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Stuck? Change the light bulb in your office!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010
posted by Douglas Keene

You’ve done all the depositions. You’ve worked on witness testimony. You’ve fleshed out case narrative. But. Something is simply wrong.  Something is missing. You are stuck. There is nothing fresh or intriguing in how you are thinking about presenting the case. And you just read some new research saying it is possible to literally die of boredom and you are thinking of the headlines when one (or more) of your jurors expires on the spot.

Fortunately for you, there is research that can help you. (I bet you knew we were going to say that.) And this is a bit odd. The old-fashioned incandescent light bulb may be the universal symbol of bright ideas for a reason. Students exposed to a bare light bulb solved problems faster than those sitting under a fluorescent fixture. And the finding is consistent over a variety of studies. So, maybe, if you stare at a bare light bulb, you will suddenly have powerful insights (and neither your jurors or your case will die of boredom).

And there are other ways to trigger creativity as well. Once you change out that light bulb (or remove the lamp shade), try some of the seven different ways to boost your creativity as presented by PsyBlog.

  • They recommend gaining psychological distance; going fast forward in time; making the situation simply absurd; using bad mood; combining opposites; taking the path of most resistance; or re-conceptualizing the situation.

Whichever path you take (the exposed light bulb or cognitive strategies to spur creativity), the idea is to refocus your attention and take a fresh look at your case. You can do this by leaving the office for a while, talking to bright friends or colleagues about your case, running it by family members and seeing what draws their attention—and in other ways as well. Don’t stay stuck. Find a path out and refocus your attention.

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