What’s the secret to coming up with creative solutions to complex problems?
Take a break and do something habitual, like going for a walk or taking a nap. Both experimentally and anecdotally this has been shown to promote “Eureka!” moments.
Have you ever struggled with a problem for a long time only to go for a walk and have the solution suddenly pop into your head? As any scientist, mathematician, or anyone else who wrestles with complex issues on a daily basis will tell you, Eureka moments born from incubating an idea are a very real phenomenon.
A 2008 study by the University of Toronto’s Chen-Bo Zhong and his colleagues found that doing something habitual, such as going for a walk, washing the dishes, or taking a nap, enables you to unconsciously access peripheral information your brain may not readily consider during an intense state of Focus. It tends to work better for finding a solution to cplex problems like the best seating arrangement for bickering relatives at your wedding or a convoluted financial situation than for straightforward problems such as where to eat dinner or what color shirt to wear. And we speculate that watching TV may be too mind-numbing an activity to best allow the “aha!” to pop out of your brain.
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