the participants’ reference group, and direct by being rude to participants personally.

They found that people treated rudely only once, and in an indirect and impersonal manner, were less able to perform simple cognitive tasks. And the same applied to those who were only asked to visualise such a situation. Both groups lost focus and their task performance worsened.

For those subject to direct personal rudeness the effects were much worse. They were less creative on a “uses for a brick” test and their ideas were less diverse and more routine eg build a house.

Creativity, which requires the juggling of ideas old and new and the integration of possibilities, was impaired and so was helpfulness.

People treated uncivilly are less inclined to help others. In one experiment helpful behaviour occurred between 75% and 90% of the time but when the experimenter was rude about the group as a whole helpful assistance dropped to 35% and when insulted personally by a stranger it dropped to 24%.

Overall they found that even mild forms of rudeness, whether delivered by an authority figure or a stranger, whether direct or indirect or just imagined, had an impact on performance, creativity and helpfulness.

The researchers don’t think this effect was because of the desire to retaliate or strike back but perhaps because the targets of rude behaviour either shut down or use their cognitive assets to make sense of the behaviour rather than using them to learn and complete the tasks.

They also found that just witnessing rude behaviour was enough to make people perform tasks less effectively and less creatively as well as making them less likely to be helpful. It could also provoke them into acting more aggressively.

And rudeness in organisations can mean a range of behaviours from taking credit for others’ work, ignoring messages, not asking politely or saying “thank you”, to having temper tantrums.

Unfortunately in organisations it’s been found that rude, arrogant, managers are often perceived as powerful and effective decision-makers. However the truth is that rudeness not only impacts on employee engagement but on the bottom line.

Porath and her colleagues estimated it cost the US economy $300 billion in lost productivity when they were researching their book “The Cost of Bad Behaviour: How Incivility is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It”.

Originally posted on SGANDA

My most read posts in 2014

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Screen Shot 2012-10-05 at 22.49.07My output on this blog was pretty paltry last year as I was busy writing elsewhere and tweeting (probably too much!)

However the number of countries in which my lists were read more than doubled to 85 countries, mainly the USA, the UK, and Brazil but also in Suriname, Belize, Lebanon, Qatar, Algeria, Sri Lanka, the Faroe Islands and China. So thank you for such an international interest.

For what it’s worth the most read posts on this blog in 2014 were:

  1. Thinking outside the box – literally
  2. MBTI typies – for the believers
  3. Empathetic introverts make the best carers
  4. Learning to become an optimist
  5. Using social media impacts on academic performance
  6. Mentally challenging jobs are good for you
  7. Can scientists really change your memories
  8. Were the Victorians really smarter than us?
  9. Your partner’s personality adds value
  10. End of the road for Positive Psychology at work? jointly with Gender differences in responding to stress

How Improvising Can Change Your Brain……………

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Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

 

Fascinating stuff, this. Above, Gabriela Montero improvises on the Goldberg Variations theme. I’ve always listened to her (and many others) and wondered “How does she do that?” Now Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, has released some information about what improvising can do for the brain, and vice-versa…
To Change Your Brain: Improvise, Improvise, and Improvise Some More
With practice, specific brain circuits are strengthen and music flows
Brain circuits involved in musical improvisation are shaped by systematic training, suggest a new study presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Researchers also found that more experienced improvisers show higher connectivity between three major regions of the brain’s frontal lobe while improvising. This suggests that the generation of meaningful music during improvisation can become highly automated —performed with…

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Thinking Outside the Box – literally

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stick_figure_think_outside_box_1600_wht_5968In an experiment people sitting just outside a 5′ x 5′ cardboard box or a plastic cube gave 32% more correct answers on a test of verbal creativity than people sitting inside the cube.

Singapore Management University researchers controlled for variables including comfort, claustrophobia and the presence of the box.

The superior performance of the subjects who worked outside the boxes showed that “enacting metaphors for creativity enhances it”

It makes you wonder about people who have to work in cubicles!

Reported in HBR July-August 2013

Were the Victorians really smarter than us?

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stickman_question_mark_thinking_pc_1600_wht_1680Yes, according to a recent study in the journal Intelligence.

Michael Woodley, the co-author, claims that people in Victorian times were quicker, smarter, and more creative than we are.

Using response times as an indicator of general intelligence he found these had slowed down by 14% since 1889.

Then, average response times for men were 183 ms and 187 ms for women. Now they are 250 ms for men and 227 ms for women.

The researchers suggest that this means there has been a decline in creativity and innovation since Victorian times and said; “These findings strongly indicate that the Victorians were substantially cleverer than modern Western populations”.

It wasn’t possible to compare IQ scores because of different levels of education, health and nutrition so visual response times were used instead as these have a large correlation with intelligence.

Woodley thinks that our declining intelligence is a result of a reverse in natural selection as clever people have fewer children than in previous times.

These finding fly in the face of the Flynn effect – a steady increase in measured intelligence over time.

The authors, as far as I know from the news article, make no comment about the difference in response times between men and women, both then and now, which, assuming the differences are statistically significant, would imply that men are more intelligent than women – an argument that has been made before but now generally refuted. Nor about the politically sensitive issue of immigration and whether increases in immigration with larger families from poorer countries has contributed to the decline.

Intelligence is notoriously difficult to define and measure but this study contributes to that debate.

Brainstorming revisited

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Leadership & Management

Brainstorming is still a popular method of encouraging creativity in groups (despite PC attempts to re-name it).

Joerg Melhorn in Scientific American Mind suggests some additional ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Most of you know that in the early stages of brainstorming criticism is discouraged and ideally here should be two stages; the fist when ideas are generated and the second hone they are critiqued and vaulted by a different group of people.

Melhorn suggests that you could hide the problem from the group and ask them to think about a broader topic e.g. attractiveness, before narrowing it down to the real issue e.g. packaging.

Brainwriting is another way of generating ideas. A group of 6 people are given a sheet of paper with empty boxes, say 3 columns of 6 where the columns represent different aspects of the problem.

Each person thinks about the problem then writes…

View original post 135 more words

Creativity, fear, and dishonesty

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One of my favourite blogs – Psyblog – recently posted on why people secretly fear creative ideas.

It seems we say we value creativity but don’t really want it. Teachers apparently don’t like creative kids – they are probably too disruptive and not good at following rules.

In organisations leaders say they want creative ideas – and then stick to the tried and tested.

I’ve seen creative people promoted only to find that they then have other priorities so they get frustrated and end up losing their credibility when they succumb to their dark side and their ideas are seen as totally unrealistic.

Experiments by Mueller and colleagues using implicit attitude tests showed that when people are uncertain they think negatively about creative ideas and found it harder to recognise them. This shows that people may dislike creative ideas because they increase uncertainty and that’s not a state we enjoy.

But of course being creative requires just that – doing something that hasn’t been done before or doing something in a different way.

Research elsewhere into the links between creativity and the Big 5 personality factors confirmed that openness and extraversion were significantly related to creativity, but agreeableness had no effect. However they found that people with higher levels of arrogance and pretentiousness also reported more creative accomplishments and being engaged in more creative activities.

So other researchers then explored the connections between creativity and dishonesty.

In a series of experiments reported in Psychology Today they found that people reporting higher creativity were more likely to take advantage of ambiguous situations to cheat. This was nothing to do with intelligence; there were no links between intelligence and creativity nor between intelligence and dishonesty. In fact creativity was a better predictor of dishonesty than intelligence.

People with a more creative mindset were more motivated to think “outside the box” and this is what led to increased levels of dishonesty. In experiments within real organisations they found that people working in what were considered more creative departments or in jobs in which they were expected to be creative, were more likely to act unethically when asked to make decisions on a range of scenarios.

The research actually showed that creativity causes dishonesty. The researchers think that “creativity helps people to develop original ways to bypass moral rules …. to reinterpret information in self-serving ways as they attempt to justify their immoral actions”.

It makes you wonder about creative entrepreneurs who may be less inclined than the rest of us to follow rules which they regard as meaningless red tape eg paying VAT! Or think of Richard Branson’s early days selling vinyl records out of telephone boxes.

The researchers also caution that although the findings are statistically significant they are only trends and there are many creative people who are not dishonest.