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Why Creativity is Dying in the Workplace

Source | LinkedIn : By Paul Charney

The realization hit me during a typical late night on the fourth floor, known for housing all of the “creatives” at the advertising agency where I was creative director.

My partner and I were trying to come up with an original idea for a big client. As always, we wanted something funny, inventive and completely new. We looked at each other in silence, looked at our laptops, and then looked at each other again. I looked across the hall. I saw two other people trying to think of an original idea by awkwardly staring at each other in silence. They seemed tired, annoyed and lonely. They did not look inspired, and they definitely were not having fun. That’s when I realized: That’s what I must look like. Utterly and completely uninspired. And utterly unfun.

Therein lies the frustrating dichotomy that plagues not just the ad industry, but the majority of companies in the U.S.: Since the days of Peggy and Don from “Mad Men,” there has been an eager dependence on individual genius to spark creative ideas while working in a solemn, sterile office environment. In reality, though, there just isn’t anything inspiring or creative about staring at the same walls, talking to the same person or visiting the same websites, looking for inspiration for new ideas. And yet, these are widely accepted methods, used by every single “creative” agency and most companies in corporate America.

The good news is that since the “Mad Men” era, research has helped explain how humans generate creative ideas. We have a better understanding than ever of the environments, relationships and brain states most likely to elicit novel insights. Brain-imaging studies from Northwestern University and Johns Hopkins University reveal that a relaxed brain in a “mind-wandering” state is ripe for developing imaginative concepts. Psychologists from the University of Chicago have demonstrated the critical importance of the “flow state,” the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment of the process. It is in this precise sweet spot, scientists tell us, that humans are most likely to generate innovative and original ideas.

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