mindless work


From the abstract of an article, “Enhancing Creativity Through “Mindless” Work: A Framework of Workday Design“, by Kim Elsbach and Andy Hargadon in the July/August issue of Organization Science (one of my two favorite journals on organizational research):

[W]e introduce the concept of “mindless” work (i.e., work that is low in both cognitive difficulty and performance pressures)….We suggest that to enhance creativity among chronically overworked professionals, workdays should be designed to alternate between bouts of cognitively challenging and high-pressure work (as suggested in the original model by Hackman et al. 1975), and bouts of mindless work (as defined in this paper).

I think my best research days involve a variety of tasks, some of which are more mindless than others (e.g. manipulating variables in an Access database). On the days where I just sit down and try to write a paper without interruption, I usually run out of steam after several hours anyway.

For me, creative moments usually come as a surprise – when I’m reading a novel after work, taking a morning shower, or walking to the library. Rarely do I have a spurt of (what seems like) creativity when my eyes are glued to the screen. Perhaps that’s the idea behind mindless work. Get your hands and brain doing something else, and the big ideas start falling from the sky.

Written by brayden king

August 29, 2006 at 4:30 am

One Response

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  1. Funny when you consider that researchers prefer to assign their mindless work to research assistants.



    August 29, 2006 at 7:52 pm

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