Examinations of real-world settings led to these conclusions: A look at creativity in business environments found that higher stress meant lower creativity. This study also found that individuals higher up in the company’s hierarchy were likely to exhibit higher creativity, which may be more about experiencing lower interpersonal and organizational stress than it is about earning their position through creative thinking.
Another study looked at over 9000 daily journals of participants to try to determine what environments were most likely to facilitate creative thinking. While some high-pressure situations still led to creative outcomes, those instances were rare. High stress and pressure tended to kill creativity; the exception was when there was a narrow scope and a high sense of meaning in the tasks being accomplished. While participants in low-stress environments sometimes went into an uncreative autopilot, lower stress tended to lead to higher levels of creative thinking.
How does stress influence your creative thinking? Do you feel you work better under the gun or in free form? Or is there a happy medium?