A recent study by the research group Flurry found that mobile consumers spend an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes daily on mobile devices—continually stimulated by information. Yet studies also suggest we get our most original ideas when we stop being stimulated and let ourselves get bored.
A recent NPR story cited a study by U.K. psychologist Sandi Mann, who asked subjects to do something really boring and then try a creative task. Participants came up with their most novel ideas when performing the most boring task of all—reading the phone book. Mann says when we're bored, we're searching for something to stimulate us, noting, "We might go off in our heads to try and find that stimulation…and you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit in the subconscious, which allows different connections to take place.” Studies also show that smartphones impinge on our ability to do "autobiographical planning" or goal setting, which may keep us stuck in a rut.
Mann is now on a mission to “bring back boredom." As longtime advocates of the power of the pause and the benefits of silence, we endorse his vision. Visit this NPR link to learn how to track your Smartphone use.
We want to hear! When do you get your most creative ideas? If you’ve tried cutting back on cell phone use, did your creativity grow? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
3/3/2015 04:20:35 am
I tend to get great ideas while weeding in my garden, or bicycling to/from work on the bike path (no cars to worry about crashing into me). Never tried reading the phone book!
3/3/2015 06:25:08 am
I get that Liz. I often get my most creative thoughts when I am hiking. And I can also relate to being tethered to a device with no creative ideas! Thanks for your insight.
3/3/2015 11:39:35 pm
Hello Susan and Liz,
3/4/2015 05:34:48 am
A question we have struggled with too. Here are some of the ways we capture our insights from hikes and other times: 1) pause and record in iPhone or send text message to myself. 2) hold details in my mind (a good memory practice in itself:) and then put in email to myself the second I return home 3) notes all around the house which I put into an organized email a couple times a week. Guessing Liz has some other ways. Thanks for the question Roland.
3/4/2015 04:55:25 am
I often get creative ideas when I am out running in the country. Plenty of time to think and reflect. I have to travel for business and waiting in airports is a good time to sit down and focus.
3/4/2015 05:19:55 am
Would love to learn more about you focus creatively in the airport, Simon. We have plenty of that! And I can't say we use it creatively.
3/4/2015 05:38:46 am
I try and find a relatively quiet spot in a cafe or lounge which is away from the stream of people. Granted this is not always easy to do ! I take a journal and record any thoughts or ideas.
3/4/2015 05:43:16 am
Will try to search out such a quiet spot and try your method. At least we will have plenty of practice!
8/21/2016 03:33:28 pm
Sometimes when I am particularly stressed or overloaded with a dilemma, be it work or personal, I skip the iPad while taking my daily walk. I don't focus on the problem, just let my mind go free and put one foot in front of the other. Often by the time I complete my walk, I've come up with a path forward.
8/22/2016 10:50:24 am
Couldn't agree more Melissa. We have often said that our best thinking comes during hikes. It is clear to us that a value-add we offer our clients is thinking/talking about them during our hikes. Great solutions just seem to emerge exercising in the woods!
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