Reducing cognitive rigidity and enhancing creative thinking

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Creative thinking skills seem to be one of the most critical skills of the 21st Century. Regardless of what industry you operate in, this quality helps you remain flexible and ‘deal with the opportunities and challenges that are part of our complex and fast-changing world’.

The issue is that there are major stumbling blocks to creative thinking and one of these is cognitive rigidity. This refers to our inability to mentally adapt to new demands or information. Everything that creative thinking is, cognitive rigidity isn’t.

Fostering creative thinking isn’t as easy as hosting a couple of training programs and having a guest speaker come to the office to wax on about the benefits of creativity.

At Awakened Mind, creative thinking is critical. As a leader, I do my best to create opportunities for my teams to exercise and develop their creative thinking abilities.

While we have different exercises scheduled in at any given time, we tend to end team meetings by generating new ideas for the next creative exercise for the team (a creative thinking exercise for a creative thinking exercise, if you will).

Our ideas have gotten wackier and wackier over time. One exercise even resulted in one of our employees wearing tissue boxes on their feet and head while reciting passages from their favourite movie (a story for another day).

One of the very first ideas we ever tried; however, was the 30 Circles exercise designed by Bob McKim of the Stanford Design Program.

The exercise is simple enough: 30 blank circles, three minutes on the clock, and a pencil. The challenge is to fill in as many circles as possible before your time runs out, leaving you no time to censor yourself or make edits. Bad ideas, good ideas, and mediocre ideas commingle in these little circles and everyone is surprised by the end results.

We’ve even taken to creating a ‘30-circle Wall of Fame’ for the best designs we’ve seen.

After each session, there’s a general outcry of, “This one’s for the wall!” and the celebrated artist signs and adds their contribution to a corkboard of wacky designs collected over the years.

Through exercises like this, we help our employees feel more comfortable sharing their ideas with their coworkers and encourage them to think outside the box (or circle in this case).

As a mindfulness company, we are keenly aware of the link between mindfulness and cognitive flexibility—a quality that eliminates cognitive rigidity and enhances creative thinking.

Mindfulness and creative thinking

Studies have proven that mindfulness is intimately linked to improvements in attentional functions and cognitive flexibility.

When you practice mindfulness regularly and develop a healthy mindfulness exercise that works for you, you sharpen your focus, self-awareness, unlock your potential, and become more compassionate with yourself and others.

These improvements to your attention and concentration as a result of mindfulness will help you retain cognitive flexibility that facilitates creative thinking.

You can develop mindfulness by paying closer attention to your sensory experience of the physical world and inner thoughts and feelings at any given moment of the day.

Meditation and creative thinking

The substantial overlap between mindfulness and meditation means that the benefits of one often apply to the other.

With meditation, you unlock your potential for creative thinking. This means that taking regular mindful breaks to meditate can help you enjoy the self-awareness you need to nurture practices that boost your creative thinking.

The next time you meditate, try to follow it up with a quick round of 30 Circles.

How can Awakened Mind help you develop creative thinking in the workplace?

Awakened Mind is a platform geared for fostering mindfulness in companies across the world.

You’ll be able to leverage the value of mindfulness to benefit your leadership style, employee morale, corporate culture, job satisfaction, focus, productivity, and reduce emotional exhaustion amongst a host of other benefits.

For more information on creating a culture of mindfulness, cognitive flexibility, and creative thinking, contact the Awakened Mind team today.