Walk Backwards to Boost Creativity

Changing up your routine by walking backwards may be enough to boost creativity, although it may also lead to a decrease in productivity.

There are a lot of methods out there to help boost creativity. For example, some studies have revealed being bored, fatigued, or even working in a dim and cluttered space can help ignite the creative spark. Here's another tip, brought to you by science: Walk backwards.


BPS writes that our routines can stifle our creativity. A new study shows evidence that changing up a small part of our physical routines can help us break out of our conformity. The study, conducted by lead researcher Eve Errs and her team, was made up of 60 participants split into two groups of 30. One group's members were told to spend their mornings walking backwards, while the other group's members, acting as a control, were told to walk as they always do.

The participants were given two tests at lunchtime to assess creativity. In one, they were told to think of novel uses for a brick and draw pictures of aliens. However, it should be noted that five members of the backwards group could not make it due to injury or getting lost (a common theme in this study). Though, even without these individuals, the backwards group outperformed the control group in concocting more original uses for bricks and more outlandish depictions of aliens.

In a follow-up experiment, the researchers applied their idea to employees at a tech startup company. All staff on one floor were required to walk backwards for a week, but this time they were issued safety helmets complete with mirrors to help them see what lay behind/ahead of them. All other staff members on other floors were told to go about their day as usual.

Managers reported more creative work from the backwards-walking staff, however, it impacted productivity and workflow as a result of an increase in coffee spills and spontaneous laughter.

Errs explained to the BPS that people don't necessarily need to walk backwards in order to boost their creativity:

"Take any mundane activity, do it in reverse, and you encourage your mind to think differently, to shake off the constraints of habit and conformity. Have dinner at breakfast, or have a shower before you exercise, the possibilities are endless."

Update: While the study seemed quite silly, I presumed the research reported at BPS was factual. It seems I forgot to mind the date when I wrote this post. Happy April Fools.

As to how this state of creativity is achieved, Errs doesn't provide any insight there. However, Steven Kotler, the author of The Rise of Superman, explains the neurochemical changes that allow us to achieve these "flow states" that strengthen our motivation, creativity, and learning:

The 4 types of thinking talents: Analytic, procedural, relational and innovative

Understanding thinking talents in yourself and others can build strong teams and help avoid burnout.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to collaborate within a team and identify "thinking talent" surpluses – and shortages.
  • Angie McArthur teaches intelligent collaboration for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Do you have a self-actualized personality? Maslow revisited

Rediscovering the principles of self-actualisation might be just the tonic that the modern world is crying out for.

Personal Growth

Abraham Maslow was the 20th-century American psychologist best-known for explaining motivation through his hierarchy of needs, which he represented in a pyramid. At the base, our physiological needs include food, water, warmth and rest.

Keep reading Show less

Brazilian scientists produce mini-brains with eyes

Using a new process, a mini-brain develops retinal cells.

Surprising Science
  • Mini-brains, or "neural organoids," are at the cutting edge of medical research.
  • This is the first one that's started developing eyes.
  • Stem cells are key to the growing of organoids of various body parts.
Keep reading Show less

Believe in soulmates? You're more likely to 'ghost' romantic partners.

Does believing in true love make people act like jerks?

Thought Catalog via Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • Ghosting, or cutting off all contact suddenly with a romantic partner, is not nice.
  • Growth-oriented people (who think relationships are made, not born) do not appreciate it.
  • Destiny-oriented people (who believe in soulmates) are more likely to be okay with ghosting.
Keep reading Show less