5 Real Ways to Boost Creativity (Everything You Know About Being Creative is Wrong)

Last Updated Aug 5, 2010 12:34 AM EDT

No doubt, you've taken some creativity training -- either back in college or on the job. You know all about Creativity Circles, brainstorming sessions, and crowdsourcing innovation through suggestion boxes. And you know what? It's pretty much all hogwash.

According to Newsweek, brainstorming sessions were discredited as far back as 1958, when it was found that the technique measurably reduces the creative output of a group compared to what they'd accomplish separately. (I did not know that.)

So what techniques really work? Here are a few:

Exercise. As little as 30 minutes of exercise improves "almost every dimension of cognition" for at least 2 hours. It only works on people who are already physically fit, though. For out-of-shape folks, the fatigue outweighs the benefits.

Switch projects. Multi-tasking might be counter-productive, but stopping one project to work on another at regular intervals has shown to help you solve difficult problems within those separate projects more quickly.

Watch less TV. One study shows that for every hour of television, kids spend 11% less time in creative activities. Three hours of TV adds up to a one-third drop in creativity.

Follow your passion. In a sense, this is common sense. Studies show you'll do your best at things you are most passionate about. Where this runs afoul of common wisdom, though, is that it suggests you don't need to be "well rounded" -- and in fact, that corporate dictum to do a little of everything for career advancement might actually hurt your ability to work creatively.

Ditch the suggestion box. According to Newsweek, "Formalized suggestion protocols, whether a box on the wall, an e-mailed form, or an internal Web site, actually stifle innovation because employees feel that their ideas go into a black hole of bureaucracy." The remedy: empower employees to put their ideas into practice without a lot of red tape.

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