According to popular lore, the devil is in the details. Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe believes “God is in the details.” As for us, creativity is in the details, and by details, we mean paying attention to and utilizing little things.
In earlier posts, for instance, we’ve pointed out how mere walking can aid creative thinking (the opening paragraph to this post was written in Charlie’s head while he was ambling home for lunch). In our Introduction to Applied Creative Thinking (2012) and Teaching Applied Creative Thinking (2013) we’ve noted how the color blue, a 72-degree temperature inside, and even placing a problem in your head just before you fall asleep can all contribute to enhanced creative moments.
Other researchers into creative thinking have discovered that the little details in how you think can have an effect. Barsalou (2008) found that when you are seated, arm flexion (vs. arm extension) can increase insights and idea generation. Interestingly, as many people think creatively when they are about to fall asleep, Hao, Yuan, Hu, and Grabner (2014) demonstrated that “arm flexion and arm extension in the lying body position exerted effects on AUT [Alternative Uses Task] performance in a converse pattern compared to that in a seated body position.” Ding, Tang, Tang, and Posner (2014) posit that “creative performance on the divergent thinking task and emotion were better following IBMT [Integrative Body Mind Training] than RT [Relaxation Training].” These researchers suggest that this improvement in creative thinking can be accomplished with three hours of IBMT training (seven 30-minute sessions), and, yes, we did the mat–and the time doesn’t quite add up (we pay attention to details).
Knight and Baer (2014) figured out that brainstorming groups that stood (vs. sitting in chairs) produced more creativity and were less apt to simply defend their own turf. In terms of our nifty nine applied creative thinking strategies, these collaborators displayed facility with perception shift. In Teaching Applied Creative Thinking, we also stressed the need for the thinker’s motion. Maybe Rodin’s famous thinker (“Le Penseur”) would have displayed more creative thinking had he been pacing (“Le Promenader”?), or maybe Ionesco’s seemingly unfathomable The Chairs was actually a Theater of the Absurd metaphor for the dangers of prolonged sitting. In any case, Knight and Baer’s research seems consistent with Oppezzo and Schwartz (2014) that the motion of walking boosts ideation at the moment and immediately after.
Can all these details somehow be synthesized? At least one thing becomes more obvious—the traditional classroom arrangement is probably not the best way to boost creativity in students. Two, the body-mind connection needs greater exploration.
By the way, were you sitting still the whole time you read this post?
Ph.D Hal Blythe writes literary criticism to mystery stories. In addition to the eleven books he’s published with New Forums, Hal has collaborated on four books on a variety of subjects, over 1000 pieces of fiction/nonfiction, and a host of television scripts and interactive mysteries performed by their repertory company. He is currently co-director of the Teaching and Learning Center for Eastern Kentucky University. Meet Hal Blythe.