How to Beat Creative Blocks

Hit a wall at work? This one piece of advice will help you navigate roadblocks and generate fresh ideas.


It’s Monday afternoon and maybe that second cup of coffee isn’t getting your brain geared quite the way you expected it to (although maybe another three will be okay, according to a Harvard neuroscientist.)

When you’ve hit a wall at work, this video from New York Magazine‘s Science of Us suggests it’s time to go into tinker-mode. Research on creative problem solving shows people don’t spend enough time in this phase. The solution? Keep at it. People come up with better solutions the longer they spend working on them.

Tinkering is key—the brain has “leaky filters,” as science columnist Sharon Begley writes. When we give ourselves the time, disparate items can sift together to form new combinations: the essence of creativity.

“Short of a personality or brain transplant, you can maximize your inherent creativity by sheer perseverance,” Begley writes:

“Original ideas tend to be remote,” Mark Runco, professor of creativity studies at the University of Georgia and founder of the Creativity Research Journal argues, which means that the first 10 uses of string you think of will likely be commonplace, but if you push yourself, the next 10 will include some quite creative ones. If original ideas come late in the creative process, he points out, we should give ourselves time and space to come up with those “remote” ideas—time for our leaky filters to allow notions that have never made each other’s acquaintance to come together and undergo a kind of alchemy.
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