For Creativity Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

According to recent research by Stanford Graduate School of Business alumna Melanie S. Brucks and associate professor of marketing Szu-chi Huang, regular brainstorming sessions are not likely to lead to an increase in unique ideas. In fact, the average novelty of your output — that is, the degree to which your inspirations depart from convention — actually might decrease over time.

This doesn’t seem intuitive, thus why it’s surprising. But it really isn’t. Practice doesn’t make perfect when it comes to creativity, because of the way the brain works.

So, what does?

To practice creativity effectively we have to disrupt our routines

The brain values repetition and efficiency, but creative thinking is messy. For example, everyone wants to hear stories about how there’s a recipe to being brilliant. This is how books are sold, ideas are spread and names are made. But, anybody who does creative work doesn’t rely on a tried and true formula. Rather, they constantly experiment with approaches to develop new ideas.

No matter how many times I’ve done it, I don’t come up with new ideas the same way I did before. I know how to prime myself to get into the preparation and incubation phases of creativity (divergence), but converging never happens the same way.

This means is you have try different methods to converge. There’s a reason why books like Thinkertoys exist, which is filled with many creative exercises; the brain needs to be shaken and stirred to be creative even when you’ve tried the same method again and again.