Wired magazine recently posted a very interesting item on social networking, suggesting that, when used properly, it does something counter to what most people assume: increase productivity.
Humans weren’t designed to maintain a constant focus on assigned tasks. We need periodic breaks to relieve our conscious minds of the pressure to perform, the pressure that can lock us into a single mode of thinking. Musing about something else for a while can clear away the mental detritus, letting us see an issue through fresh eyes, a process that creativity researchers call incubation. “People are more successful if we force them to move away from a problem or distract them temporarily,” observe the authors of Creativity and the Mind, a landmark text in the psychology and neuroscience of creativity.
Put that way, it’s good to take your focus away from work for a time, to allow ideas to grow. But that doesn’t mean everyone should get a green light to spend hours of work time on Facebook or Twitter:
According to Don Ambrose, a Rider University professor who studies creative intelligence, incubation is most effective when it involves exposing the mind to entirely novel information rather than just relieving mental pressure. This encourages creative association, the mashing together of seemingly unrelated concepts, which is a key step in the creative process.
So the next time you need to be creative, get Facebooking … but don’t go overboard!