Three ways to boost problem-solving skills

by L&D22 Jul 2016
Most offices which Dr Amantha Imber visits are grey, dull and “illuminated by horribly artificial fluorescent lighting”.
“Meeting rooms are often characterised by windowless white or pale grey walls, sparse ‘decorations’ and beige furniture,” said the founder of the innovation consultancy Inventium, and author of The Innovation Formula.
Imber argues that this is not the kind of environment that inspires creativity.
“Yet, we know from decades of research that the physical environment has a significant effect on our ability to innovate,” she said.
By making small changes to your environment, you can make a big difference to your creative output.
Imber offers the following three tips to change your environment to drive innovation.
Take advantage of the outdoors
Of all the ways to change your physical environment for the better, those involving nature have received the most attention.
Ruth Atchley, from the University of Kansas, and her colleagues studied a group of people who were going on a four-day hike without any access to technology.
Half of the hikers were asked to complete a creative problem-solving task prior to their hike, and the other half were asked to complete it on day four of the hike.

The results found that people who had experienced four days’ immersion in nature (without any technological distractions) performed 50% better in the creative problem-solving task.
Some noise can be good for creativity
Ravi Mehta, from the University of British Columbia, found that exposing people to a medium noise level (70 decibels – or the equivalent to what you would hear in a café or city street) significantly increased performance on a creative problem solving task.
This level of noise acts as a mild distraction, which fosters creativity. 

Bring in both warm and cool colours (especially green)
Several researchers from the University of Munich brought a group of 65 people into the lab to complete a creative problem-solving task.
 However, before engaging in the task, some people were shown a green login screen while others were shown a white screen.
The researchers found that those seeing a green screen performed about 20 per cent better on the creative thinking task. Similar results have been found in other research warm colours. The message is clear – don’t settle for beige and instead, bring in some colour.