How Does Our Creative Brain Work?

Have you always wanted to how our brain works? Why a brainstorming session is the worst way to be creative? Paul Smit is a comedian and a frequent speaker at conferences who knows all about our brain and creativity.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Have you always wanted to how our brain works? Why a brainstorming session is the worst way to be creative? Paul Smit is a comedian and a frequent speaker at conferences who knows all about our brain and creativity.


Hi Paul! Welcome to our studio.




The big question, how does our brain work? … It’s a very big one.


Yes, it’s a very big one. What I am mostly talking about when I’m doing talks for companies is the difference between our rational mind and our struggling mind. So we got approximately 30,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day.


That’s impressive.


That’s really impressive. About 5% is really useful, is creative and usually they come alive. But 95% it’s the struggling mind. I mostly say it’s the Statler and Waldorf. You know, they are from the Muppets. They are on the balcony and saying constantly, it should have been this and what is this. If you listen to Statler and Waldorf, it will be a huge struggle in your daily life.


In lot of companies, people organize a brainstorming session, especially to be creative. But then if I hear this story, then it’s probably not a good idea.


No, mostly a brainstorm session is telling about your Statler & Waldorf and then he will tell his Statler & Waldorf and that’s what we call a meeting. And if we look at neural science that figures out that the brainstorm session is the worst way to become creative.


But what should we do then, instead of the brainstorming session?


Instead of that a new idea, whether it’s a new song or you are doing a painting or with a sport, the creative things they pop-up when this Statler & Waldorf part of brain shuts down. So we mostly try to think real hard to become creative when it’s the opposite way. It’s like relaxing. So if you are really worrying about stuff we tend to think even harder and worry more in order to find a solution but the best way if you look at neural science is stop doing everything, take a walk in the park, and go do some sports or whatever.


But you know what is funny, I put it in the agendas of my team, instead of the brainstorming session to go for a walk in the park. Everybody would look historical. 


But you should do it. Because everyone knows that this is, even whether it is an artist or a businessman, the creative ideas: they suddenly popup in your head. You do not create the idea. It’s the creative idea, which will find you whenever it’s there. So you do not control creativity that way.


And are it the same Muppets that are talking to you when for example you need to go on stage for a speech.


Yes, absolutely. So mostly if a director has to do a speech, the Statler and Waldorf will tell him one day in advance. This has to be good, what will people think of you? You may not fail. And they type in their text and the just read it very irrationally. But it does nothing with the audience. It’s like another speech, really boring. So what we like is when someone is doing the speech when we talk. We got no idea what he will say, it’s just spontaneous and it flows. If someone is doing this on stage, it’s nice then to listen to the guy.


How you get him shut up then?


Well it’s the recognition. That those Statler and Waldorf that they are just there. But you are not your thoughts. So once you realize it, it’s just a lot of noise. You stop believing it.


That’s being aware of the fact that they are there.


Yes, more awareness of your thoughts. That’s what is it about.


You are a frequent asked speaker on conferences. So you work in the event industry as a speaker. In your experience what do you see happening with giving that in mind on events?


While sometimes when I enter an event, all the people who are organize it, they seem to have panic in their eyes. Is this going to be good and…


Yes, event managing is one of top five most stressful jobs in the world. There was a questionnaire about it recently…


But every event you have a planning but it always goes in a different direction. I’ve never been in an event that starts at exactly the same time that’s in the schedule. So a planning is good but you have to leave some space for freedom and spontaneous things to happen. And people like that.


To conclude with, what would be the last event advice you will want to give to our viewers?


Well, first the recognition that you are not the struggling brain. And that you do not have full control of anything in your life. Things will always go in a different way. So be flexible. Be creative. And things will work out fine.


Ok. Thank you very much Paul.


Ok. Thanks.


And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next time.