Sunday, August 29, 2010

3 Principles of Goofing Around

The Talent Code

We all know at some level that goofing around is a smart thing to do. But there’s an deeper connection to explore here that has to do with the specific kind of goofing that leads to innovation. To put it simply: it’s not about the goofer – it’s about the precise quality of of goofing.

We get some good insights into this from new research about daydreaming. As this WSJ story points out, daydreaming is not just idle time:

“People assumed that when your mind wandered it was empty,” says cognitive neuroscientist Kalina Christoff at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. As measured by brain activity, however, “mind wandering is a much more active state than we ever imagined, much more active than during reasoning with a complex problem.”

What’s more, daydreaming activity is not all equal. As the ever-insightful Jonah Lehrer points out in this story, daydreaming has been linked to all kinds of creative breakthroughs – if it’s done right.

“The point is that it’s not enough to just daydream,” [Dr. Jonathan] Schooler [a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara] says. “Letting your mind drift off is the easy part. The hard part is maintaining enough awareness so that even when you start to daydream you can interrupt yourself and notice a creative insight.”