Innovation is something that most organisations want to do better on, and a big part of social business is to enhance and enable the creative capabilities of employees. Suffice to say, when it comes to understanding the innovative potential of employees there can be a nature/nurture argument, with some suggesting that our creativity is inbuilt within us, whereas others tend to look at the system and environment as the key to enabling creativity.
I tend to fall into the latter camp, but nevertheless found a test developed by researchers at Michigan State University interesting. The test is called the noun-verb test and is designed to be so simple it can be done anywhere. It’s designed to measure and pinpoint how the brain comes up with unusually creative ideas.
“We want to understand what makes creativity tick, what the specific processes are in the brain,” Jeremy Gray, the researcher behind the test says. “Innovation doesn’t just come for free—nobody learns their ABCs in kindergarten and suddenly writes a great novel or poem, for example. People need to master their craft before they can start to be creative in interesting ways.”
The test is based upon Gray’s latest research, which saw him ask just under 200 participants to respond creatively with a verb when shown a series of nouns in a test that lasted approximately two minutes.
So for instance, when given ‘chair’, a participant might respond with ‘stand’ rather than ‘sit’. This was followed up with more in depth analysis, such as story telling or drawing.
The results showed a parallel between those who were creative in the simple noun-verb test, and those that went on to perform well in the more in depth analysis. The implication therefore is that the simple test can provide a good indication in to ones creative ability.
Gray and his team are following up this study by asking participants to complete the test from inside a MRI scanner to measure how their brain responds to the test. The hope is that it will provide greater insight into how the brain works creatively.
Although much more research is needed, the findings eventually could help students, entrepreneurs, scientists, and others who depend on innovative thinking.
“Ultimately, this work could allow us to create better educational and training programs to help people foster their creativity,” Gray says.
Suffice to say, creative or innovative thoughts are not much use if the environment within which people work is not encouraging that kind of behaviour, but this simple test might be a nice and easy way of demonstrating that creativity is a trait that is valued in your organisation, in much the same way that the Reciprocity Ring is a nice and simple construct to showcase collaboration. Try it out and see how you get on.