Tag Archives: creativity

When Feeling Creative–Find Some Noise

Silence, or a relatively quiet place, may be good for reading a book, but if you are writing that book it seems you need to find someplace “noisy.”

So says a recent study conducted by Ravi Mehta and his colleagues at the University of Illinois-Urbana, that tested the relationship between noise and creativity.

The study found that a moderate amount of ambient noise actually improved creativity. This seems to give credence to writers, like Ernest Hemingway, who went to cafes and bars to do their writing.

The purpose of working around background noise seems to be to break through your normal way of thinking in order to enhance abstract, or creative, thinking. In other words, get out of your comfort zone and into a state of moderate mental disruption.

Apparently, if you could chart creativity vs. noise on a bell-shaped curve, the apex of the curve would be at around 70 decibels. Lower than that is less effective, and higher is too distracting.

Today, a very popular spot for creativity is the local coffee house. There seems to be just enough ambient noise there for the proper creative stimulus. Of course, the caffeine probably doesn’t hurt either.

The study does have one caveat: The concept of moderate noise increasing creativity may only work well on people who are naturally creative anyway. Hmmmm.

Where do you do your most creative work, and what is the ambient noise level while you are being creative?

You can read the entire study at the Journal of Consumer Research.

Are You Digitally Fatigued?

You may be digitally fatigued and not even know it. As smart phones and electronic tablets become more prolific and sophisticated, we seem to naturally gravitate toward these new digital opportunities.

But…is this a good thing? Do we now spend so much time in the digital world that we can no longer think creatively—or socialize face to face?

Here’s some interesting information I ran across the other day:

  • Apple has now sold over 100 million iPhones in 113 countries.
  • There are 413,749 “apps” available for the iPhone (with more coming daily).
  • Every day, iPhone owners spend more than 1 million hours playing “Angry Birds.” Yup, every day…over 1 million hours…Angry Birds!
  • Around 23% of all time spent on the Internet is spent social networking. According to research from Nielsen, social networking is now the most popular online activity.
  • The average visitor to the Internet spent 66 percent more time on social media last year, than in 2009. (Much of it spent on their employer’s time.)
  • Sites like Klout and PeerIndex are actively ranking social media users to determine how “influential” they are. Apparently, if you don’t use social media more and more, you won’t be regarded as “influential.” (Influential among whom is not clear.)
  • According to the Kaiser Foundation, teenagers today spend 7 hours, 38 minutes per day with “entertainment” media—EXCLUDING time spent “talking” or “texting” on their cell phones.

And what has all this activity really accomplished—other than lining the pockets of Venture Capital firms and a few overpaid corporate executives? Let’s think about this for a minute…

What do the following things all have in common:

  • Intercontinental railroad system
  • Jet engines
  • Automobiles
  • Penicillin
  • Airplanes
  • Atomic Bomb
  • Empire State Building
  • Space program
  • Manhattan
  • Interstate highway system
  • Cure for Polio
  • A million other things from electricity to paper clips…

ANSWER: All of these great achievements were created and constructed before the advent of the digital age—no computers, no cell phones, no satellites, no social media, no video games, no…

MOREOVER: How many great inventions and accomplishments have been made since the dawn of the digital age—or perhaps more importantly over the last 4 or 5 years?

Certainly, all the above things (and many more) have been improved upon and enhanced since their creation, but what truly new creativity from the minds of mankind has produced something of the magnitude of the above list?

And these are only the bare statistics—what about the workings of the human mind? I wonder what would happen if, for instance, the 1 million hours per day spent playing Angry Birds were spent just “thinking”…thinking about new ideas, new possibilities, new creations, new businesses, new solutions to problems, and on and on?

With more creative thinking, could we have invented new products, started more new companies, hired more people, trained more engineers and scientists? I don’t know…maybe…probably.

Then of course, there is the issue of interpersonal relationship skills (or lack thereof). Personally, I would rather sit across the table from someone in a restaurant talking about all the great ideas I had during the day, than sitting there alone texting or tweeting about the food I was eating.

All my life I have been an early adopter of new technology (my first PC was made by Zenith, and my first cell phone cost $2,500—with no one else to talk to), but now I am beginning to wonder. When I compare the relationship between the minds of mankind vs. the reliance on gadgetry and mind-numbing social media that is consuming our lives…I wonder if, in the big picture, mankind has not taken a giant step backwards.

So, do you think you have digital fatigue, or are addicted to your digital devices? How would your life change if suddenly the Internet and all wireless service went down and there was no more social media, no more email, no more text messaging, no more cell phones, no more Kindle, and on and on?

Could you survive? Could you be productive? Could you be creative?