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Highlights from our #creativehuddle on neuroscience

Psychology

We hold a regular #creativehuddle Twitter chat each Tuesday from 12-1pm UK time. On Tuesday 24th November our #creativehuddle considered the neuroscience around creativity, asking participants what they know about our brain and why it’s important. A highly interesting Twitter chat ensued – here’s a summary of the highlights.

After a spot of pre-reading about how our brains distort reality, we kicked off our discussion by asking what we know about our brain and why it’s important. Alistair Cockroft drew attention to the excellent Chimp Management model which explains our basic brain functions in simple and accessible language.

Alison Coward pointed out that we are often less rational than we think we are, which raises important questions regarding the extent to which we are in control of our thinking. Alison drew attention to the theory of ‘system 1 / system 2’ thinking proposed by Daniel Kahneman, and how cognitive bias poses important implications for our decision-making ability. Cecilia Law also noted that unconscious bias can creep in the more we have a vested interest in the matter we’re dealing with.

Kim George highlighted that this is why our brains are sometimes not to be trusted, particularly due to the issue of selective attention. If you’ve not tried this selective attention test, have a go and see how you get on.

We touched on the concept of metacognition, literally ‘thinking about how we think’, and its relevance to the world of work. Alison shared this excellent HBR article which observes how the idea of ‘going meta’ is becoming increasingly popular to help organisations deal with innovation and change.

We then asked how often people check their thinking for bias, and how this might happen. Alistair suggested that ‘pre-programming ourselves to just stop and consciously breathe’ forces us to pause and reflect. Alison also noted that this pause is valuable in increasing our reaction time before making a decision. However, too long a pause leads us into the danger territory of status quo bias and decision paralysis.

The problem of distraction also arose. Tony Reeves highlighted that the digital age is forcing our brains to process more information than ever before, making it increasingly difficult to slow down our thinking. UCA_LTechs observed that multitasking can sometimes enhance creativity, but that this depended on the type of tasks.

Cecilia and Alison noted the value of ‘to-do lists’ in staying focused and reducing distraction, and Alistair suggested that background music can help. But the discussion highlighted how hard it can be to switch off, and how digital distraction is causing many people to have an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish. Asking ourselves whether we need to be connected all the time is clearly becoming increasingly important, and taking conscious steps to reduce distraction can help us focus more and do better work.

Lastly, the common perception of the ‘left brain’ as rational and the ‘right brain’ as creative was shown to have been proven incorrect by neuroscientists – as explained in this article by Scott Barry Kaufman. While certain cognitive functions such as language and attention to tend to take place more on one side than another, there is no evidence to support the myth of ‘right-brained people as being more creative’. However, this Guardian article also suggests that this myth is unlikely to disappear any time soon.

Alistair concluded nicely by stating that while we still know very little about the brain, we’re just all very lucky to have one. And Cecilia left us with a thought-provoking HBR article about digital tools and collaboration, arguing that today’s teams should include people with thinking roles as much as doing roles.

Definitely food for thought.


A big thank you to all our #creativehuddle participants! If you liked this summary then we’d love to hear from you. Join the conversation on our LinkedIn group, and come along to our weekly #creativehuddle every Tuesday between 12-1pm.

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