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Friday, July 20, 2012

Why Weird Experiences Boost Creativity | Scott Barry Kaufman, Psychology Today

I like this article on creativity because it emphasizes that serendipity can boost creativity, though Kaufman does not use that term. Serendipity, as I like to define it, involves pleasant surprises and happy accidents.

Kaufman writes (emphasis added):
A crucial trigger is the experience of unusual and unexpected events. These events can take many different forms, ranging from the loss a parent to living abroad. But one need not experience any of these specific events to think more creatively. In a recent paper in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Simone Ritter and colleagues propose that any life experience, from the traumatic to the joyful, can lead to flexibility and creativity as long as it diversifies your experiences and pushes you outside your normal thought patterns.
Kaufman describes some related research that led to provocative results with some important implications. He writes:
While prior research shows that early traumatic life experiences can be conducive to creativity, thankfully it's not necessary to lose a parent or experience a physical illness to see the world differently. The core feature is actively experiencing a violation of how things are supposed to happen.
He concludes:
These results also suggest that if you want to get into a creative mindset, do your normal routine in a completely different way. Write with your other hand. Moonwalk backwards on your way to work. Eat something new for lunch. Smile at strangers. Be weird. With your brain re-shuffled, you'll be in a better position to be creative.
Kaufman's research examples and conclusion suggest "weird" actions a person can take to boost creativity. But I interpret his findings to also include unplanned "weird" events -- happy accidents and pleasant surprises that an attentive, observant person can use to boost creativity.

We need to be ready to connect those planned and serendipitous events to the challenges we face. And the result might be a creative solution!
This article is featured in today's (July 20) Garbl's Creativity Connections -- available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

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