Now, I know the easy piece to publish right now would be some sort of Presidential/Trump bashing article about how Donald is going to effect the world (Notice how I said “Effect” and not “ruin”. I’ll save that rant for another day), but everyone is reading and regurgitation that dribble, so I’m going to completely avoid the topic. Instead, I’m going to talk about a TED talk that I recently watched.
This talk, by Adam Grant, was about “Original thinkers” and how their work process is different to the average Joe’s. He explained that a creative thinker is far more likely to procrastinate; they will start the project quickly but will then leave it on the back burner while they do absolutely anything else.
Procrastinators are often deemed as lazy because they can’t be bothered to finish off their work, but Adam Grant wanted to battle that stereotype and prove that procrastination is actually a worthwhile process when developing an idea. His explanation for this was that procrastinating actually allows the brain to subconsciously keep the ideas floating around your head while you online shop, watch cat videos. Therefore, when the deadline is only a day away, the creative thinker will approach the task having actually been thinking about it for days and be able to quickly complete the task with a fresh, before unseen creative conclusion. He raised the point that the people who head in and continue battling a task without any rest are far more likely to get tunnel vision and become stuck within the confines that they themselves have created.
The tests that Adam Grant and his team constructed were designed to test the correlation between procrastination and creativity. They had 3 different study groups which were set to work on trying to create new business ideas; the first was set to work on the task straight away, the second and third groups were encouraged to procrastinate by playing minesweeper for either 5 or 10 minutes. The work was then analysed by independent readers to determine how creative the ideas were. It turned out that the 5 minute procrastinators were 16% more creative than the other two groups. Five minutes was just enough time to allow for the idea to develop, but 10 minutes was too long and the ideas fall victim to Minesweeper. Something to mention is that if you start procrastinating before starting the task it obviously doesn’t have the same affect. It is only once the idea is in your head that, as Adam says, it starts to incubate, evolve and develop divergent ideas.
This got me thinking about business, and how businesses are always on the hunt for creative ideas that are going to give them the competitive edge. Using aspects from Adam Hunt’s experiment, businesses may be able to increase productivity with mandatory procrastination. If every half an hour you were given five minutes to procrastinate, you may develop ideas, increase creativity and therefore increase productivity. It seems that by allowing the brain to relax and wander actually allows it to develop the ideas that may have puzzled you for hours before. Procrastinators, at least the moderate ones, should no longer be grouped with the lazy; instead they should be allowed to procrastinate rather than scorned and forced to work. Adam Hunt’s test could also be used in interview processes to test whether the candidate has what it takes to procrastinate efficiently.
To conclude, if businesses want to have new, fresh, creative ideas then they are going to have to be open to using new, fresh, creative methods when finding their star employee. They may just have to understand that they’re going to play minesweeper every so often.