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There’s a fundamental contradiction when organizations ask employees to maintain a fast pace of work and be creative. What often happens in hectic workplaces is that employees resort to autopilot or habitual ways of working. When they don’t have the time or space to incubate novel and clever ideas, they may miss out on opportunities to reframe a problem and see new possibilities for potential solutions.

How do you help your team develop their creativity? Research has found that a short period of mindfulness training can have a positive impact on creative output. To explore this idea further, we conducted a study with a midsize U.S.-based real estate firm to examine whether a mindfulness training program could influence a team’s creativity.

In our study, we split up a team of 10 people into a meditating group and a control group. To start, we gave all 10 people a creative task: to brainstorm as many unusual uses for a brick as they could think of. Then we administered a 10-minute mindfulness exercise and afterward asked them to continue brainstorming the creative task. We found that seven out of 10 people increased the number of creative ideas they had in only 10 minutes. This experiment corroborates previous studies and went a step further to see how the team as a whole was affected by a weekly mindfulness intervention and training. With this same group of people over the course of five weeks, we administered a group creative task and found that the meditating group identified double the number of creative ideas as the control group. The group process was noticeably different, where the meditating group was 121% more able to build on the ideas of others. When we create group dynamics that are in flow, where one person’s idea spurs another person’s, the idea develops to a point that it wouldn’t have on its own.

You and Your Team Series

Thinking Creatively