SUNTAE KIM, EVAN POLMAN and JEFFREY SANCHEZ-BURKS
What ignites the engine of creativity?
However, until recently it was not known whether bodily experiences could help in generating new ideas and solutions to problems.
For example, we asked 102 undergraduates at New York University to complete a task designed to measure innovative thinking. The task required them to generate a word (“tape,” for example) that related to each of three presented clue words (“measure,” “worm” and “video”). Some students were randomly assigned to do this while sitting inside a 125-cubic-foot box that we made of plastic pipe and cardboard. The rest got to sit and think outside (and next to) the box.
During the task we tracked the number of correct responses suggested by the students. We found that those thinking outside the box were significantly more creative: compared with those thinking inside the box, they came up with over 20 percent more creative solutions.
Even the outline of a box can influence creativity. In another study, our team examined the originality of ideas among 104 students at Singapore Management University. First we showed students pictures of objects made of Lego blocks. Then we asked them to think of original uses for the objects, either while walking along a fixed rectangular path indicated by duct tape on the floor (marking out an area of about 48 square feet) or by walking freely as they wished.
The differences were striking: students who walked freely were better at generating creative uses for the objects — coming up with over 25 percent more original ideas.
By showing that bodily experiences can help create new knowledge, our results further undermine the strict separation between mind and body.
If we’re performing a job that requires some “outside the box” thinking, we may have to avoid working in cubicles.