When teams at work are tasked with solving a problem, the first step is coming up with ideas on how to tackle the situation. This often involves brainstorming as a way of stirring up the creative juices.

But when coming up with ideas, in exercising their creativity, most people quit too soon. Usually, after the group develops a few ideas, they begin moving on to the next step of how to implement those ideas.

People usually just assume that after they have developed a few ideas, spending more time trying to come up with more ideas is not a good use of time, that it would not produce much in the way of results. But does evidence support this view?

A recent experiment testing this assumption produced some interesting results. Participants were asked to spend about ten minutes in some creative activity generating ideas. Then they were asked to speculate about how many additional ideas they would come up with in another ten minutes.

In one experiment, people came up with 22 ideas in the first ten minutes. Then they were asked to predict how many additional ideas they would be able to come up with in another 10 minutes. They predicted that they would develop about 10 more ideas, when, in fact, they actually came up with 15 more. And the ideas created during the second 10 minutes were just as good and as useful as those in the first ten minutes.

What these experiments suggest is that people don’t spend enough time generating ideas. They don’t give their creativity a chance to really do its work. They should spend more time generating ideas before they move on to the next step of figuring out how to implement them.

The experiments show that most of us underestimate the usefulness of spending more time generating ideas. We believe that we have all but exhausted our creativity after a short time, when this is not the case.

The research also reveals that we misperceive the nature of creativity. As with most other things, creativity takes hard work and persistence. It’s not something that just comes to us like a flash of inspiration. We have to work at it, and take the time required to do it well.

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