How Creativity Works

Jonah Lehrer is making the rounds to promote his new book, “Imagine” {amazon}. One of the major themes is the correlation between a relaxed state of mind and creativity. Anyone who’s spent time banging their head against the desk, stuck on a creative problem—only to find a breakthrough long after you’ve left work—can attest to this.

Here’s an excerpt from the Fresh Air interview:

“Moments of insight are a very-well studied psychological phenomenon with two defining features,” Lehrer tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. “The answer comes out of the blue – when we least expect it. … [And] as soon as the answer arrives we know this is the answer we’ve been looking for. … The answer comes attached with a feeling of certainty, it feels like a revelation. These are the two defining features of a moment of insight, and they do seem to play a big role in creativity.”

Scientists have determined that people in a relaxed state and a good mood are far more likely to develop innovative or creative thoughts. And companies are now taking advantage of this fact. Lehrer points to 3M, which started out making packaging tape and has now expanded into other sectors including electronics and pharmaceutical delivery.

“Groupthink: The Brainstorming Myth” {new yorker—no subscription required}.

“The Truth About Creativity” {salon}.