In more and more occupations, creativity is part of the job description. Whether you are trying to reconcile conflicting stakeholder priorities, finding a solution to a customer’s issue, or launching a new product line, your solution probably won’t come out of a textbook. But it’s hard to keep having great ideas day after day. What do you do when you run out of good ideas? How do you “get your mojo back”?
One increasingly popular solution is mindfulness meditation. Google, Goldman Sachs, and Medtronic are among the many leading firms that have introduced meditation and other mindfulness practices to their employees. Executives at these and other companies say meditation is not only useful as a stress-reduction tool but can also enhance creativity, opening doors where once there seemed to be only a wall.
To gain a deeper understanding of the effectiveness of short meditation sessions in boosting creativity, we looked first at the literature and then conducted our own experiments. Here’s what we found.
Mindfulness mediation works to enhance creativity and innovation.
Many executives have taken up meditation because they find it helps them switch gears when stress piles up. Research shows that mindfulness meditation can have many positive effects on workplace outcomes. Regularly doing it boosts your resilience, enabling you to mitigate stress, regulate emotions, and have a more positive outlook so that you can bounce back from setbacks. It helps you develop the ability to switch off reactive fight-or-flight responses and engage in a more thoughtful mode that’s crucial for making balanced decisions.
In his book Mindfulness for Creativity, Danny Penman argues that mindfulness meditation and other mindfulness practices enhance three essential skills necessary for creative problem solving. First, mindfulness switches on divergent thinking. In other words, meditation opens your mind to new ideas. Second, mindfulness practice improves attention and makes it easier to register the novelty and usefulness of ideas. And finally, mindfulness nurtures courage and resilience in the face of skepticism and setbacks, which is important because failure and setbacks are inextricably linked with any innovation process.
Ten to 12 minutes are enough to boost creativity.
To further verify that creativity is among the early benefits of mindfulness meditation, and to test how earlier findings could be applied to benefit idea generation in organizations, we set up an experiment at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Unlike the objectives of earlier research, we were interested in whether a few minutes of mindfulness mediation would be enough to boost creativity. One hundred twenty-nine participants (all of them students) were divided into three groups and assigned a creative task: Generate as many business ideas as possible for using drones.
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