The Scent Of A Creative Solution

Some of us think of ourselves as ‘morning people’ while others would choose ‘night owls’ as their descriptor for when their creative juices are flowing at their peak. Nevertheless, we still have to sleep.  Sometimes that helps to improve our ideas, sometimes it doesn’t.

Assuming that our problem isn’t going to prevent us from sleeping, wouldn’t it be nice if we could use that sleep time to good effect. Instead of allowing our brains free rein to wander at will, keeping it on track to gather odd thoughts or half forgotten facts that are relevant to our problem would allow us to hit the track at full speed when we wake up.

Now a team from Radboud University with some input from the Harvard Business School has devised a way to make our sleep time more productive (1). Their solution? Get on the scent of a creative solution to being creative.

They split their participating people into three groups. Everybody was handed a problem that required a creative solution and, in the time honored fashion for knotty problems, were told to go away and sleep on it. But there was a twist.

The first group was set up with their problem with a scent diffuser wafting a particular scent through the room. When sent off to bed, the same scent accompanied their sleep. A second group had a different scent to go to bed with, while the control group was scentless all the way through.

It turned out that the first group, those with the same scent throughout, were not only more creative, but also better able to choose the most creative solution – a striking result compared to the other groups that just put in an average performance.

So it appears that to maximize our creativity, we have to choose our aromatherapy wisely and keep it going all night. The next step will be to home in on which scent is the best smell of success.

  1. S. M. Ritter,M. Strick, M. W. Bos, R.C.Van Baarten & A. Dijksterhuis, J. Sleep Res. (2012), DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2869.2012.01006.x

Leave a Reply