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Using Summer's End To Boost Your Creativity

Hammering away at your desk is doing nothing for your creative juices.


In a recent interview, New York Mayor and entrepreneur Michael Bloomberg attributed his success to getting to work early, never taking vacations, and skipping bathroom breaks. Success, he argues, comes with hard work, toil, and bladder control.

But is Bloomberg’s recipe for success any good? In a corporate setting, it may increase your chances of being noticed by your superiors. But it can squash your chance at being creative and inspired.

And these days isn’t being a creative innovator what gets you noticed?

To increase your creativity you need to learn how to drop out from time to time, leave the grid, and take some personal time. You need to surround yourself by people who don’t know you or what you do. You need to live in a completely different environment. You need to escape your context.

Gustave Flaubert famously said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” But Flaubert didn’t really follow his own advice. During a creative lull he escaped to Egypt and lived a wild, crazy life. When he returned to France he began work on Madame Bovary--his best, most renowned work.

When Steve Jobs was 19 he should have been finishing up college and trying to settle on a serious career. Instead, he left for India in an attempt to find a spiritual guide. He spent seven months there, wandering around without shoes on. He learned a lot about himself and began to embrace a counterculture. His experiences led him to look at the world in a new, creative way.

Benjamin Franklin visited Europe before the Revolutionary War and spent many years away from his desk. Instead, he hung out with great thinkers, scientists, and powerful statesman. He spent a week with David Hume, met King Louis XV, and witnessed firsthand the poverty of Ireland. His experiences solidified his anti-British beliefs. When he returned to the colonies he lent his powerful pen and his European connections to the American Revolution.

Vacations or long periods of time spent away from the daily routine can help trigger creativity, fresh ideas, and new, life-changing beliefs. Sitting at your desk for long periods of time can be productive, but it can also limit your creative output.

If you want to be more creative, use these end days of summer to explore and have fun. And don’t worry about using the bathroom.

Last updated: Sep 3, 2013

SAMUEL B. BACHARACH | Columnist | Director, Cornell's Institute of Workplace Studies

Samuel B. Bacharach is the McKelvey-Grant professor in the department of organizational behavior at Cornell University's ILR School, and is director of Cornell's Institute for Workplace Studies in New York City. Among his books are Get Them on Your Side and Keep Them on Your Side. His latest volume, A Good Idea Is Not Enough: Leading for Change and Innovation, will be published this November by BLG.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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