Creative walk


Intro: DOIs

On Friday afternoons the Sense Worldwide team have a ‘Disciples of Innovation’ meeting in which we take 30 minutes to share something valuable with our colleagues to help us improve our collective output.

This Friday was Ken Ravenwall’s turn. He shared findings from Stanford researchers who concluded that walking improves creativity.


What Did They Study?

The benefits of aerobic exercise on long-term cognitive function has previously been assessed; this was the first research carried out on simple walking. The comparison point was for participants sat at a desk carrying out the same tasks.


What Were The Findings?

Creative thinking improved when participants were walking and shortly after they had walked. Interestingly the location of the walk did not significantly alter the boost to creativity. Some participants were assessed walking outside in the fresh air while others were tested walking on a treadmill staring a blank wall. This suggests that it is simply the act of being in motion that gets our creative juices flowing.

The result was that the walkers were able to deliver between 60% & 100% more creative output than those sat at a desk.

However, there is of course a flip-side to all findings of this kind (see last week’s DOI by Josh on bird types & productivity). The researchers found that when it came to tackling analytical tasks participants were better equipped to deliver answers when they were static and at their desk.

Productive creativity involves a series of steps – from idea generation to execution – and the research, Oppezzo said, demonstrated that the benefits of walking applied to the ‘divergent’ element of creative thinking, but not to the more ‘convergent’ or focused thinking characteristic of insight.


Tips For Maximising Innovation Output

  1. If you’re in the ideation phase of an innovation project then consider taking a walk, either by yourself or with your team. This is an approach that both Steve Jobs & Mark Zuckerberg are known to have utilised. This will help boost your creativity & unlock breakthrough thinking that has the potential to deliver radical innovation.
  2. However, if you’re in a phase of innovation that needs more tangible output, consider reverting back to your desk. Taking a stroll seems to help our minds wonder, freeing it up to think bigger. But once you’ve settled on an idea it turns out that the focus that comes from being at your desk can help deliver output.
  3. Take breaks away from your desk. Research beyond these studies has long proven that sitting too often/for too long is bad for us, so stretch your legs to break up the long stretches of sedentary behavior. Go grab a drink, have a walking meeting, or go see a colleague at their desk rather than emailing them.


Further Reading

You can read the full article Ken shared here.

The Stanford research paper can be found here.

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