Attitude is just as important as aptitude when it comes to innovation, and setting the right tone to foster creative thinking is crucial. In fact, mood has a direct effect on thinking abilities.
In many experiments, researchers have manipulated people’s moods by showing them films that would elicit various emotions. Those folks who saw positive films with comedy were more likely to find a creative solution than were those who saw the negative or neutral films.
A positive mood is associated with a greater expansiveness of thinking, opening up one’s perceptual landscape to a broader array of potential solutions in the problem-solving process. Dreaming of perfect world scenarios can often put us in a good mood, even when we know they are just dreams. They make us feel good.
A negative mood, on the contrary, is associated with a narrower, more focused approach. This isn’t negative in and of itself, as this type of mood enables a greater attention to detail rather than creative thinking.
The crossover of mood and thinking, of course, extends beyond the creative thinking session; emotions are enduring, sometimes lasting over a period of many years. Until relatively recently, we haven’t paid enough attention to how mood affects our performance, at least in the corporate world. Since moods and emotions often occur just below the level of awareness, these covert emotions can direct our behaviors in ways that we misunderstand simply because we have forgotten their beginnings.
We’re in a bad mood, but we don’t know why. Perhaps it was because of a stinging criticism by the boss or a snub by someone earlier in the day. Whatever the reason, whether it was something justified or not, it is worthwhile to try and trace back the cause of an emotion because once you know why, you can take more control over changing the way you feel.
I am not suggesting, nor is it reasonable to expect though, that we can avoid those negative feelings, for that is the human spectrum of emotion that we cannot escape. Our emotions provide the myriad ways in which we think. But if you’re a leader, it is reasonable to expect you to be aware of how your leadership style is affecting others in the present and over time.
You can either help or hinder the creative process and the motivation of others, by employing those inspirational types of emotions, such as optimism, when the time is right. Optimism is one of the most powerful moods that not only help us think out side the box, but it can also help us overcome the greatest adversity, as has been shown throughout history. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl, is a wonderful example of that. It is also an excellent of applying effective emotional intelligence.