MADISON, Wis., Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Offering children a chance to play with Legos can help foster young creative minds. But the structure of neatly fitting blocks can stifle creativity in adults. What gives?
According to a new study, asking adults to solve a well-defined problem using Legos can have a dampening effect on their creativity.
As part of an experiment conducted by researchers in Norway and the United States, adults were asked to build structures with Legos. Some were armed with specific, step-by-step instructions, while others were left to their creative whims. Those that were given a "well-defined problem" and relevant instructions were more likely to perform poorly on subsequent creative tasks.
Researchers say adults that solve well-defined problems tend to look for more well-defined problems and solutions. In other words, if the creativity muscle isn't stretched-out and flexed from the outset, it's less likely to be used moving forward.
"Well-defined problems are becoming ever more common -- we Google something, for instance, rather than struggling to retrieve information from our memory -- and that can be having negative effects on our creativity," researchers wrote in their new study on the subject, published by the Journal of Marketing Research.
"Managers and policymakers should become more aware of the way in which things like routine tasks can make an employee ill-suited for creative work and how standardized testing, by encouraging the use of well-defined problems, can hamper imaginative thinking."