Get Up and Do Stuff: Boosting Creativity through Flow

According to the article The Innovation Turbo-Charge: How To Train The Brain To Be More Creative, Adobe reportedly found that 80% of people feel that creativity is critical to economic growth. Problem solving is a very valuable skill, supported by creativity. On a daily basis I solve problems as part of my work. Some problem solving involves simple decisions like what font works best or what image to use, while other assignments such as brand identity require more large-scale problem solving.

So what do I do to support my own creative process? A writer/lecturer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls it “Flow” in his book Creativity. This book was introduced to me by one of my graduate professors at UT Austin, TX. (If memory serves me, she pronounced it “Chicks-emmy-high” and I doubt someone would question you if you confidently did the same!)

This concept of creativity through flow has been a fascination of mine since it was first introduced to me. In his book, Csikszentmihalyi describes the flow state as being “in the zone, ” brought on through doing what one likes to do best—run, dance, paint or play sports for example. This is also what Csikszentmihalyi calls the secret to happiness.

In Creativity, the creative process is broken down into 5 steps: Preparation, Incubation, Insight, Evaluation and Elaboration. To me, the Incubation phase is the most important. After Preparation (research and becoming immersed in the issue), we step back and let our problem move to the back of our mind while we do something else. What do I do? I paint or cook or do artistic projects around the house. Recently I’ve re-taught myself how to sew. My favorite activity now is Zumba. It works great to get the brain going with oxygen, focusing on physical motions and short-term memory while my work is still present but at a subconscious level.

What occurs then? As the Forbes article states, “Creativity is almost always recombinatory. It is what happens when new information bumps into old thoughts to birth something radically new.” So get busy, recall past thoughts and memories while doing what you love. Be prepared…a flood of ideas is headed your way.