It’s that time of year when we tend to get the winter blahs. The holidays are over, we’ve lost steam on our New Year’s resolutions, and spring is not yet on the horizon. Blah, blah, blah. How do we turn our dissatisfaction with the doldrums into creative new ideas?
Boredom can be the cause of great creative breakthroughs, coined here as “blahnivations.” In fact, recent research findings show that being in a state of boredom can trigger divergent thinking—the generation of new and different ideas. It makes sense. Remember when you were a kid and you had nothing to do? Were some of your most creative games and projects a result of being bored? The Frisbee, for example, came about because kids started throwing Frisbie Pie brand pie pans around for fun. In the 1940s, Wham-O began marketing the plastic Frisbee as a toy.
Work can be very boring at times, and that can be a good thing. Research shows that the purpose of the state (or possible emotion) of boredom is to cause us to want to do something else. When the accountant is bored stiff from entering data into the database the same, tedious way, day after day, she may come up with a better way of doing it—a blahnivation. In fact, Richard Drew invented masking tape from seeing how tedious it was for auto body painters to paint perfectly straight lines between colors on cars.
It’s about Time.
What can you do to turn your blahs into blahnivations? The key to getting from boredom to innovation is time. You need to make time to be bored and daydream. If you combat boredom by playing on your phone or checking email, your mind won’t have the time to think of new things. Instead, you’ll just be distracted.
Contrary to what we practice these days, staying incessantly busy is not the way to innovate. It’s the downtime, the shifting gears, the idle time that let our minds wander into new ways of thinking and enable the new ideas percolate to the surface.
So, instead of fearing the blahs and avoiding the blahs, embrace them and let your mind wander. And have some fun daydreaming in the process.
To learn more about the importance of boredom and how to generate creative ideas, read Joanie Connell’s Flying without a Helicopter: How to Prepare Young People for Work and Life.