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How Boredom Promulgates Creativity in Business

CCA LiveE | Tuesday November 27th, 2012 | 1 Comment

This is part of a series of articles by MBA students at California College of the Arts dMBA program. Follow along here.

By Jesse Meyer-Appel

One might think that boredom doesn’t create creativity and success in the business world, but contrary to belief, it does. According to Baroness Greenfield, an eminent neuroscientist at Oxford University, “Boredom encourages creativity. Children’s bedrooms littered with bears receiving emergency treatment or dolls circumnavigating the turbulent ‘carpet seas’ are everyday evidence of how boredom fires the imagination.”

The same sort of inspiration is created in the business world vis-à-vis boredom.  This is all related to a phenomenon that’s been identified by Edward de Bono, the legendary creative thinker.  He calls it the “creative pause.”

In de Bono’s book, Serious Creativity, he asserts that even when things are going along, well, swimmingly, “some of the best results come when people stop to think about things that no one else has stopped to think about.”  Most people are unaware of what creative pauses are.  They are happening wherever people are solving problems.  They occur among CEOs, design directors, small-business entrepreneurs, and commonplace jobs.  The creative pause allows the space for your mind to drift, to imagine and to shift, opening it up to new ways of seeing.

However, the “creative pause” might soon become a thing of the past.  Boredom forces you to ponder and extrapolate on ideas plain and simple. But, boredom is at the tipping point to becoming extinct because of technology. We are always interacting or playing with a piece of technology in our down time where we would be “bored” normally.  This negates our creativity and the ideation processes that would naturally occur.

Also, when I am referring to boredom, I mean bored as in doing absolutely nothing.   Try to remember the last time you were really bored?  I mean like BORED.  Recollect when we were young.  When you were younger what did you do for fun?  I, personally, was incredibly active and out and about everywhere.  I went out, explored, got into trouble, got inspired by nature, and did physically active things.

Boredom exacerbates our creative outlets by forcing us to come up with new ways to entertain ourselves.  The same correlation can be made in businesses today.  Now we sit on our couch and play on our computers, iPads, iPhones, and video game consoles, connected; but not really connected to the world. We are constantly being bombarded with stimuli and because of this, we have lost that intrinsic parallel between boredom and creativity. The next questions that come to mind are: what kinds of impact will this have on creativity and innovation in the future?  Will they be eliminated completely?  Just stifled?  Which is losing, creativity or our thought process?

When we’re at our most bored, we’re forced to push our creative boundaries and unearth the root of whatever problem we’re working on. A quick glance around and you’ll notice that it’s almost impossible to be bored in our current environment. Your eyes will be drawn to the visual stimuli that are now everywhere, sapping whatever creative thoughts you could be having.

Creativity is not a natural process in the brain. It goes against the natural process of following patterns. Because so many tasks that we as humans used to be responsible for doing are now automated or done in a digital fashion, we are slowly losing the ability to be creative. The worst part is now it’s not by choice any more. Because of the advances in modern, everyday technology and its integration into our lives, there is a stark contrast between the creative process today vs. the past.

However, there is a movement being made to make sure that this doesn’t happen. And that movement is Design Thinking and Design Strategy.  Both of these new ways of thinking incubate the creativity that we have become so disconnected from.

Wikipedia’s Definition of Design Thinking “refers to the methods and processes for investigating ill-defined problems, acquiring information, analyzing knowledge, and positing solutions in the design and planning fields. As a style of thinking, it is generally considered the ability to combine empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyze and fit solutions to the context.  While design thinking has become part of the popular lexicon in contemporary design and engineering practice, as well as business and management, its broader use in describing a particular style of creative thinking-in-action is having an increasing influence on twenty-first century education across disciplines.”

So there is hope for creativity!

Photo by Adam Jones adamjones.freeservers.com


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  • Dongjulio

    Brilliant