You Can't Rush Creativity

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You Can't Rush Creativity

This video (creator unknown!) involves using a group of children to prove how extraordinary things can be achieved with just a little more time. Having seen this video, we were prompted to write a little about how time pressure effects creativity…

When the pressure is on at work, people are productive. This common belief may be the case for some people, but for creatives, the dreaded time crunch is far from beneficial.

Back in 2002 a Harvard university study was undertaken over a period of 10 years on ‘how time pressure in a corporate setting affects employee creativity’. The findings unsurprisingly revealed that people are much less creative under deadline pressure. This is because, more often than not, the best creative ideas don’t materialise from no-where. Creativity takes consideration and experimentation, both of which require a suitable amount of time! Making mistakes is also a crucial part of the creative process - a designer or copy writer, for example, will often make multiple mistakes throughout the process of creation before the final outcome is produced and perfected. Although short deadlines are sometimes unavoidable, excessive time pressure essentially suppresses creativity, because it restricts a person’s freedom to contemplate different possibilities and directions.

This sentiment was also confirmed in a study carried out by the American Psychological Association which states that: "With increased time pressure, you take the simplest pathway, not one that's elegant or creative. But if you're able to spend more time exploring the maze, you're more likely to hit on exciting or new solutions.” This particular study also proved that employees were 45% less likely to think creatively on a high-pressure day compared to a low-pressure day.

Don’t be mistaken, this is not just an excuse made up by creatives to bunk off for a few hours! There is genuine, concrete science which proves the impact that extreme time pressure has on our creative thinking. The limbic system, located in the lower part of the brain, (the part processing our emotions) becomes too busy during periods of stress, thus leaving no room or resources for creative thinking. Fundamentally, stress (often brought on by tight deadlines and high volumes of work), shuts down the creative part of the brain.

Conversely, excessive amounts of time may also be counterproductive for creatives in the work place, as having long deadlines removes the sense of urgency and enhances the likelihood for procrastination and inactivity. However, I think it’s safe to say most organisations will agree that having too much time is a rare, if not non-existent phenomenon in the work place!

Some of the largest and most successful organisations in the world have recognised the importance of making extra time for employees in order to enhance creativity and improve the quality of their work content. Large corporations such as Walt Disney and Google have developed solutions to avoid or ease this extreme time pressure, such as in house mindfulness programmes and allocating time for employees to meditate. Both companies observed a remarkable rise in creativity and innovation amongst employees having introduced these initiatives.

So in a nutshell, in order to encourage consistently high quality creative output, then avoiding high levels of time pressure is crucial.

If you have a new project which requires some of our creative input – whether you have tons of time (or not too much), then get in touch via our website or call us on 01635 521224.