It May Be “Borrrring,” but if It Boosts Creativity, Bring It On


boredFor the chronically bored among us, here’s a news flash: we actually need (to a certain extent) that state of ennui. In fact, it’s good for us. Perhaps, like banging our heads against a wall, it feels good when we stop. It seems, after time spent being bored, we’re psyched to come up with creative ideas.

This is great news for employers, who sometimes find their employees (or themselves) procrastinate when asked to perform tedious but important tasks. Now science sees boredom as a phase that ushers us into a state of creativity, according to a recent article in Wired online.

As Wired writer Clive Thompson notes, separate experiments by researchers at the University of Central Lancashire and Pennsylvania State University suggest that boredom can actually be leveraged to enhance creativity and abstract thinking.

After engaging in a series of dull, mundane tasks, participants in both studies saw improvement in their creative output. In one, bored subjects came up with more and better ideas than a control group. The explanation may be that their minds were actually primed for the curiosity and creativity that comes after boredom.

These days we often escape boredom by turning to our devices. We seem frightened of being bored. Instead of seeking to escape through our phones and other diversions and activities, we should, as Thompson says, “lean into it,” and consciously experience the journey through boredom to curiosity, and ultimately, to creativity.

We need periods of ennui to come up with the creative ideas that employees welcome and employers value. But not the kind of boredom that disincentivizes us (lethargic boredom). Instead, call it “useful boredom” – acknowledged as valuable in its own right.