Enhancing creativity through 'mindless' work

White-collar workers are less creative when they are over-worked. Research suggests that companies can raise the creativity levels of their professionals by introducing a structured amount of 'mindless' work during the day.

by Organization Science
Last Updated: 15 Jun 2015

It is important that these tasks are simple and easy to do such as filling supply bins, cleaning laboratory equipment, sorting or collating tasks and unpacking and stocking supplies. A simple task such as chewing gum has been shown to increase cognitive performance on short-term memory tasks.

Other research has proven that engaging in a simple job frees the brain and opens up new and more productive lines of thinking. Professionals should make sure they structure such work into their daily routine.

Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher did so by helping load baggage for an hour. Work that is organised by the hour is likely to be a low performance job. High-pressured work tends to be organised by the task. Just as musician Miles Davis said that musical pieces can be captured in the arrangement of the silences between notes, so too can work performance be enhanced by the interludes of mindless work in between the bouts of more mindful work.

Enhancing creativity through 'mindless' work: a framework of workday design
Kimberly D Elsbach, Andrew B Hargadon
Organization Science, Vol 17 No 4, July-August 2006 

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