My colleague Hila Pelles wrote an intriguing internal post for our SIT team, citing two thought-provoking articles.

The first is from INC.:

Research Suggests We’re All Getting Less Creative and Scientists Think They Know Why, by Jessica Stillman

The gist:

  • Scores on the Torrance Test, considered by many to be a reliable indicator of creativity, have been steadily declining since the 90’s.
  • The reason, scientists claim (the article claims), is that we are all spending too much time on digital screens instead of acting in the world or engaging in leisurely thoughts.
  • The solution: dedicate time to thinking, go on long walks, limit screen time and vary your routine.

The second article, published on LIT HUB (excerpted from: First Steps: How Upright Walking Made Us Human) expands on one of the first article’s recommendations:

On the Link Between Great Thinking and Obsessive Walking, by Jeremy DeSilva

I am doing a dis-service to this article by summarizing it, since it is more literary in spirit, but, using examples from Charles Darwin to Virginia Woolf, it convincingly makes the case for walking as a stimulus for creative thinking, supported by several experiments that found superior results and stronger brain connectivity in subjects who walked versus couch potatoes.

My pragmatic take on these articles, in two parts:

1) Caveat reader

a. In 25 years of experience working with diverse publics in dozens of countries I haven’t noticed any signs of decline in creativity. In fact, I believe there are many signs of a widespread increase in creativity and productive thinking – not always for the good of humankind, not even correlated with individuals’ happiness or wellbeing, but that is another issue. Instead, I believe that what the findings may be showing is the decreased relevance of the Torrance test itself, whose relevance I suspect was always less than its PR.

b. Although I resent the time my daughters spend on screens lately, I don’t think the blame for declining creativity, if real, should be placed on digital activities. Bertrand Russell famously wrote in praise of idleness in his homonymous book and article (“The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich.”), showing that lack of idleness is not a new affliction and that it can equally affect both sides of the digital divide.

2) Practical facilitation tips:

a. In f2f sessions, move people around every now and again, sometimes ask them to stretch, and when possible – even to dance to music. Much more difficult in remote sessions, but very much worth the effort.

b. 2-3 times an hour, give participants the chance to chat with their neighbor(s) for 3-4 minutes on a task that doesn’t require too much concentration.

My 20-second summary, so you can go ramble: move around, take it easy, and you’ll be more creative (or, if not, I suspect, at least a bit happier).