How to increase creativity — go hiking

| February 6, 2015

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Sometimes the best ideas come to us when we’re least expecting them.

A quick poll of my friends validated my own experience of getting the best ideas when in the shower, out walking, or lying half-asleep in bed in the morning. A Stanford University study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology backs up the idea that walking increases creative inspiration — and by an average of 60 percent! Even better, the creativity boost continues for a while afterwards.

Some ideas for how to increase creativity

It doesn’t seem to matter whether we’re walking indoors or outdoors, and we can even be on a treadmill staring at a blank wall. Now, that’s not a suggestion to exchange your wilderness hikes for a treadmill, but if you’re in need of creative inspiration and can’t wait until your next big hike, a walk around the block may help you to get the answer you’re looking for.

To boost creativity, you can also schedule walking meetings with colleagues at work. Getting out from behind a desk and taking a walk  brings a different vibe to the meeting. It’s more relaxed, informal, and really does get the creative juices flowing. It’s not for every meeting, but in my experience as a people manager it’s a good tool to have in your toolbox for when you’re coaching someone, kicking around ideas, or just need to work around an energy low.

The idea of holding walking meetings is not new and some well-known business leaders, such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerman have been known to walk with colleagues. Nilofer Merchant suggests turning meetings into walking meetings in her TED talk.

You might also want to try a community walking group that aims to mix walking with idea sharing, such as the Hikestorming group in Silicon Valley.

Now, before you get the idea that walking is going to serve all of your creative thinking needs, the Stanford study finds that although it helps with the generation of ideas (divergent thinking), it doesn’t help with the focused (convergent) thinking that’s needed to solve a problem when there’s one right answer. So, don’t put your desk out on the curb just yet.

If you want the full details, you can read the Stanford University research report by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz.

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Photo credits: Mark Beresford.

Category: Get Out There

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