Added: Renn Reisman - Date: 19.02.2022 14:41 - Views: 38682 - Clicks: 8085
Alexander Graham Bell was not a fan of multitasking.
The inventor believed that true creativity came from a single-minded concentration on the issue under consideration — and any distraction would only take you further from your goal. And until recently, psychological research seemed to agreeshowing that we are more efficient — and in jobs that require precision, more accurate — when we keep our minds firmly on track. When you are trying to come up with new ideas, a laser sharp focus may backfire — and a distraction could actually boost your chances of finding a truly novel solution to your problem.
These benefits hinge on the fact that our minds often become stuck in a rut, meaning that we spend too much time concentrating on the first ideas we thought of, rather than generating truly novel solutions. This phenomenon is known as cognitive fixationand many psychologists now consider it to be the principle barrier to true creativity.
To find out whether multitasking could help us to break out of that rut, Jackson Lu and a team at Columbia Business School used a common laboratory test of creativity. Participants had to think of as many uses as possible of a common object, like a kitchen bowl, within a fixed amount of time. One valid answer might be that you wear the bowl as a hat to protect your hair from the rain, for instance. The participants had to complete the task twice, finding alternative uses for a brick and a toothpick. The only difference was that some were asked to do so in blocks, listing all the uses for the brick first before turning their full attention to the toothpick, while others were told to alternate between the two tasks.
From the sheer of ideas they produced to the perceived novelty of the ideas as assessed by independent judgesthe multitaskers performed better.
Once again, some participants were asked to consider two problems simultaneously, by switching their attention between the two, while others were told to look at them in sequence. The result is that teams working together often produce fewer ideas than if the individuals were working independently.
When you are trying to come up with new ideas, a laser sharp focus may backfire Credit: Getty Images. Crucially, the benefits seemed to grow over time - so the longer the students brainstormed, the more advantageous it was to switch between tasks. If you are struggling to think of a creative title for your project or the name of a new product, for instance, you might have been tempted to devote a fixed amount of time mulling it over.
Or suppose you are a wannabe novelist, brainstorming new ideas. According to these findings, you would be better to pick your two favourites and develop them simultaneously, rather than immersing yourself in a single story. At its simplest, this research might just be another excuse to take a break.
David Robson is a freelance writer based in London. To comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Capital, please head over to our Facebook or message us on Twitter. Why getting distracted can be a very good thing.
Share using. By David Robson. This phenomenon is known as cognitive fixation, and many psychologists now consider it to be the principle barrier to true creativity. There are a lot of findings showing that working as a group is not very efficient - Ut Na Sio. Around the BBC.Looking for a nice distraction
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a little distraction would be nice