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Everyone can be creative, study suggests; learn how

January 6, 2023

A new study published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes indicates that creativity is something that can be trained. The research was conducted by Washington State University’s Carson College of Business in partnership with the University of California, Irvine (USA). It found that even professionals who pursue careers in more “conventional” areas, such as accountants, insurance brokers, and data analysts, can be creative if they can look at problems from a different perspective.

The researchers found that people with low levels of openness to new ideas and experiences had more creative thoughts than their peers after practicing “emotional reappraisal”. It means seeing a situation through other perspectives, such as trying to see an anger-inducing event as something neutral or hopeful, for example.

“One of the study’s implications is that creativity is not something that’s only accessible to people we think of as ‘creatives’,” said lead author Lily Zhu, an assistant professor in Carson College of Business. “Whenever we break away from our existing perspective and try to think about something that’s different from our initial reaction, there’s a creative element to it. If we can practice or train that flexible-thinking muscle, it may help us be more creative over time.”

The authors suggest that since creative people already tend to reevaluate their emotions on a regular basis, practicing more doesn’t have as much impact, as it would be like adding extra gasoline to a car that already has fuel.

Researchers believe that the findings can improve productivity in business, as it is possible to tap into employees’ knowledge and experience by encouraging the development of their creativity. Lily Zhu suggested that supervisors could develop trainings to cultivate creative thinking skills in employees. Individuals can also practice emotional reappraisal when confronted with a crisis or challenge instead of suppressing negative emotions.  

“Negative emotions are inevitable in the workplace,” Zhu said. “The question is not do we want negative emotions, or not? The question is: how can we better deal with them in a productive, healthy way? Part of the implications of this study is that we can use negative emotions in our everyday life as opportunities to practice flexible thinking.”

Source: WSU Insider