Surprise: The Secret Ingredient for Enhanced Creativity and Fulfillment

A Banksy artwork “Love is in the Bin” formerly “Girl with Balloon” was sold for a record £16m after shedding itself at a previous auction, where it was estimated to be sold for £1m.

When was the last time you had a wide-eyed wonder moment? That feeling of great surprise and pleasure when something unexpected or maybe impossible occurs.

I find the phenomenon of surprise fascinating. For better or for worse, when you’re surprised, your emotions intensify up to 400%. As it turns out, the brain’s pleasure centre lights up like a Christmas tree when you experience something unexpected and wonderful. Not only do you get a nice boost of dopamine, the brain releases noradrenaline, which is a the neurotransmitter responsible for focus and concentration. Surprise encourages curiosity and learning and can be a powerful catalyst for creativity in every aspects of life.

Think about the element of surprise in humor, being that magical ingredient that effortlessly transforms ordinary moments into bursts of laughter. Surprise catches the audience off guard with the unexpected, well-timed punchline or an unforeseen twist in the comedic narrative. In literature, films and any other storytelling context, surprise serves as the narrative catalyst with unexpected plot twists or unforeseen character developments that grips emotions of the audiences. In music, surprise can be observed through unexpected tempo change, chord progression, shift of dynamic, anything that adds intrigue and also innovation to the composition. Beyond the arts, surprise plays a crucial role in science. The core of every paradigm-shifting scientific breakthrough is being observant and curious about unanticipated results or outcomes, then challenging your knowledge and completely shifting the entire trajectory of the research.

In all these contexts, the phenomenon of surprise is the powerful tool for evoking emotions, inspiring creativity, and pushing through the unknown, but, above all that, it’s also contagious fun. The more surprise there is in your life, the more joy you bring to yourself and others. 

If you are looking for ways to boost creativity in your workplace, here are few ways where surprise can help.

Random Rewards
Celebrate and recognize people’s efforts without in creative ways, not necessarily making a big deal out of it. Offer unexpected rewards, bonuses or incentives to employees who exceed expectations or go above and beyond their regular duties. Unexpectedly celebrate individual and team milestones, whether work-related or maybe even personal. Foster a culture of appreciation and camaraderie in the company. Send hand-written thank-you notes or give standing ovations, bringing in the old-school recognition methods as forgotten novelty. There is a beautiful emotional connection directly attached to handwriting, don’t resist disposing emotions and getting a bit personal, we are all humans after all. 

Celebrate Unconventional Holidays
Add a touch of humour and joy to the workplace by acknowledging quirky and lesser-known holidays with surprise low-key celebrations. It could be done by organising surprise theme days, where employees can dress up or participate in fun activities or simply enjoy a change of routine. You can even combine it with the employee hidden talents showcase. Nothing brings more proximity, connection and the spirit of creativity than actually getting to know each other better from different aspects. 

Guest Speakers
Arrange surprise visits from inspiring guest speakers to share insights and knowledge with the team. Since, we are covering the topic of surprise and creativity, make sure that the guest speakers are not directly connected to the professional domains of employees. The goal is to expand the world outlook and perspectives and light up different bulbs in the brain to get people inspired.  

Bring Art to Your Office
Refresh the work environment with a new art installation. Create more opportunities to exposure to various forms of artistic expression. Run weekly Creative Morning Sessions or organize a creative start of big strategic planning day. Nothing stimulates your brain than exposure to art and artistic expression.

And as for adding a bit of surprise into your daily life, here are some tried and tested recommendations. 

Embrace Spontaneity
Go on impromptu trips to nearby destinations without extensive planning, enter a new cafe and order a drink that you normally don’t, wander around the hidden gems of your city, pick a random book from a bookstore from a genre or author you have never explored before, watch a non-mainstream film, enroll in a workshop or a class, like yoga, painting, cooking on short notice. And my personal favourite on the spontaneity list, give a friend a phone call, for no particular reason, but just because…

Be open to Random Acts of Kindness and See Unplanned Encounters
Surprise someone with a random act of kindness, whether it’s paying for a stranger’s coffee or leaving an uplifting note for a neighbour or striking up a present conversation with a stranger. Explore your emotions, experience emotions in new ways, and if this seems like something out of your comfort zone, grant yourself the luxury of some subtle, effortless discomfort. 

Have a Tech-Detox and Artistic Expression Day
Unplug from all technology for a whole day, spend quality time with loved ones or in solitude and engage in all kinds of offline activities. Try something new, could be going on a hike or experimenting with a new art form : pottery, sculpting, collaging, drawing, doodling, playing a musical instrument or dancing. Free float in creativity without any expectations and see where it’s taking you.

Embrace spontaneity from time to time, surprise others as well as yourself.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to boosting your creative thinking. The key lies in exploring a range of unrelated pursuits, inviting creativity to unfold naturally.