Those of us who are professional creatives know that oftentimes the act of being creative or coming up with creative, relevant and intriguing ideas for our clients is completely exhausting. However, we’ve found that immersing ourselves in a seemingly unrelated or even mundane task (i.e. checking email or making a snack) is the only thing we need to get back on track. Why does this work? And what does this say about creativity?
Rather than an abstract concept, neurologists describe creativity as the predisposition of the brain to make connections where there previously were none, or where a connection wouldn’t make sense. Neuroplasticity, the ability to “form and reorganize synaptic connections,” is essential for creative work and imperative in every part of the workplace. The synaptic connections, which are like phone lines between different regions of the brain, maximize your brain’s efficiency. This allows your brain to be dexterous in the connections that it makes, which is what we interpret as creativity or ingenuity. As mentioned before, it might seem that your ideas come out of “nowhere,” but really, it is your brain working through various connections to produce a new idea. When the amount or frequency of these connections decrease, you can experience “brain drain.” You might feel unfocused, have difficulty solving problems effectively or be unable to generate new ideas. Some common workplace issues, like high levels of stress, repetitive routines or overworking a particular task also contribute to brain drain. If you’re feeling stuck at work, your neuroplasticity could be why.
However, increasing your neuroplasticity doesn’t have to be a challenging process. Any activity that introduces new information to your brain and exercises synaptic connections can be referred to as “cross-training.” Even the simple act of changing the route you take to work challenges your brain to adapt to a new situation, and inevitably form new connections. To combat brain drain at work, you can cross-train your brain by learning about how another department functions, or asking a coworker how he or she would solve a particular problem ‒ tasks like these will introduce new information to your brain and exercise those synaptic connections. By making minor changes in your personal and work life can develop into results that you’ll notice over time.
While being creative is the specialty of certain professions, everyone can benefit from cross-training their brain and increasing their neuroplasticity. You’ll increase your ability to be more innovative, solve problems more efficiently ‒ and reduce work fatigue. Increased neuroplasticity has such a positive effect on your overall mental health, and when exercised daily can improve your overall quality of life (and your work!). Give your brain the opportunity and inspiration it needs to grow these connections, and it will surprise you every time.
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