Socrates warns us, "Beware the barrenness of a busy life."

If you want to solve your creative conundrums, try boring yourself to death first.  Yup.  There is a growing body of scientific and academic research that supports the theory that boredom boosts creativity.  

Most recently, a new study out of Georgia Tech, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, posited a strong correlation between a person's tendency to daydream and the efficacy of their brains.  This study records evidence that participants in the Georgia Tech study who were easily bored or prone to daydreaming actually had more efficient brains--they had a higher level of intellectual and creative ability, as measured by MRI brain scans and IQ tests.

Eric Schumacher, co-author of the Georgia Tech study opines that people tend to think of a wandering mind as a sign of laziness, lack of focus, or stupidity.  He avers that his data indicates quite the opposite.  Rather, people who daydream often have more efficient brains.  This higher efficiency means more ability to think, thus allowing the brain, while still accomplishing immediate tasks, to wander.

In an October 26, 2017 article in, Schumacher is quoted as saying: 

"Our findings remind me of the absent-minded professor--someone who's brilliant, but off in his or her own world, sometimes oblivious to their own surroundings.  Or school children who are too intellectually advanced for their classes.  While it may take five minutes for their friends to learn something new, they figure it out in a minute, then check out and start daydreaming. ...People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad.  You try to pay attention and you can't.  Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn't always true.  Some people have more efficient brains."

Furthermore, the boredom that often sparks our absent-minded maundering (daydreaming) may actually enhance the creativity and innovativeness of our work.

Note the research of Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman at the University of Central Lancashire testing the creative power of boredom.  In two rounds of studies, subjects were either assigned the job of copying numbers from a phone book or assigned to a control group which skipped the boring task.  All subjects were then asked to generate as many uses as possible for a pair of plastic cups.  Mann and Cadman discovered that the subjects who were intentionally bored with the phone book task invented many more uses for the plastic cups. 

Mann and Cadman's findings point to the conclusion that boredom generated by common mindless tasks (like reading reports, attending tedious meeting, or other passive activities) heightens what Mann and Cadman call the "daydreaming effect" on creativity--that being that the greater the boredom, the more likely the daydreaming, with a concomitant  increase in creative problem solving capacity.

In other words, boredom generates creativity.  In practical terms a business leader needs to structure time for just staring at the walls or looking out the window.  Time just for boredom.  Time just for nothingness. 

In 2016, The Economist did an article on Mihaly Csikszenmihalyi of Claremont Graduate University, who, in researching a book in the early 1990s, asked 275 creative thinkers if he could interview them.  The Economist relates, "A third did not bother to reply at all and another third refused to take part.  [Csikszentmihalyi's own colleague at CGU, Peter Drucker, summed up the mood of the refuseniks:  'One of the secrets of productivity is to have a very big waste-paper basket to take care of all invitations such as yours.']  Creative people's most important resource is their time--particularly big chunks of uninterrupted time...Indeed, creative people may be at their most productive when, to the manager's untutored eye, they appear to be doing nothing." 

Current science increasingly indicates that by engaging in daydreaming before we take on problem-solving tasks, we can create a clearing that nurtures creative solutions and allows new thought.

Published on: Jan 22, 2018
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