24 October 2016

Happiness Makes us Less Creative

Corporations intent on making employees more engaged and creative are focusing on happiness as the answer. Chief Happiness Officer is an actual job at many companies. But most scientists say that creativity calls on persistence and problem-solving skills, not positivity. Researchers at Kent University and Sussex University in England dug through through over half century of study on the creative process in various fields, and isolated 14 components of creativity. Happiness wasn’t one of them. Creativity is complex. The 14 components they found all need to work together to varying degrees depending on the task at hand, the researchers explain. None is more important than any other although different creative activities (and different steps of a single creative effort) may demand more of one or another and build on each other.

Psychologists at the University of North Texas Department of Management divided creativity into two phases; initial idea generation and subsequent problem-solving. Their review of research on feelings and creativity concluded that a positive mood is useful when first brainstorming, processing information, and coming up with as many ideas as possible—you don’t want to bring judgment into that, because it could stifle idea generation. But rigor is the key to overcoming obstacles and completing tasks—and good mood doesn’t improve problem-solving, which involves judgments that almost by necessity won’t feel good: critique and evaluation, experimentation and failure. The stress that arises from problems may be unpleasant but it also motivates us to complete tasks. In other words, negative emotions are actually beneficial to the creative process.

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