Academic Minute Podcast

Lily Zhu, Washington State University – How to Unlock Your Creativity

You can choose to think more creatively.

Lily Zhu, assistant professor in the department of management, information systems, and entrepreneurship at Washington State University, explores how.

Dr. Lily Zhu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management, Information Systems, and Entrepreneurship at Washington State University’s Carson College of Business. She received her Ph.D. in Organization and Management from the Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine. Broadly speaking, Dr. Zhu’s research examines the implications of people’s emotional experiences and how they can manage their emotions in ways that improve performance and wellbeing. Her first stream of research examines the role of emotions and emotion management in entrepreneurship and creativity. Her second stream of research examines how emotions shape the way individual employees and corporate executives make decisions. Her research won the Best Paper Award and the Distinguished Paper Award from the Academy of Management annual meetings.

How to Unlock Your Creativity

Many people believe that the ability to come up with creative ideas graces only some talented individuals and not most others. However, creativity is actually a skill that can be strengthened, even for people who don’t consider themselves creative. My recently published research found that simply reinterpreting a frustrating situation can enhance the creativity of conventional thinkers.

When you look at emotional situations in a different light, there is an element of creativity to this: You’re breaking away from your existing perspectives and coming up with a new way of thinking.

We first ran a survey that found that those who ranked higher on creativity tended to reinterpret emotional events more often in their daily life. We then ran two experiments in which participants encountered emotion-evoking situations and were given instructions to either suppress their emotional response, distract themselves, or look at the situation through a different lens. Some other participants were given no instructions on how to manage their feelings. In a subsequent creative idea generation task, conventional thinkers who looked at the situation through a different lens came up with ideas that were more creative than those who used suppression, distraction or received no instructions at all.

Our research indicates that people can practice flexible thinking every day when they experience negative emotions. Although people may not always have control over the external circumstances, they do have the liberty to choose how to cope with emotional situations – and they can do so in ways that facilitate their productivity and well-being.

Read More:
[Science Direct] – Unlocking creative potential: Reappraising emotional events facilitates creativity for conventional thinkers


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