Keep your desk a little messy
In a study recently published in the journal Psychological Science, students met in either a messy or an organised room, and had to come up with a new use for ping pong balls (a standard test of creativity). Judges rated the ideas, without knowing which rooms the groups were in. The result? Solutions from the messy room were gauged to be more interesting and innovative than those from the neat one.
Work at a coffee shop
There’s a reason Starbucks is always filled; it has the ideal decibel level for brainstorming, according to the New York Times. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign asked study participants to think of ideas for new products with various levels of background noise, and found the best ideas were generated with ambient noise of around 70 decibels, or that of a coffee shop. Moderate noise levels help you think outside the box, study author Ravi Mehta, an assistant professor of business administration, told the paper. Extreme quiet (around 50 decibels, typical of many offices) is good for projects requiring sharp focus – say, crunching numbers – but not abstract thinking, while a too-loud 85 decibels (think: garbage disposal) is too distracting.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago recruited Craigslist posters who described themselves as social drinkers. Some panellists were served vodka cranberry drinks until they had a blood alcohol level of 0.075; others did not drink. All participants then performed a cognitive exercise requiring creative problem-solving. The researchers found that the intoxicated subjects solved more of the problems – and, more quickly – than the sober people.
However: Alcohol may tamp down working memory, which is crucial for analytical thinking, and may hinder “out of the box” illumination, Psychology Today reported.