Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Have a problem? Take a nap!

An overview of literature on creativity brought some curious research facts:
Wagner and colleagues (2004) demonstrated that problem solving insight can be dramatically enhanced by a period of sleep following initial work on a problem. After practice in doing a mathematical task that had a clue embedded within it, 59 percent of participants who slept for an intervening eight hours gained insight into the problem via the embedded clue, even though they had not been told that the clue existed, nor were they aware of the clue upon waking. By contrast, in the four control groups that did not have an intervening night’s sleep, at most only 25 percent of participants gained insight into the problem.

Neuroscience researchers examining incubation effects on learning have found that most of the learning occurs during the first night of sleep after training.
Source: Affect and Creativity at Work.
Teresa M. Amabile, Sigal G. Barsade, Jennifer S. Mueller and Barry M. Staw Administrative Science Quarterly 2005 50: 367 DOI: 10.2189/asqu.2005.50.3.367

An off-site, or even a regular problem solving exercise can be improved by inserting a one-night break between problem analysis, e.g. the 3 magicians, and problem solving sessions. The challenge would be to make sure the participants reserve time to catch up on sleep, rather than use the time to catch up on e-mails and Facebook.

tags: creativity, research, psychology,

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