Improve Creativity (and Innovative Thinking) in 60 Seconds


February 15, 2022

Ideas are like parking spots: The more you need one the less likely they are to show up.

There’s a simple tool, however, that can change all that.

This image is a Necker cube. It’s an illustration of a three-dimensional object that’s designed to alternate between two perspectives. One is a cube facing down and left, and the other facing up and right.

Take a couple of minutes and gaze at the image. Count how many times it flips between the two viewpoints.

Did you keep track?

The science behind it

A study in Perception, a journal that specializes in the psychology of vision and perception, says your answer has a lot to do with how creative you think. The average person sees about 12 switches in a minute. If you’re higher, you’re more inclined to think divergently. This means you’re creative, and generate ideas by thinking more broadly and exploring possibilities.

But don’t worry if you came up with less than a dozen when you looked at the cube. Turns out that you can actually prime your brain to do thinking that’s more innovative by staring at ambiguous images.

An interesting thing happens to your brain with you do this, you create tension within. Making your noggen deal with an image that could be more than one thing activates tension in your anterior cingulate cortex. When it senses that things aren’t right, it triggers its own manner of dealing with it.

Doing a few Necker cube warm-ups before you tackle problem solving could actually help you be more creative in how you try to solve things. It can also help you if you’re willing to try a few new things when it comes to solving problems.

The researchers point out:

One of the implications of this study may be that situations which induce conflict, or conflict experienced during the problem-solving process, may be an important precedent of an insight moment. Once a conflict is experienced between our current interpretations or assumptions and another competing interpretation or assumption, then there is an opportunity to engage control, and step aside from the existing rut to a novel perspective, which if we are lucky, is a vantage point from which wee can discover the solution: “Aha!”

Annabel Black and Stephen Palmisano, Perception Journal

And who couldn’t use a little help getting to that ever-enviable “aha!” moment?

Check out the research here.

Photo credit: neotam via Pixabay

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.