Feeling stuck on a project or problem? Researchers from Cornell and New York University have shown that simply imagining someone else in your situation could help lead you to creative insights. Over on Psychology Today, 99U’s own David Burkus explores the research and how it works:
When we think of the situations we are in, we tend to think more concretely and can struggle to generate new ideas, whereas when we think about the situations others are in, especially situations distant from our own reality, we tend to widen our perspective and generate ideas that are a little more abstract—more like the creative ideas we might need.
If we want to make better and more creative decisions, it helps to broaden our perspective and get beyond our own problems.
As Burkus explains: this creative imagining frees us up to envision outcomes that might not be quite within the realm of reality. When we explore those imaginary possibilities we inevitably lead ourselves to more realistic, but still creative, solutions.
Similar research from the past has indicated that this is why children are often so creative with solving their own problems. The act of imaginary play allows them to construct worlds where rules can be bent or situations altered. It’s that imaginary exploration that leads to realistic insights.
If you find yourself stuck on a problem or trying to come up with new ideas, remove yourself from the situation and imagine what somebody else might do in your spot.
Read Burkus’ full write-up on the research right here.