Thursday, October 15, 2009

Creativity, Your Brain and Working Smart

Hard Work's Overrated, Maybe Detrimental. | Design & Innovation | Fast Company

This is a no-brainer. Years ago when designing databases or programming I'd take breaks and bounce a raquet ball around the office, out on the deck or just take a walk, eat, and then get back to it. But bouncing a ball, a large motor skill that kicked my brain into a different mode, worked best. I didn't have to get verbal. In fact, getting verbal was hard, like switching from one language to another. Literally, you reach for words after thinking in "computer-ese" for a while.

Repetitive motion, by the way, like bouncing a ball, knitting or pressing a single key repeatedly, has been shown to push processing into the higher reasoning centers of the brain. They think it's because your "old" or primal brain (is this the limbic system?) is engaged by the repetitive motion.

A very smart knitter, Yarn Harlot spoke last year in Atlanta and pointed out this research, where participants watch a violent video of a car crash, and how their residual trauma afterward is lower if they are doing something repetitive (like knitting) while watching.

If they were having a conversation and watched the wreck, their trauma after was deeper and more difficult to shake. Researchers concluded that keeping the smart part of your brain busy, and letting just the primal brain concentrate on the video, created more trauma. It's the primitive side of us, literally that which is hard wired, that cannot process the events as well to protect us. This may also be why children process and perceive so well, but are poor interpreters. They have well developed primitive brains, but haven't been able to develop the more sophisticated regions yet. Hence the long time needed to grow up.

Even teens have amazing things going on it their brains, including a newly discovered "die off" of old, less used cells around 16 - 18 years old. Neuroscientists believe it has something to do with the brain's need to make room for growth in other areas where you need more power.

When you are working, if you are using your "higher" brain skills, take break. Do something peaceful and repetitive. If you are using "basic" brain skills, like driving or running equipment repeatedly, read, do a puzzle, or chat with someone during breaks.

So the dwindling American vacation? Makes us less productive, if our job is to be innovative. And who gets to be less creative at work? Isn't that what we created computers for, to do the boring repetitive work? Isn't that why we shipped all our manufacturing jobs overseas? (blog for another day)

By the way, an interesting side note - not long ago The Atlantic published that multitasking makes us stupider. No surprise to me. I've been saying for 18 years that multitasking is a lie - you can't do two things at once well, you just do two things and have to work faster. I have proof. Feel free to make me prove it.

And some even say that Google makes us stupid.

I used to imagine hamsters on a wheel in my head, especially when I can't sleep. These days, I'm starting to switch to habitrails imagery. And very fast mice.

No comments: