When any of the senses is stimulated, so too is the corresponding sector of the brain. Through its often mysterious and always complex functions, the brain also makes intimate links between the senses memory storage and retrieval. Who has not heard a song and relived a significant moment from the past? How about long forgotten smells that can bring back a flood of emotions from some long-forgotten moment? Clearly, the senses are a powerful portal to information stored in the brain.
In a 2011 blog post for Psychology Today, Scott Barry Kauffman reports on a study that links sensory stimulation to the accomplishment of different tasks, some of which involve creative thinking. In this study, participants’ senses were “primed” before being assigned the task. The results showed that sensory stimulation had a significant effect on whether or not the tasks were processed “globally” (big picture) or “locally” (the details). When it comes to creative thinking, both are important, depending on the stage of the creative process. What’s important here is that when it comes to creativity, the senses matter!
This fact is not lost on some of the creative powerhouses of our time. Find a photo of the head office of Google or Facebook (or better still, go visit) and you are in for a sensory feast. Practically every colour is present, along with a plethora of shapes, textures and forms. If smells and tastes could be transmitted virtually, perhaps these senses too would also emanate from the photos as well!
It’s important to remember that if the destination is creativity and innovation, the senses are necessary passengers!