While much creative insight happens while your mind wanders, the key is being able to interrupt your daydreams in time to notice, scientists say. News site Boston.com tells the story of how Arthur Fry dreamed up the multi-million dollar idea of Post-It Notes while daydreaming in church.
Many scientists argue that daydreaming is a crucial tool for creativity, a thought process that allows the brain to make new associations and connections. Instead of focusing on our immediate surroundings - such as the message of a church sermon - the daydreaming mind is free to engage in abstract thought and imaginative ramblings. As a result, we're able to imagine things that don't actually exist, like sticky yellow bookmarks.
But just slipping into the trance-like daydream state isn't enough to use it to your advantage. You've got to notice when you have your Post-It thought.
In his experiments, [psychologist Jonathan]Schooler distinguishes between two types of daydreaming. The first type consists of people who notice they are daydreaming only when asked by the researcher. Even though they are told to press a button as soon as they realise their mind has started to wander, these people fail to press the button. The second type, in contrast, occurs when subjects catch themselves daydreaming during the experiment, without needing to be questioned. Schooler and colleagues found that individuals who are unaware of their own daydreaming while it's happening don't seem to exhibit increased creativity.
Therefore, awareness of your own daydreaming—and the random thoughts it involves—is the trick to capturing any good insight. So next time you're deep in a daydream about how hot your co-worker will look on your first date (once you get up the courage to actually ask) or the sick yacht you'll buy when you finally win the lottery, keep a mental eye out for your next big idea. Photo by Kr. B.