How new experiences make you more creative

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One of the most effective ways to improve your creativity short-term is to have an unexpected experience.

Research by Prof Simone Ritter has shown that variety and new experiences can improve an individuals’ performance on divergent thinking tasks, a test of creativity.

Her focus has been on “unexpected experiences” and how they affect creativity. In one of her experiments she used a Virtual Reality helmet where participants would see objects in a room, but the laws of physics didn’t work as expected. The results clearly showed that when participants experienced something they were not expecting (referred to as a schema violation), they scored higher on creativity tasks afterwards.

She also often uses an example of a classic breakfast treat from the Netherlands, which nearly every Dutch student knows how to make.

There, a common breakfast snack is buttered bread with chocolate sprinkles on top. But when participants were given instructions to make the snack in a new way (by spreading the chocolate sprinkles onto a plate, buttering the bread and then pressing the buttered side upside-down into the chocolate sprinkles), the resulting snack was the same, but the participants scored higher on a creativity test compared to before they made the snack in a new way.

The reason why these experiences result in higher creativity appears to be that they force the brain out of its everyday habits and into new ways of thinking.

And it is so easy for our brain to go into autopilot mode, that sometimes we need to feed it unexpected new input to excite it again and show that it can be safe with new information.

So if you want to continuously show your brain that it can be creative, then make sure you actively look for new experiences. I recommend on a weekly basis.

Whether it is something as simple as taking a new route to work, to trying a new type of food or reading a magazine from an industry you know nothing about, it is a sure-fire way to improve your creativity.

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