Boredom’s Exciting Results for Business

Today’s environment of slow organic growth is putting even more pressure on business leaders to increase efficiencies and productivity in the name of improving margins, but this often comes at the expense of creativity which is generated during times of boredom. The problem is that in management’s efforts to squeeze as much value out of every minute of every day, workers are missing out on important downtime that can actually help generate breakthrough ideas. “While boredom may threaten your ability to work quickly and efficiently, it may be essential to working well,” according to FastCompany.

Boredom allows our minds to recharge and think creatively, which can result in improving the long-term balance sheet. Think this is a bunch of psycho-babble? There is science behind this theory. Researchers in England discovered workers given boring tasks were much more creative right afterwards than were workers who were not bored. “Boredom is the psychological equivalent of fallow fields in agriculture – where they are left without any crops for a while to allow them to regenerate,” explains Dr. Ian Robertson.

When we allow our minds to wander and daydream, we are more open to wonder about piecing together seemingly unrelated ideas and that is specifically how sector disruptors are discovered. “Some of the most talented and successful people all share the ability to combine two or more ordinary things in a completely novel way. That kind of creative thinking doesn’t happen as a result of brute-force cogitation . . . it happens during those transition zones, the moments of unforced boredom that they’ve each made an intentional effort to restore to their lives.”

According to research by Cindy Foley, executive deputy director for learning and experience at the Columbus Museum of Art, there are typically three steps essential to creativity.

  1. Wonder and Curiosity. This is where we engage with moments of suspended disbelief and are open to new ideas.
  2. Collaboration and Negotiating Ideas. We begin to figure out where the parts of puzzle actually fit and how we can muster resources to execute.
  3. Experimentation. We put our ideas to work and learn about boundaries. We learn from our mistakes for future action.

Embracing boredom and daydreaming at work can help employees increase focus on their jobs. Is it any wonder disruptors like Google have elaborate break rooms for employees to step away from work and relax? It sounds counterintuitive but “just like resetting a computer, that process allow(s) us to shed extraneous garbage, come back fast and focused, and flourish.”