Brainstorming in the Dark

brainstormingJust close your eyes for a moment. What do you see? Nothing. You hit the bull’s eye.

There is darkness and that is pure creative freedom.

In a study, scientists of German Technical University of Dortmund compared the creativity of people in a light room to those of people in a completely shaded room. The result: The test group in total darkness was 30 percent more creative than their illuminated comparison group.

In September 2012, some months before the German weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT published the results online, we conducted a similar experiment at Ketchum Pleon Munich. Inspired by an art performance project in total eclipse during (d)OCUMENTA 13, we entirely shaded a conference room with cardboard and black tape.

The experiment was supposed to find answers to one question: What actually happens when people brainstorm without their most important sense – the eye? Participants and facilitators all had the same experience: Cutting of vision leads to more sensitivity of all remaining senses.

Precisely, my theses for brainstorming in the dark are as follows:

  • Dark-thinkers are more focused on the matter. Due to the absence of any visual distraction, dark-thinkers are not deflected from the brainstorming purpose but stay focused much longer.
  • Dark-thinkers expand time. Absolute darkness means a reduction of stimuli. If our brain processes less information, other usually busy capacities are set free. This capacity is used for problem-solving and the participants reach a broader variety of possible answers in the same time span.
  • More bravery throughout the group. Nearly everyone knows: During a brainstorming there is freedom of ideas, but somehow we still judge and assess the thoughts of our fellow campaigners. In the dark we cannot see the reactions of other brainstorming participants. As a result we become more courageous during the session instead of taking ourselves back. With other words: Darkness presents intellectual freedom.

Focusing on the problem, higher concentration, best usage of available resources as well as openness and breaking through boundaries are characteristics which support creative problem solving.