Daydreams lead to creativity, productive problem solving, contrary to popular belief

Daydreaming a surprisingly productive way to solve problems, get more creative

…proper daydreaming – the kind of thinking that occurs when the mind is thinking to itself – is a crucial feature of the healthy human brain. It might seem as though our mind is empty, but the mind is never empty: it’s always bubbling over with ideas and connections.

So writes Jonah Lehrer in “Daydream achiever: A wandering mind can do important work, scientists are learning – and may even be essential“, an article in today’s Boston Globe “Ideas” section.  Lehrer is the author of Proust Was a Neuroscientist, a book that explores the workings of the human brain by examining the ways in which creative minds — poets, artists, and others —  anticipated scientific breakthroughs through their work.

Lehrer describes the discoveries about the role daydreaming can play in creative problem solving.

Many scientists argue that daydreaming is a crucial tool for creativity, a thought process that allows the brain to make new associations and connections.

This holds implications for negotiators and mediators alike. It leaves me wondering how we can encourage our clients or ourselves to utilize this underappreciated tool. Daydreaming may be just what we need when we face impasse or consider our future.

As Lehrer writes,

One of the simplest ways to foster creativity, then, may be to take daydreams more seriously. Even the mundane daydreams that occur hundreds of times a day are helping us plan for the future, interact with others, and solidify our own sense of self. And when we are stuck on a particularly difficult problem, a good daydream isn’t just an escape – it may be the most productive thing we can do.

(Photo credit: Chris Hortsch.)

2 responses to “Daydreams lead to creativity, productive problem solving, contrary to popular belief

  1. I think that daydreaming is good sometimes, but it is a problem when it occurs so offen. Because it makes it hard to concentrate and it reduces awareness of our environement. we get the mind away so often.
    What do you think about this?
    What is the solution?

  2. Hachoud, I think you’ve put your finger on one of the challenges with daydreaming. Like any good tool, it must be handled properly; if handled negligently, it can harm us. Daydreaming works best when used judiciously, I think.

    Actually, here’s an example, plucked straight from real life. Right now, this very moment I’m having a hard time designing a presentation. I’m stuck and not sure of the best way to structure it. I know that trying to wrestle with it further will get me nowhere. At this point, I’m about to take a break and go for a long walk. I’m hoping that freeing my mind up to wander will give it the space to discover a solution. I’m confident it will — I’ve gotten stuck like this before, and stepping away to daydream a little usually clears the logjam.

    Thanks so much for your comment.