In defense of being bored

“It isn’t necessary that you leave home. Sit at your desk and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t wait, be still and alone. The whole world will offer itself to you to be unmasked, it can do no other, it will writhe before you in ecstasy.” – Franz Kafka

Most of us think of being bored at work as a negative experience, but there’s some fascinating research on the role of boredom in promoting creative thinking.

In the first study, conducted by Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman, participants had to copy names from a phone book. It wasn’t even a cool phone book with fantasy names like Dumbledore or Flitwick. It was a standard phone book that pretty much nobody uses anymore.

After participants copied the names from the phone book, they engaged in divergent thinking exercises where they had to come up with multiple uses for an object. This bored group scored higher in divergent thinking than the control group.

They later modified this study by having participants read the phone book instead of writing out the names. This group reported higher levels of boredom and proved more successful in the divergent thinking exercise of naming multiple uses for an object.

The second study (by Karen Gasper and Brianna Middlewood) required people to watch videos that would elicit specific emotions. The group that watched only boring videos had to then look at three objects that were seemingly unrelated and determine how they were related. Unlike the first study, this group’s activity was focused more on convergent thinking.

Note the differences in both studies. The first experiment required participants to engage in a tedious, repetitive task. However, they were actively engaged in it. The second study required participants to sit passively through boring content. The first focused in divergent thinking and the second focused on convergent thinking.

However, both studies demonstrated that a period of boredom actually increased the level of creative thinking afterward.

Boredom Is The Start Of Creativity

It sounds counter-intuitive, but several recent studies show that boredom can actually fuel the creative process. Read more…..

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Creativity is Subtraction

I read about this sentence first time while browsing Wikipedia about Steal Like an Artist, the idea is based on a book with same name on coming up with creative ideas, by Austin Kleon.

What it means?

The closest I can think of is in the design of products like smart phones, instead of having dozens of buttons you just have few home and navigation buttons.

In an age of information overload and abundance, focus is important. Choose what you want to leave out of your key work. “Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. The best way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself”, says Austin Kleon author of Steal Like an Artist.

A good example of design by constraints is Dr Seuss wrote his bestselling book “Green Egg and Ham” with only 50 different words (source). Saul Steinberg says a work of art represents a struggle against limitations. Creativity isn’t just the things we choose to put in, it’s the things we choose to leave out,” advises Kleon.

If the subtractive principle of art is still not clear, let me leave you with the image of a Zen garden where a single stone and a bit of raked sand convey oceans of meaning.

ryoanji-jardin-zen-seco-rocas-movimiento-sensaciones

Creativity is subtraction
it helps eliminate the un-neccessaties of life
sometimes, at least
less is more

 

love what you do, the money will follow

There is an old saying, which is usually true: if you do what you love, the money will come. But let’s be realists too, there is no point chasing a career that no one will pay you for.

I hate this advice, not just because the word “passion”, but also because it’s a terrible life plan.

Reason No. 1: Not everyone has a passion.
Reason No. 2: It’s a total lie that you’re bound to make money if you love what you do, particularly if that thing is in the arts – which, let’s face it, it usually is.

We also find people quoting the opposite like Steve Jobs who said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

So, which one should we follow: doing what we love or loving what we do?

The answer is relatively easy if we dig a little deeper. First let’s not confuse with hobby/interest with passion for work which makes money. I love browsing internet and chatting in social networking sites but that doesn’t pay me. Finding a financially viable career passion is very rare. We may love something very much as a hobby but making a career, gaining respect for it, turning it into a business opportunity is extremely difficult.

We find doing what we love a myth only if we confuse hobby/interest with passion gained through hard work.

Here’s a plan how we can chase this mystery. Think of all the things you are passionate about or were passionate about during childhood/high school and then answer this question:

“Can I make money out of it?” If the answer is no, it’s simply a hobby you can do it in your spare time.

“Today, however, job seekers are now in the driver’s seat to search for and find a job they love. They are more in control to ramp up their job search to find more opportunities that better align with their degree, personal goals and interests, or family needs.” — Tara Sinclair, chief economist at Indeed Hiring Lab

When you found a job you love or find interesting and financially viable work hard, improve you skills required for that business. Use small achievements to keep motivated. As warren Buffet said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Don’t worry if you can’t find it in a single attempt, after all it is the passion of your life.

Innovation is saying “No” to 1,000 things

A “no” uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a “yes” merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble. — Mahatma Gandhi

This story comes to us courtesy of Nike CEO, Mark Parker.  He said shortly after becoming CEO, he talked to Steve Jobs on the phone.

“Do you have any advice?”  Parker asked Jobs.  “Well, just one thing,” said Jobs. “Nike makes some of the best products in the world.  Products that you lust after.  But you also make a lot of crap.  Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”  Parker said Jobs paused and Parker filled the quiet with a chuckle.  But Jobs didn’t laugh.  He was serious. “He was absolutely right,” said Parker.  “We had to edit.

Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.

Jobs followed this very advice himself back in 1998 when he shrunk Apple’s product line from 350 to 10. So instead of creating 350 crappy products, or 200 mediocre products, or 100 good products Apple focused on creating 10 incredibly designed products.

The lesson here is that if your ultimate goal is to produce outstanding work, no matter which industry you’re in, you must be comfortable with the fact that most of the work you produce you’ll have to throw out. Jobs says it best:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying “no” to 1,000 things.

Whether it’s design or business strategy subtraction adds value. Nobody produces all masterpieces. You’ve got to edit it down and throw away the crappy stuff. Take away unnecessary hardware parts from your computer, unnecessary code and features from your app, unnecessary products from your offering, extra words from your presentation. This is not easy, it took guts to take away a physical keyboard from a smartphone but the results have been astounding. Throw away the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.

Sales Pitch

A real estate agent was trying to sell a summerhouse to a man. The agent said, “This home is really something special. Look at how close it is to the river. It is almost as if you are right on the river. If you want the best, this is the home to buy.”

“Well,” said the man, “what’s so good about being near the river?”

“What’s so good!” the agent exclaimed. “I don’t even know where to begin. You will have a magnificent view of the river. Your whole family can bathe and swim in it. You can wash your laundry in it. You can fish in it. And you can row in it!”

The man countered, “But what if the river starts flowing too high, and washes away the house?”

“What are you talking about!” the agent quickly answered. “I mean, just look at how far this house is from the river!”