Using Neuroscience to Boost Creativity

That elusive “aha” moment, when someone in the team comes up with the bright idea that solves the problem, is surely what organisations need more of. Neuroscience has been finding out more about that moment and its discoveries can help us lead more creative teams for better problem solving in our workplace.

Creativity stems from stimulating one’s imagination. Because of the advances of fMRI imaging neuroscientists have been able to examine the brain’s complex architecture and how it is affected when the imagination is stimulated and we go about our problem solving.

Isolating the Creativity Centre of the Brain

They have found that when people get the “Aha” moment (sometimes called the “Eureka effect” or a “brainwave”) when a momentary flash of insight takes the thinking up a notch or completely turns it on its head, a particular area on the right side of the brain lights up.

It cannot be completely pinpointed to one specific area, but it is clear from the fMRI imaging of neural activity, in one recent study published in the Oxford Journals, that an area on the right side of the brain is involved in creative problem solving.

Neuroscience Confirms the Suspected

This has long been suspected; indeed the notion that creativity is a function of the right side of the brain, while the left brain is more responsible for language, logical processes, rational thinking and calculation, is far from a new concept. That goes back to the 1800s and the work of Hughlins Jackson, and the latest study seems to confirm the suspicions.

Applying this to Creative Teams

As teams come together in an organisation to wrestle with problems, how do we get the best out of them?

That’s the real question. It is especially pertinent if we often need really creative solutions to problems, requiring “out of the box” thinking; perhaps the problem goes deeper than just trying to inspire and motivate team members and more into the area of changing the way we hire our people in the first place.

Often companies hire based solely upon experience and aptitude in a certain area; nobody’s saying that this isn’t necessary but some businesses would benefit from hiring thinkers rather than doers or those who have “done” great things in the past.

This requires something of a leap of faith for many organisations who still look at old HR models of hiring and under-estimate the specialised power to take on a problem, spark the imagination and push for that “aha” moment.

Some people can tap into their right brain creative centres easier than others who operate more logically. This is not necessarily set in stone and people can be trained how to think and how to become more imaginative and more creative, but recognising creativity as a specialist skill could be a major step forward for many organisations.

Future Insights into Creativity

As neuroscience continues to uncover more of the secrets of the workings of the brain it may be possible for people to more readily tap into their creativity by generating the right environments and conditions for unlocking it and producing more “aha” moments.

Questions such as whether we need bigger groups to come up with more ideas, or whether a few focused right-brain experts would be more effective, are closer to being answered thanks to neuroscience.

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