Jackson G. Lu and al’s “‘Switching On” creativity” provides new and counter-intuitive evidence on how to boost creativity. While many focus on the negative impacts of multi-tasking, this paper demonstrates that frequent back and forth between tasks can increase one’s capacity to produce novel, unique, and useful ideas. This is because task-switching prevents “cognitive fixation”, i.e. getting the mind stuck on one path or a dead end. People do not typically select task-switching as a work method. And they don’t naturally realize when they reach cognitive fixation. So, task-switching for increased creativity needs scheduling. This is useful evidence as creative thinking is an increasingly big asset in the workplace. But as we embrace task switching, let me add two personal notes: (i) not all assignments require creativity, and (ii) the positive benefits identified by this research are valid when switching between two creative tasks (not between one creative task and [insert social media of choice]).
Maria Popova’s “10 learnings from 10 years of Brain Pickings” distills the substance of her blogging decade into 10 lessons. I am sharing these because I often find her blog inspiring: Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind; do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone; be generous; build pockets of stillness into your life; when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them; presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity; expect anything worthwhile to take a long time; seek out what magnifies your spirit; don’t be afraid to be an idealist; don’t just resist cynicism — fight it actively. Each lesson is unpacked with accompanying book recommendations that make a good summer reading list.
My graph this week is from the World Unplugged study. It summarizes how 1000 students in 10 different countries felt after unplugging for 24 hours. Note the super high levels of negative emotions. This is old news as the data came out of a 2010 survey. But as we enter the summer season, it is a good reminder of the need for regular digital detoxes.
My quote is from Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad which is on my summer reading pile: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime”.