Creativity? Make It Someone Else’s Problem

Episode 034: Rock, Paper, Scissors
March 15, 2021
Episode 035: Rejection Breeds Creativity
March 22, 2021

Creativity? Make It Someone Else’s Problem

Are you in a creative rut? Then make it someone else’s problem. 

Now, it doesn’t mean you should just stop being creative and outsource your creative thinking to someone else. 

But there’s a great yet simple way to boost your creative output by imagining you’re being creative for someone else’s problem. 

It’s a simple trick that will make you use your brain in a different way – and as a result, boost your creativity. 

How It Works

Play a trick on your mind and imagine that instead of generating a creative idea for your problem, you’re pretending it’s somebody else’s problem. 

What happens here is you begin to see possibilities that maybe you haven’t seen before. 

How Solving Others’ Problems Boost Creativity

In a study done by researchers Evan Polman and Kyle J. Emich, they had 262 participants broken into two groups. 

One group of participants were asked to draw an alien for a story that they would write. And another group was asked to draw an alien for a story that someone else would write. In other words, they were imagining their creative act, but for somebody else’s problem. 

The researcher found that those who drew an alien for someone else’s story produced a more creative alien. 

So the next time you create something, imagine you’re doing it for a neighbor or a colleague, or your spouse. Take advantage of this effect or this sort of mental transfer where you’re separated from the problem because it seems to boost your creative output.

Breaking the Fixedness

Imagining that you’re not in your own environment helps you break fixedness, which is that cognitive bias that makes it hard for people to imagine different solutions. 

By imagining the problem for somebody else, you break some of that fixedness around you. You break the fixedness around what components you have available and what’s possible. And now you’re able to see your situation and play in another scenario for another person. 

All of a sudden, ideas start to come more freely. 

To hear more on how you can apply this trick to your own life, listen to the full podcast episode here: Episode 033: Creativity? Make It Someone Else’s Problem.