publication date: Nov 1, 2012
author/source: Janet Gadeski
The next great idea you need just might be hiding in your
That's the opinion of Mark
, neuroscientist and associate psychology professor at the University of Guelph
. Speaking to AFP Greater Toronto Chapter
in October, he commented, "I have a fabulous, well-equipped office,
yet I get my best ideas in the shower. Why?"
Of course, this neuroscientist has an answer. He's concluded
that focusing too narrowly can actually suppress the neural activity you need
to be creative and solve a problem.
Refereeing the signals
Inside your head, he says, is "a battleground among signals
from different parts of your brain." You have to influence that competition to
get anything done, so when faced with a challenge, most of us filter out the
non-intellectual, unfocused signals that don't seem directly related to the
problem at hand.
That's a good first step. You need to put in the initial
time to consider the problem, think it over and gain the necessary expertise.
But then you need to take a break and heed the more diffuse, broadly-focused
signals from other parts of your brain. Letting go of cognitive control will
lead you to thought processes and insights that recombine your prior experience
and knowledge to create something new - the likely solution to your challenge.
What could you do
with a shoe?
In an experiment that influenced Fenske's ideas, subjects
were asked to find other uses for common objects such as a shoe. When subjects
engaged in distracting tasks, he notes, their responses improved by 40%.
Doodling and fidgeting have the same effect on many people, allowing them to
take in more information than if they were forced to sit still.
"Our prior notions of inattention and poor concentration are
wrong," he emphasizes. Some distractions are good. So after your initial
exposure to a problem, stop being too focused, self-conscious and judgemental,
and allow yourself some distraction. You'll be surprised at the outcome.
Read more about Mark
Fenske's theory here.