Ever been told off for daydreaming or not focusing at the task in hand? Well psychologists now believe that doing so can help you to become more creative and that boring meetings could be helping you as they give your mind a chance to wander off. Two studies conducted by the University of Central Lancashire suggested that daydreaming and staring into space at work can boost your brain’s creativity and could help the business.
Dr Sandi Mann, the senior psychology lecturer behind the research, said that there are negative views on boredom, especially in the workplace; however these are great opportunities to collect our thoughts and let our minds wander. The research suggests that they may have potential workplace benefits as it increases the opportunity for lateral thinking that can help to improve problem solving.
Testing Boredom and Creativity
In each study, research participants were given deliberately boring tasks to complete followed by another task where their creativity could be studied. Those who had to do the boring task before the second were more likely to perform better in the creative task. The findings of these studies will be presented at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society Division of Occupational Psychology in Chester and highlighting that it may be counter-productive for a stimulating job to never have downtime for people to gather their thoughts.
The studies focused on the effects ‘passive’ boredom has on a person, for example when staring off into space during a meeting or at your desk. The first study involved 40 participants copying numbers out of a phone book for 15 minutes. Following this, they were tasked with coming up with different uses for a pair of polystyrene cups that allowed them to showcase their creativity. The group of 40 who had to copy from the phone book displayed a greater range of creative ideas than a second group of 40 who didn’t complete the first task.
In order to check if daydreaming was a factor to increase creativity, a second boring task was introduced that further promoted the participants opportunity to daydream. This involved 30 people copying out telephone numbers similar to the previous task, this time a second group of 30 were introduced who were required to read the numbers instead of write them.
These experiments suggest that the more passive an activity is, for example reading or attending meetings can lead to people being more creative. Tasks such as writing reduced the ability for people to daydream which led to a reduction in improving creativity. This is why stimulating jobs that offer no down time for the worker reduces their creative ability and could be counter-productive for their employer.
These experiments could be used to think of boredom in the workplace in a different light, perhaps it isn’t something that should be looked at with disdain but embraced to help channel workers creativity. Dr Mann wants to delve further into this topic to discover what practical implications can be drawn from these findings, for example – do people bored at work channel their creativity in other aspects of their job or do they go home and channel their creativity elsewhere?
Gareth writes on a number of business related topics on behalf of AXA PPP healthcare who provider a number of business healthcare benefits including self employed health insurance cover