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Proven Strategies Used to Spark Creative Thinking

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

For those that procrastinate, you’re going to like this.

In an interview with Business Insider, former Twitter executive Bruce Daisley who now writes about the science of work, recommends that employees carve out time to let their mind wander. The idea of allowing yourself to get distracted is what he believes spurs the most creativity.

We live in a world where creativity and innovation are the keys to a competitive edge. We no longer value technical skills over soft skills.

Rushing from one pitch to the next, and then to four different open houses may be inhibiting your ability to innovate, in turn making you less successful.

"When you look at people who are creative, inventive, original, they often don't spend their time trying to be productive all the time," Daisley told Business Insider.

Successful people like Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin have used distraction to spur more creative thinking.

"The time Steve Jobs was putting things off and noodling on possibilities was time well spent in letting more divergent ideas come to the table," Wharton professor Adam Grant previously told Business Insider. That's in contrast to "diving right in with the most conventional, the most obvious, the most familiar."

Award-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the 2010 film "The Social Network," on the origins of Facebook, is a prime example of the benefits of mind-wandering. According to Men's Health, Sorkin takes up to six showers a day to overcome writer's block. Sorkin isn't alone: Studies show that at least 72% of people get their best ideas in the shower, Business Insider's Jacquelyn Smith reported.

In his book, Daisley writes that another way to trigger divergent thinking is to go for a walk.

"To be creative we need to let our minds wander and imagine," Daisley writes. That's considerably harder when we're bouncing from emails to meetings to an Excel spreadsheet, he added, when "our executive attention network is fully fired up."

Not sold yet? Anecdotal evidence about the benefits of indulging in distractions is backed by research.

Harvard University psychologist Shelley H. Carson, the author of "Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life," told Fast Company that being distracted can facilitate creativity.

"In some ways, distractions are a form of mindfulness — being mindful of your environment and noticing more new things," Carson told Fast Company. That might be the arc of a branch outside your office or the fabric of the chair you're sitting on. "Being open to them allows for the ability to take bits of information and combine them in novel ways that are useful or adaptive."

That ability to combine different pieces of information in novel ways is also called divergent thinking, and it underpins creativity.



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