On Sunday late afternoon I took a walk along the Braamfontein Spruit watching the baby ducks that had grown up during the summer months. I went up to the bird lookout at Delta Park which overlooks a field of bulrushes where small finches were eating the seeds in the setting sun.
During this walk an idea that I hadn’t thought of for a while slipped into my mind. I tossed it about and came up with a potential market for the product, a name for varieties of the product, how to package it and what I would have to do to test market it. By the time I’d finished my walk I had a reasonably developed idea, much more feasible than when I had first thought about it.
Marily Oppezzo, a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University was the lead author in a study that showed 81% of the participants improved their creative output when walking.
Where do you get your best ideas? Have you found that walking increases your creative thinking?
To measure creativity among participants in this study, Oppezzo recruited 176 people and gave them several verbal texts. In the first experiment, volunteers were asked to complete the creativity test twice – first while sitting at a desk in a small room for four minutes and then while walking on a treadmill for the same amount of time. Researchers found that 81% of the participants improved their creative output when walking.
In another experiment the researchers compared volunteers who went for a walk outside with those who walked indoors on a treadmill and those who sat inside a lab room with no view of the outdoors.
The results were clear: walking whether inside or outside trumped sitting either inside or outside.
One psychologist commenting on the results of this research said the findings were in line with the “bed, bath, bus and bar syndrome”.
“When we take a break from active perusal of solutions and go about our other daily activities, new ways of thinking about this solution may pop into our minds,” said Jennifer Wiley a psychology professor at the University of Illinois.
Scientists are still puzzled about why walking seems to enhance creativity. Some think that it increases arousal in the brain or perhaps that walking interferes with the brain’s ability to filter thoughts.
Yet whatever the reasons if you find yourself in a creative slump, take a walk. You might want to walk before brainstorming or if you are stuck on a creative problem.
The beauty about walking is that it doesn’t cost a cent and you can take a walk any time and increase your creativity.
Don’t be disappointed if nothing comes on your first one or two walks. Keep at it. You might just find something floating into your mind that you’ve never thought of before. Just be careful about ideas you get while walking. I think sometimes they are influenced by endorphins and once you get over the initial euphoria they might not be as practical as you may have thought. But if you need a fresh idea just take a walk and see what happens.