How to Stay Creative When Life Feels Monotonous

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Susan Peppercorn for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

Credit:  Evgeniy Shvets/Getty Images

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Over the last seven months, as the Covid-19 virus has continued its spread, our worlds have become smaller. Working from home has morphed from a novelty to the mundane. Travel for business or pleasure, once routine, has become nonexistent. Seeing friends, going to our favorite restaurants, visiting family — the list of things we can’t do, and won’t be able to for months to come, is endless.

The sameness and lack of novelty in our Covid existence can negatively impact our creativity — our ability to put ideas together in new, useful combinations to solve problems. Creativity is often enhanced when we’re exposed to new situations. For example, in one experiment using virtual reality, researchers divided participants into three groups. The first group was exposed to a wild simulation that defied the laws of physics: They walked around in a room where objects fell up rather than down or got smaller as they approached them. The second group was placed in a similar simulation, but the objects behaved normally. And the third group of participants watched a film clip of the first group’s simulation. Participants in the first group showed an increase in cognitive flexibility, an essential part of creativity, while the others did not.

While most of us aren’t regularly exposed to virtual reality, we routinely encountered novel situations before Covid. Even activities as mundane as taking a new route to work because of a construction detour or having a serendipitous hallway conversation with a colleague can help increase our cognitive flexibility.

We’re also under a tremendous amount of stress right now — from worries about our job security to the health of our loved ones to our children’s education. Research on decision-making shows that our brains are wired to be more reactionary under stress, and this can take a toll on creativity. In our decision-making, for example, we’re likely to limit our thinking to binary choices.

With the pandemic keeping us in our limited and stressful worlds for the foreseeable future, do we have to resign ourselves to an increasing lack of creativity in our work and lives?

Not necessarily, according to leadership and creativity experts, as long as we know what steps to take. Here are five research-backed strategies to widen your world view and enhance your creativity.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.


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