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How to inspire creativity

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Many individuals have a hard time dealing with a given task; they focus extensively on what the best way to approach it is that they forget all about the world around them. This charming presentation shows us how to solve a really complicated problem by adding a dash of mess, randomness and making crazy moves.

Tim Harford, economist, journalist and broadcaster, writes the Undercover Economist column for the Financial Times, looking at familiar situations in unfamiliar ways and explaining the fundamental principles of the modern economy. Furthermore, Harford presents the BBC radio series More or Less and has also published a book entitled Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure.

“I think we need to gain a bit more appreciation for the unexpected advantages of having to cope with a little mess.”

Different fields illustrate how a little mess can improve productivity:

Cognitive psychology. Daniel Oppenheimer made a study based on the fact that certain kinds of obstacles can actually improve our performance. He asked teachers to give students two different hand-outs, one with an easy to read font and another one with a much harder to read font and then he compared the results of the students. And the reasoning behind this is the fact that the difficult font had slowed them down and forced them to work a bit harder, think a bit more about what they were reading and therefore, they learned more.


Complexity science. The trouble with the step-by-step process, the marginal gains, is they can walk you gradually down a dead end but if you start adding randomness and making crazy moves your problem-solving becomes more robust.


Social psychology. Psychologist Katherine Phillips, along with some colleagues, demonstrated that by adding a stranger in a group of students, productivity increased, as his presence was seen as a positive disruption. You might wonder how can this improve productivity and the answer is quite straightforward: these types of disruptions help us solve problems, they help us become more creative.


In this world of complicated problems, we need to run crazy experiments and deal with unusual individuals and scenarios in order to become more creative and improve our overall performance.

Watch this inspiring TED Talk, and learn more about how important it is to take advantage of peculiar problems and challenges in order to improve your creative process.

Video source: Harford T. (2015) How messy problems can inspire creativity, TED Talks

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