Does Manchester's rain improve Creativity?

I was looking out the window at Manchester's ever falling rain drops thinking can these grey skies help us to be more creative?

According to the social psychologist Joe Forgas the secret lies in the dull negative feelings that this type of weather brings. He has spent the past decade investigating the link between negative moods and creativity. Most people aren’t big fans of feeling low but according to Forgas it’s these very feelings that increase our attention and allow us to become more observant.

In order to explore this he set up one of his most important studies which took place in a Sydney stationery shop. As well as the usual retail items he placed a number of items on the checkout, plastic animals, plastic toy soldiers and also Matchbox cars.  As shoppers left the store Forgas tested their memory asking them what items they could remember on the counter.

To test the links between the weather, mood and attention, Forgas would only conduct the test on really sunny days and very rainy days. On the rainy days he would play Verdi’s Requiem to accentuate the gloom. On the sunny days he would play a chirpy composition by Gilbert and Sullivan. The results were clear, the shoppers on rainy days remembered nearly four times as many items as those on the sunny days. The rain affected their mood in a negative way, but this low mood in return had made them more attentive.

So it could be Manchester’s rainy days that give us the attention and observation we need to keep looking, pushing, re-drawing and striving for a more creative answer. That attention and observation which allows Manchester’s creative scene to flourish and compete with the biggest cities in the world. So here is to Manchester and here’s to rainy days.


Pace of Life

Slowly moving up to the big city from the ever busy London underground, people are stepping past me on the escalator in a bid to get somewhere fast, it seems everyone is in a rush.

That was on Monday, by the Wednesday I was on the outside lane of the escalator speeding past people. Not because I was late just because London has a speed, a pace that sucks you in and before you know it you’re walking as fast as everyone else.

A study by Bornstein & Bornstein (1976) showed that the walking speed of pedestrians is positively correlated with the size of the city. They concluded the higher walking speed of people in larger cities was a psychological response to stimulatory overload. London certainly has this overload in plenty.

A new study by psychologist Richard Wiseman revealed that this walking speed has increased by 10% in the last decade. An article by the New Scientist reports on the study measuring the average walking speed over a distance of 18 meters in cities around the world, where surprisingly London is ranked 12th.

This pace of life is addictive, people want to come to the city, they want to get the perceived best jobs, to earn the best wages. However Companies in the North of England are now growing at the fastest pace seen in any UK region. It will be interesting to see the changes in the North, especially in Manchester over the next decade, with more and more industry moving here. The BBC have created media city, pulling in hundreds of new jobs and feeding the northern media houses. Will all this influx result in a different pace for the city and a different walking speed on the streets?


Art of the Menu

Dotted around the Soho area of London are a number a fantastic restaurants, all serving a small amount of dishes. Each of these dishes are brilliantly made, featuring the best ingredients, sourced seasonally from experts in the food trade. You may think that having a limited menu would limit the amount of customers coming through the door, less choice means less chance of pleasing everyone. However these restaurants are never empty. You can walk around Soho any night of the week and most of them are stacked out.

What they do, they do really well, and they keep it simple. Less choice means less confusion and more emphasis and time spent on what is produced. This means that every dish eaten should be a winning dish. Customers and critics get to know this, people trust what the chef is producing and which ingredients he is choosing. This all results in foot fall, happy customers spread the word and new customers are created.

Any business can learn from this. Keep your sell simple and focused, less is more. Concentrate on making a few great things, rather than lots of OK things. Make sure everything you produce is as good and refined as it can be. Most importantly make it easy for your customers, so they know exactly what they will be getting from you, in the Soho restaurants case ‘a carefully selected menu of fantastic dishes’.


Pause for thought

In a world were decisiveness is key in business, the art of thinking can be overshadowed by the need for action. Thinking is such an important part of the creative process and the quality of that thinking ultimately leads to a better output. The mulling over and creation of ideas, the sparks of magic that happen in the brain, the thoughts that lead to amazing outputs all need time to grow and develop. The best outputs come from a simple 3 step process. Think - Plan - Do. Each step being as important as the other. So don’t forget to think.