Boredom at Work Can Spur Creativity, Studies Find

THURSDAY Jan. 10, 2013 -- Being bored at work may boost some people's creativity because it gives them time to daydream, new research suggests.

In one study, 40 volunteers were asked to copy numbers from a telephone directory for 15 minutes. Once they completed that boring task, they were asked to come up with different uses for a pair of Styrofoam cups. These volunteers were more creative in the cup task than a group of 40 people who had not done a boring task before being asked to come up with uses for the cups.

In the second study, 30 people spent 15 minutes copying telephone numbers while another 30 people just read telephone numbers. The people who just read the numbers were more creative in the cup task than those who wrote the numbers, the investigators found.

This suggests that more passive, boring activities -- such as reading or attending meetings -- provide more opportunity for daydreaming, resulting in increased creativity, the researchers said.

The studies were to be presented Wednesday at a British Psychological Society meeting in Chester, England.

"Boredom at work has always been seen as something to be eliminated, but perhaps we should be embracing it in order to enhance our creativity," study author Sandi Mann, of the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom, said in a society news release.

"What we want to do next is to see what the practical implications of this finding are," Mann said. "Do people who are bored at work become more creative in other areas of their work -- or do they go home and write novels?"

Research presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

PBS explains the importance of encouraging creativity in children.

Posted: January 2013


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