How To Enhance Creativity: Why Lady Gaga Works & Brainstorming Doesn’t

Greetings fellow Entrepreneurs, this week’s article is all about techniques, one thing I’m not usually very focused on. I love exploring and understanding why we do things and how we work, but my articles have been somewhat lacking in techniques.

One of the reasons for the way I write is that if we don’t have a deep understanding of how we work and why something is important, it doesn’t matter how many techniques we learn, we won’t apply them anyway. But this week, that’s all we’re doing – a big dump of as many creativity enhancement activities as I can squish into this article. So anyone feeling a need for more exercises to boost creativity can revel in the plethora of options available.

Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work And How To Tweak It For Success

Numerous studies have been done to prove or disprove the effectiveness of brainstorming. It turns out, getting people together in groups for brainstorming sessions is not the most effective way to enhance creative thinking and innovation. Brian Mullen from the University of Kent analyzed 20 studies of brainstorming, in the vast majority of experiments, participants working on their own produced higher quantity and quality of ideas than groups.

The primary reason for this is a phenomenon called “social loafing” (for some reason, the sound of social loafing makes me giggle internally as it conjures up funny images of people “slothing” around in groups). What this means is when we work on our own, success or failure is entirely due to our own abilities and hard work. In groups, there is a diffusion of responsibility, so success or failure is not something that can come back to the individual. Because there will be no personal punishment or personal praise/ reward, members of groups slacken off compared to when the onus is on them individually to perform. Interesting conclusion huh?

So rather than getting a bunch of people together to brainstorm, it’s best to get us to work on coming up with as many ideas and concepts as we can individually. If it is a group project, of course then bring people together afterwards to discuss the findings. This leads to the next interesting and very useful aspect of enhancing creativity in a group dynamic.

Move It Or Lose It

Studies have shown that playing musical chairs in a group dynamic will lift the creativity and innovation of members rather than everyone sitting in the same place next to the same people. Charlan Nemeth and Margaret Ormiston from the University of California conducted a study in which participants were asked to change seats during the problem solving tasks. They observed a significant rise in creativity and innovation as a result, compared to the groups that were allowed to remain in the same seating formation.

These findings were supported by research done by Hoon-Seok Choi and Leigh Thompson. They found that even in groups of three, adding one new person to the group dynamic caused a rise in creative thinking. So if you do have a team working creatively on a group project, it seems like the best plan of action is to get everyone started working on their own. Then when the group comes together, have everyone switch chairs and shuffle around the group dynamic to keep the creativity and innovation flowing at optimum levels.

Actually, It IS Easy Being Green

This is one of my favorite techniques to enhance creativity. In my book, I spoke about how I often need to spend time in nature to de-stress and awaken my creativity. I found out after writing this, there is scientific evidence that proves this is an effective way to enhance creativity. I think it’s cool how we instinctively know things to help us in our lives, if we just trust ourselves enough to follow it.

Japanese psychologists Seiji Shibata and Naoto Suzuki carried out controlled experiments in office environments in which they placed a green, leafy pot plant in front of or to the side of a person’s workspace. The tests showed that having the plants nearby and within the range of vision consistently increased creativity and innovation of the participants.

Again, this research was supported by experiments done by Robert Ulrich from Texas A&M University. When flowers and plants were added to an office environment, his tests showed a 15% increase in ideas from males, and females came up with more flexible solutions to problems posed. If plants can’t be kept in the office environment, then being able to see plants and trees out of office windows can have a similar positive effect. So if you need to get some creative juice flowing, perhaps look at going green and getting some plants in your work environment.

Apparently, fake plants, or pictures of plants on the wall or on screen savers doesn’t have the same effect, so don’t try to fake it (there is an entire body of extremely interesting research as to why real plants are so beneficial to our emotional and psychological state, but that’s another article altogether, and quite off topic). However, it does lead me to the next creativity enhancement technique.

Staying On The Green

The color green is associated with positivity and relaxation, it’s also been found to increase creativity and innovation. Andrew Elliot from University of Rochester found that the color green caused triple the success rate in solving anagrams (an anagram is a type of word play, the result of rearranging the letters of a word or phrase to produce a new word or phrase, using all the original letters exactly once).

Affecting creativity through using the color green is helpful because in the absence of plants, we can come up with plenty of other ways to incorporate green in our workspace. For example, green clothes or green office supplies or equipment.

This makes me wonder why having pictures of plants or fake ones wouldn’t be somehow beneficial as the color green is still going to be working it’s magic, even if the physical and emotional benefits are missing from having a real plant present. A living plant will always be the best option, but sometimes it might not be possible (I find fake plants quite weird and depressing though, so that wouldn’t work for me).

Another side note on how our creativity taps into useful insights and instincts in our lives. When I was designing my website, I chose green as a predominant color throughout. I had no idea about the effects of green on creativity, or our psychological or emotional state when I made this choice. I just liked it and followed my intuition. I consistently find my creativity is very accurate when it comes to presenting me with the perfect solution to my problems, if I just follow my creative instincts!

Guess what? I’ve found myself near the end of the article and there’s a crazy amount of techniques still to be shared! I’d better move on as to why thinking of Lady Gaga can improve creativity and innovation seeing as I put it in my heading. As for all the other techniques, we’ll continue this little foray into enhancing creativity next week.

Why Lady Gaga Makes The Perfect Muse

So…Lady Gaga! Now there’s a lass who inspires an incredible amount of response to her style of creative expression. Whether you like it or not, she certainly knows how to get noticed for her creativity. But how can she help us enhance our creativity? It has to do with mental priming.

Psychologists Ap Dijksterhuis and Ad van Knippenburg from the University of Nijmegen did some experiments in which they found people would get the answers to questions correct almost 20% more of the time if they thought about someone they considered intelligent, like a university professor. The same technique works for enhancing creativity.

Psychologist Jens Forster from University of Bremen did tests in which participants were asked to think about the lifestyle and appearance of a typical punk (anarchic and radical). In the tests on creativity, those who focused on the punks scored significantly higher than those who thought about someone we don’t immediately equate with creativity, like an accountant.

Lady Gaga is a perfect example of someone on our radar these days whose personal style and creative expression is definitely on the radical side, whether you find it anarchic or not is for you to decide. So thinking of Lady Gaga in some of her mad outfits would be a great way to mentally prime yourself for a few minutes when preparing to tackle problems that require creativity and innovation.

When This Technique Backfires

Just a quick note in regard to mental priming, it has been shown to backfire if we think of someone we consider a creative genius, that is someone whose creative gifts are beyond the scope of most people. So thinking about Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo would actually cause us to shut down rather than awaken our creativity.

It’s related to us unconsciously comparing ourselves with these creatives and feeling disheartened and discouraged by the comparison. So whatever you do, when applying this technique, don’t overdo it! If you think Lady Gaga is a genius, better pick someone a little more low key…maybe Lil’ Kim…HA-HA! I’m going to have leave now, I’m making bad jokes!

I will be back next week with some more fabulous techniques for enhancing creativity. A lot of the studies in this post comes from a fabulous book, 59 Seconds, by Professor Richard Wiseman. It’s a brilliant book if anyone’s looking for a good read. Once again, please leave any comments you have in regard to the ideas in this post. Thanks for reading, and here’s to your creative success.

Click here to read part two of this series.

Neroli Makim

About Neroli Makim

Neroli Makim is an intuitive artist and writer who loves exploring Creativity and its relationship to personal fulfillment and professional success. She educates people about Creativity, what it is, why it’s important and how to access it within themselves. For more information, visit

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  • Taking a nap can also increase creativity among other benefits at least according to Dr. Sara C. Mednick who is the author of Take A Nap.

    I’m glad Neroli that you’ve discovered the garden of Eden effect of limiting stress in your life by spending time in nature and increasing your creativity in the process.

    Thanks for your insights!

    • Hi Dennis;) Thanks for adding that great tip for enhancing creativity. I have to say, taking a nap is something I love when i can afford to fit it into my day. There’s another technique I’ll share next week that ties in with what you’ve just mentioned.

      I find I HAVE to get out of town at least every month or two to stay sane/unwind/relax & recharge. Luckily my parents farm is perfect for this, & that’s precisely where I am as I write this message to you. Eating fresh berries of the bush, patting baby calves and breathing fresh, unpolluted air is incredibly good for my well being:)
      Cheers, neroli

      • ruthdemitroff

        That’s exactly what I’m trying to create for my children. I’ve moved to a farm on a river beside a duck preserve and I’m hoping to turn my house into a cottage/retreat place for my children who are in that married having babies phase of life except for the one who is still at home with me. It’s good to see them together fishing or playing games or baking or doing whatever gives them a few moments of being kids again.

  • Brainstorming works too, if we can lead things to the right direction. And i think even being creative, one should brainstorm first, right ?

    • I guess it depends in the people involved…and if you’ve had success with it in the past, then of course it works for you & is a great technique to use. If you mean brainstorming whilst working alone, of course it’s a great thing to do to open your mind to possibilities.

      In regard to it being less effective in group dynamics, besides the “social loafing” element, there’s alway the very real possibility people will hold back on saying anything that they feel might make them look or sound stupid or get any kind of negative response from the group.

      Unfortunately, we’re not encouraged from childhood onwards to make mistakes, so as adults, we’re often acutely sensitive to this, or being “wrong”. This is one of the biggest reason creativity is such a scarce and in demand resource in business today. So if members of the group have no fear of this, it won’t be a problem, but if we had no fear of this, there wouldn’t be a scarcity of creative thinking in business:)

      Thanks for your comment, and if you find it works, I guess it’s perfect for you;) Cheers, neroli

  • You bring out a good message there Neroli. I agree with the brainstorming part. That always brings out my creativity.

    • Hi John, you’re the second person that’s mentioned brainstorming works for you, which is funny, because my article points out some of the failings of brainstorming:) I guess it does work very well on an individual basis, and it must be effective on some group dynamics too. Thanks for your comment & I hope it keeps working for you,
      cheers, neroli

  • Very interesting post Neroli! 😀 Thanks for sharing. I’ll try using a green desktop wallpaper now. 🙂

    But on a another note, thinking about Leonardo da Vinci and other such geniuses causing creativity to shut down…

    I think it works better if you imagine yourself as Leonardo da Vinci in such cases instead of just thinking about him.


    • Thanks Allen, I hope this works for you…I guess you’ll find out easily enough if you start awakening genius-like creativity within yourself, you’re onto winner! I’d love to know if it does work, then we can all amp up our gifts to maximum potential:)
      Cheers, neroli

  • Wow, I will get a pot of green trees to put at my workplace then.
    Sometimes having a walk, talk a look around or just take a short nap will help also, to rapidly boost our productivity when work on something.

    Thanks Neroli for the sharing. 😀

    • Thanks for your comment Jia, and thanks for the extra tips on boosting creativity too:)
      Cheers, neroli

  • Neroli!

    Haha great post..the Lady Gaga headline definitely caught my attention, but it was because I knew how Lady Gaga dressed and presented herself that allowed the title to grab my attention..weird?

    Any who I had no clue about the plants thing! That’s insane! I’m actually at starbucks right now looking out of the window and there’s green plants every where..maybe that’s why I’ve been sitting here for 5+ hours getting tons of “work” done? (I don’t consider this work lol)

    I wonder why the color green works though but pictures of green plants don’t work? It’s still GREEN! What the heck!?

    Seems like you already knew what you were talking about or did some research..this isn’t common knowledge but is rather something you find from reading books, so you must definitely read a lot, listen to audio tapes, or someone reads to you haha jk. Regardless on where or how you got this information it’s really good stuff. I think we could all use some positive vibes around us, and if putting a plant next to me will do the trick then hey I’ll give it a shot!

    You were talking earlier about changing the game, being different. I actually just finished writing a post on being different. Except it’s about Darren Rowse of ProBlogger. Actually came upon me that there were more male bloggers than women bloggers, at least in the online business and make money online niche.

    Check the article out and let me know what you think, it’s pretty relevant to your post so I thought I’d share!

    Thanks again Neroli for the post, cheers!

    -Chris Alta

  • We all have so much capacity within our brains and it is just a matter of harnessing it, almost through mental trickery in a way as this great article explains.

    I have always found I work better brainstorming in a group if I have had a personal brainstorming session beforehand and was glad your article confirmed my suspicions. There are many other reasons group brainstorming can fail at producing nuggets of gold other than social loafing, fear of judgement being a major one.

    So im just about to bring our one house plant up to where hubby is working right now!

    • Hey emma, glad to hear the house plant is making a move towards your work area;) I hope it behaves well & helps out with creative insights! Cheers, neroli

  • All it needs a business mind and ability to do financial analysis. Sometimes having a walk, talk a look around or just take a short nap will help also, to rapidly boost our productivity when work on something.

  • Hi Chris, I read your article, it had some interesting & entertaining stuff in it:)

    Re plants, there’s a whole extraordinary world of plants/nature that most of us know nothing about, but we’re completely reliant in them for our survival. Without them, we don’t breathe for a start…& that’s just a little starting point;) & guess what else? If all the humans in the world died, in 50 yrs, all of life on earth would flourish. If all the insects in the world died, in 50 years, all of life on earth would perish. We’re f—-d if we f—k up our natural environment. It’s that simple;)

    Re me reading/learning a lot…I seem to have a pretty eclectic interest in lots of things, and have read & listened & learned from a wide variety of sources. It goes with being creative, we like to live on a lot of levels at once! This means I find out all kinds of interesting stuff in my curious tangents…the trick is to try to remember it & bring it all together! That’s when creativity & innovation can blow our minds. I was finishing next weeks article, & there was a story of some amazing old guy who played some crucial role in creating computer technology that would have been great for making a point…but do u think for the life of me I could remember his name to put the story in the article?!!!

    Re yr article : predominantly male bloggers, particularly in the money making niche…guys seem to love technology more than girls. Some chicks dig it, but it seems to rock your world more than ours, hence the imbalance perhaps. Also, women generally are more stacked when it comes to connecting, relating & communicating in a social sense, hence often lots of activity on fb etc. but maybe not so on blogs…just some possibilities.

    Thanks for your comment, cheers, neroli

  • Thanks for the great data. Ironically, I’ve been reading a lot about mind preparation lately, and not just for creativity. I came across another post about how thinking about eating a bowl of M&Ms before you eat can make you actually eat considerably less.

    It’s an amazing power this brain of ours has, and it’s amazing how easily will overlook it.


    • Hi Brett, I think our mind is by far our most powerful tool, & drastically under-utilized. Interesting research re the bowl of m&ms, I wonder if I’ll ever have the willpower to stop & think before gutsing into chocolate to test this out…thanks for your comment,
      cheers, neroli

  • […] Here is the original post: How To Enhance Creativity: Why Lady Gaga Works & Brainstorming … […]

  • You are right. Originality is very important. However, good ideas can always come out of brainstorming.

  • Neroli,

    Wow, you bring out some interesting points I have never heard of before for creating creativity.

    I would have never thought of thinking of someone else to increase creativity. It’s interesting how thinking of a creative genius may actually decrease your creativity.

    Great information. I’m going to move a plant in my office right now 🙂


    • Hey Karen:) I hope the plant works wonders! I have a big one in the corner of my room, but I need to make a few cuttings & place some more around my workspace. I think it will chill me out when I’m having one of my extreme technical challenge moments. Technology is something I am often at odds with…so this could be a sanity saver!
      Cheers, neroli

  • Very comprehensive and creative post you have here. Reminds me to have something green on my office desk. I’m quite curious about Lady Gaga’s aid to be creative, though.:)

    • He-he, re Lady Gaga, I know! I wouldn’t have thought it myself, but if an emblem of radical and anarchistic is needed, she might just fit the bill…for fashion at least.
      Cheers, neroli

  • Interesting post… I do agree that group brainstorming techniques are not always the most productive or efficient methods for thinking out of the box. Often times it seems to me that this method results in doing just ‘good enough.’ One person inevitably seems to have his weight carried by the rest. If your imaginative and creative and have the desire to get things done, i employing techniques such as yours can help. I often have watched movies or video with characters I have found inspirational, or think to myself ‘what would they do right now’ kind of thing, and it helps a lot. Having a positive atmosphere no doubt will help as well, and working on projects to a point that you still enjoy it and not over do it and get burned out.

    • Hi there,
      that’s a really good idea re watching movies or film characters you find inspiring & then imagining what they would do. I think that’s actually something I’ve written about in my next article…I should know what I’ve written! What I mean is, I’ve touched on what you’re referring to, but the way you explain it is a new & pretty cool way to do it.
      Nice work!
      Cheers, neroli

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  • Hi Neroli,

    By nature, I never preferred being in a large group as attention was always divided and no one was ever really paid full attention to. It leads to a bit of chaos more than anything. I felt the best way was to let people think on their own first, set guidelines if needed. Then have a highly qualified moderator evaluate each person’s thoughts and findings and make the important decisions.

    As for the green environment, I on the other hand, have always found a light color like off-white to be the ideal color for helping put the mind at ease and reduce stress. But I do love having some plants around. Especially the ever-popular bonsai tree!

  • I work at a large corporation that practices group brainstorming throughout the company. I would actually consider it one of the best qualities of our culture. This is the first time that I’ve heard of a study proving higher quantity and quality innovation via individual vs group brainstorming sessions. I would argue that group brainstorming is the most effective when the participants first do some individual research and analysis.

  • I can’t wait for your new post regarding the techniques for enhancing creativity. 🙂 I badly need it.

  • This is an excellent post about creativity.

  • […] your creativity thinking about people like Lady Gaga?’s article, “How to Enhance Creativity,” discusses mental priming, which is the idea that thinking of someone who inspires you in some […]

  • Thanks for this! Definitely going to place a pot of plant on my desk! Going to try brainstorming alone before presenting ideas to my group too. Thanks

  • Ankit

    But you are already restricting, classifying and measuring creativity in the section “When This Technique Backfires”. If Vinci and Michelangelo had so much more creativity which I can never hope to achieve then why would I want to create anything? When I want to create I don’t think that, “well… since I cannot be as good as the artists that are/were out there, I will just try to create something okayish…”. No, when I am thinking about creating something, it is because I feel that this is better than anything I have ever heard/seen. Your techniques certainly will not help me with that.

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