Creativity and ADHD – is there a link?

creativity adhdIs it possible that the impulsiveness and quick-thinking that accompanies ADHD may also enhance creativity?  Given that many people who are diagnosed with this condition, what role could medication have in the creative process?  Does stimulant medication hamper creativity, or boost it?

The ADHD brain may not be held back as much by constraints on thinking. In a study conducted in 2006 (Abraham et al.), adolescents with varying disorders (including ADHD) along with a control group, were individually assessed.  The ADHD group was found to have a higher rate of being able to overcome constraining examples, what we call “thinking outside the box”, but had difficulty creating an invention from imagery.

In another study (White and Shah, 2006), people with ADHD were found to score higher than those without ADHD in a measure of divergent thinking (i.e. coming up with creative solutions to a problem).  However, people with ADHD did not score as well as those without ADHD on a measure of convergent thinking (i.e. giving the “correct” answer to a test question).

A later study also discovered that people with ADHD scored higher in original thinking and creative achievement than those without ADHD.  It was also found that people with ADHD preferred generating ideas, while those without ADHD preferred clarifying problems and developing ideas.

Contrary to popular opinion, (stimulant) medication may not hamper creativity. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, Farah et al. (2009) measured sixteen young adults on four measures of creativity.  Two of the measures required divergent thinking, while the other two required convergent thinking.  The study found that the medication did improve convergent thinking while no negative effects were found on convergent and divergent thought measures.

It is evident that more research is required, however it would appear that there is a direct correlation between ADHD and increased creativity. Given that ADHD is but one marker on a spectrum of so called ‘mental disorders’ it is obvious that much is still to be learnt.

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TIP: Working With Others

working with othersWhen working with others it is useful to work with as wide a variety of individuals as possible. You may not value the knowledge held by these people but it is not their knowledge that we wish to tap into – it is their thinking.

Think of this exercise as harnessing the computing power of a number of networked laptops rather than simply examining the contents of their hard drives. Remember, the views of non-experts should be as welcome as those of experts.

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Don’t Take Things Literally

taking things literallyAs I wander around on a daily basis I find myself taking note of signs and posters and interpreting them in ways that the original author had never intended, by taking them literally. For me it is a humorous exercise but try it on your own scribblings and see if your communications are up to scratch.

Seen outside a pub – Good Food Served Here. Well would you actually deliberately sell bad food? Why not use the space for a meaningful marketing message?

Seen near a school – Slow Children Crossing. Am I to drive slowly because I am near children or am I being warned that these particular children are in need of cattle prods?

Seen in the toilets at a motorway service station – Wet Floor. Is this a warning or an instruction?

Road sign in Essex – Secret Nuclear Bunker

Seen on newspaper stand at motorway services – Please refrain from reading the newspapers

Sign at Northampton General Hospital – Family Planning Advice, Use Rear Entrance

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Creativity, Gardening And Cookery – Envisioning The Future

creativity gardening cookeryProfessor Rosabeth Moss Kanter said “a clear destination is necessary to guide the journey of change. Many change efforts falter because of confusion over exactly where everyone is expected to arrive.”

Of course, we don’t always know what our final destination is. However, answering a series of questions can help us decide where we want to go and provide easy steps for getting there.

  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • What’s the current situation?
  • What are our ultimate objectives?
  • What needs to change to meet your objectives?
  • What process should we employ?

Stop right there!

Can you see something wrong with this course of action? It is a traditional change process that has been taught on many a management course over the last 2 decades or so. The above was actually billed as ‘envisioning the future’ but in reality it is simply ‘bending the organisation to fit’

So what about the future, how do we envision it, create it and share it? There is a longer article in the pipeline but here is a summary.

The traditional methods imply a big change, going from here to there, a long or tough journey that not everybody feels is worth it. Also the journey is often forced upon us. In the embryonic creative organisation there is no journey, except through time. Instead of steps we are building an environment (think of a children’s den as a metaphor). We think of capability and opportunity and have a feeling about our new environment, but we have no concrete objectives. Because we value capability we visualise what can be done, not what engineering can be done on our organisation to make it fit our ideas for the future.

We are living in a world full of ambiguity here. What are our values, do we have a structure, have our roles changed? The only constant is change – but not as we know it.

And finally what process do we employ? A mixture of cookery and gardening!

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Why Best Practice might be bad for you

best practice is badIf someone knocks at your door and offers you ‘best practice’ you should say no. Best practice is at best a distillation of ‘what has been’ and has worked. It is based in the past and unless the system you are operating in is purely mechanical (e.g. you make nuts and bolts in bulk) then it is not guaranteed to work.

Apart from being fixed on the past, best practice usually consists of ready made methods or processes for you to copy. A consultant or well meaning colleague may thump a large book in front of you and say ‘just follow this and you will be alright’ but the chances are you will not.

Firstly the method or process has been lifted out of one context and dropped into another (probably different) context. The contextual information makes a huge difference. It could contain information on economic factors, industry sector, seasonal factors and many more. Secondly there is one huge factor that can never be identical, people. People are the biggest asset an organisation can have but they also provide the most variables. If you have been given advice like this, please do not blindly follow it, treat it as a reference work.

So what can we do? Sharing is not the problem, you just have to know what to share! Instead of throwing processes and methods at each other we should be sharing experiences (telling stories) and learning from them as well as sharing the tools for the trade (hammers, paint brushes, facilitation techniques, communications tools etc). Find like minded colleagues or business partners, share tools and experiences and use the knowledge gleaned to learn and create pathways into the future. We should be more interested in the journey than the destination.

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