A recent study at Stanford University found that creativity was overwhelmingly improved whilst or directly after walking between 5 and 15 minutes. All of the study participants (a couple of hundred) did better with a basic creativity experiment after they’d been walking. This exciting study now confirms what we’ve all suspected for some time: walking is good for creativity.
Stanford ran three experiments to determine what they called “divergent thinking” as a way to measure creativity. Divergent thinking is an exercise that aims to make new creative ideas by coming up with as many alternatives as possible to one problem set. Participants in the study were given an object and had to generate as many creative alternative uses for the object. They had three and four minutes to list as many different uses for the object as they could and asked to be creative with what they could be used for.
This basic lateral thinking exercise was measured by labeling a response “novel” or successful if no one else in the trial group had come up with the same idea. There was a quality test that determined if responses were applicable and reasonable, for example, “a tire” could not be used as a pinkie ring.”
Things to take away from the study are simple steps that can be mirrored outside of an experiment:
Walk for 5 to 15 minutes a day and try to use this time to have meetings, tackle hard phone calls, or solve creative puzzles you have to deal with. You could make time for long and short term planning or making lists. Alternately, use the time to take stock and reflect on where things are at. Get out during your lunch break, take the dog for a long stroll, wander around the neighborhood after dinner, whatever you do, just try to make time.
I am an enormous fan of walking for creativity. Just a short one can effectively short-circuit any bad thought patterns or hiccups you’re facing each day. So this week, let’s put those boots on and go for a walk.