Take a Step Outside the Boardroom: Boost Creative Thinking With Walking Meetings
It is no coincidence that ancient Greek schools of thought were called “gymnasiums”; the link between physical and cognitive health is well established with deep roots. Yet the increasing number of indoor jobs, and omnipresent technology, has significantly decreased the amount of physical activity in the average work day. Not only does an increase in sedentary work have negative consequences for our physical health it also affects our cognition.
It turns out we do our best thinking on our feet.
Instead of sitting during your next weekly work meeting, why not take that meeting to go?
Walking meetings not only encourage healthy habits but are also proven to boost creative thinking. The benefits of walking are two-fold:
1. Movement. Studies show that walking (versus sitting) has positive effects on creativity, problem solving, and increased tendency to talk (2). Walking seems to have the most impact on divergent thinking. A divergent thinking task would be something like, “come up with as many uses for a paper clip”. Taking a walk spurs creative thinking in real time but there are lingering positive effects after walking as well. Meaning you can continue to have enhanced creativity when you’re back to sitting at your desk later. Since it’s simply the movement that sparks this creativity, you could accomplish this by walking around the office but there are additional benefits to getting outdoors.
2. Nature. Taking time to immerse yourself in natural settings has many positive effects your mental health but also increases creative ability. Researchers understand this as nature unlocking a “default mode” where we are most productive (3). This is why we recommend employees to have plants in the office, have your desk face a window, and even possibly have white noise mimicking natural noises. Research also supports using the color green, natural or artificial, to help increase creative thinking (4). Though humans have built skyscrapers and cars, it seems humans are still partial to the company of trees and being grounded on our own two feet.
So whether you are looking for some additional exercise, need to do some brainstorming, or both, try taking a walk outside!
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BY EMMA PARHAM
1. Colzato, L.S., Szapora, A., Pannekoek, J.N., & Hommel, B. (2013). The impact of physical exercise on convergent and divergent thinking. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 1-6. Doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00824
2. Oppezzo, M. & Schwartz, D.L. (2014). Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40, 1142-1152. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0036577
3. Atchley, R.A., Strayer, D.L., & Atchley, P. (2012). Creativity in the wild: Improving creative reasoning through immersion in natural settings. PLoS ONE 7. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051474
4. Lichtenfeld, S., Elliot, A.J., Maier, M.A., & Pekrum, R. (2012). Fertile green: Green facilitates creative performance. Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 784-797. Doi: 10.1177/014616721243661