Apparently, we are less creative when trying to solve our own problems. There's this concept of "psychological distance" which partially controls our creativity. And this psychological distance can be created artificially by simply changing the way we thinking about the problem. For example, consider this study where participants were given a problem to solve, and it needed a creative insight (an "Aha" moment):
participants were told that the questions were developed either by a research institute located in California, "around 2,000 miles away" (distant condition), or in Indiana, "2 miles away," (near condition). In a third, control group no information regarding location was mentioned. As expected, participants in the distant condition solved more problems than participants in the proximal condition and in the control condition. Because the problems seemed farther away, they were easier to solve.
This pair of studies suggests that even minimal cues of psychological distance can make us more creative. Although the geographical origin of the various tasks was completely irrelevant – it shouldn’t have mattered where the questions came from – simply telling subjects that they came from somewhere far away led to more creative thoughts.
These results build on previous studies which demonstrated that distancing in time – projecting an event into the remote future – and assuming an event to be less likely (that is, distancing on the probability dimension) can also enhance creativity.
In a series of experiments that examined how temporal distance affects performance on various insight and creativity tasks, participants were first asked to imagine their lives a year later (distant future) or the next day (near future), and then to imagine working on a task on that day in the future. Participants who imagined a distant future day solved more insight problems than participants who imagined a near future day.