Is Your Environment Dulling Your Creativity?

Have you ever been asked to be creative? Being put on the spot like that can be highly stressful. Shelly Greenway shares her advice below:

For many of us, on-the-spot creativity is a daunting prospect and may not come naturally. Most people tend to behave much like a tortoise. They poke their head out nervously to ensure the environment is safe and comfortable before they fully emerge. Your creativity won’t show up if you are nervous or stressed, busy or surrounded by hustle and bustle.

The Science Bit

We know that creativity is something that happens in the brain; many psychologists and neuroscientists have identified cognitive mechanisms and processes active during the creative process. However, many people still believe that creativity is a “gift”. There are many studies that suggest that subtle cues in our physical environment significantly influence creative output.

Psychologist, Lewin in 1943 proposed that behavior is “a function of both the person and the physical environment they are in.”

Creating a physical environment that puts people at ease and makes them feel relaxed and safe, will get the creative juices properly flowing.

Environmental Factors That Can Help Boost Creativity:

  1. Familiar surroundings/territory

If you were to put a truck driver into a boardroom or viewing facility, for example, this won’t in any way mimic their real-life environment, so they may feel on edge and out of their comfort zone. Meet with them at a roadside café, and the chances are they will feel right at home.

  1. Light

According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, natural light fosters superior creativity as it encourages a feeling of freedom. Natural light contains what is called ‘blue light’. It boosts the immune system, increases dopamine levels and lowers cortisol levels. This means that being in a naturally lit room with make you feel less anxious, happier and more productive.

  1. Noise

A moderate noise level is a sweet spot for creativity. Ambient noise gets our creative juices flowing unlike silence, and doesn’t put us off like high levels of noise. The theory is that when we struggle just enough to process things as we normally would, we resort to more creative approaches.

  1. Temperature

A study at Cornell University in 2004 found that a constant temperature of 20 degrees Celsius keeps people 44% more focussed on the task in hand than the usual optimal room temperature of 25 degrees Celsius.

  1. Colour

Colorful spaces can make people feel more childlike, playful and adventurous. These moods are conducive to new ways of thinking. Colors create visual interest and can help fight fatigue. Exposure to both blue and green has been shown to enhance performance on tasks that require generating new ideas.


Shelly Greenway is Partner and Strategist at The Strategy Distillery  – a strategic brand innovation consultancy, known for its provocative and inspirational thinking.

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