The most creative people in the world--think Einstein, Picasso, and Steve Jobs--didn't get their best ideas by waiting around for lightning to strike. So how do you engineer more creativity when you need it? 

A new behavioral study called Hacking Creativity, which was conducted by Red Bull's high performance group in partnership with data analytics company Vibrant Data, set out to understand the habits that lead to creative breakthroughs most often. Red Bull surveyed 500 "accomplished people" from a wide variety of disciplines via an online questionnaire. Here are four of the study's most surprising findings about how to be more creative.

1. Beware of "outside the box" strategies.

Plenty has been said about the importance of "outside the box" thinking for generating new ideas, but more than half of the survey's respondents said they were more creative when asked to "work within the bounds of existing rules," according to the study. People who favored these constraints for stimulating creativity came from a diverse group of professional backgrounds, including entrepreneurs, scientists, and artists.

2. Leave more things up to chance.

Surprisingly, entrepreneurs and business professionals surveyed in the study were twice as likely to report that their creative strategy involved a "let it happen" approach than a "make it happen" approach. What does that mean? While founders and business executives may devise clear plans for how to accomplish their goals, they're more likely to embrace chance opportunities than insist on solving everything through "deliberate planning." In fact, less than 15 percent of the total respondents said they typically make a clear plan and execute it.

3. Don't fear coming up with a Plan B.

Winston Churchill's famous advice to "Never, never, never give up," still stands, but there comes a point when you have to cut your losses, abort your mission, and go back to the drawing board. When faced with an obstacle in their creative processes, entrepreneurs and business professionals were three times more likely to quickly move to a Plan B than "tenaciously stick to Plan A" and try to make things work.

4. Spend time outdoors in nature.

Whether you consider yourself an "outdoors person" or not seems to have little impact on how time spent in nature stimulates creativity. Nearly 65 percent of respondents reported that spending time outdoors was important to their creative process, and their professional backgrounds spanned more than 20 disciplines and all generations.

When it comes to women's and men's creative processes, there were few significant differences between genders, but women were more likely to say they rely on intuition for creative problem solving, while men tend to rely more on analytical reasoning. Women also were "significantly more likely" to try to mitigate risks in the process, whereas men were more likely to view creative risk as an opportunity. 

Published on: Jan 21, 2016