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Before Scolding Your Team for Spacing Out During Meetings, Consider This

Maybe it’s time to give them more creative tasks

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 21 Dec 2017

Before Scolding Your Team for Spacing Out During Meetings, Consider This

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Yes, meetings require everyone’s full attention. And anyone caught spacing out, must be taken back to reality, stat! There’s a lot of work to be done in a start-up, after all.

But before spending an entire 10-15 minutes of the meeting lecturing your erring staff about the importance of staying focused during work, consider that there is an upside to daydreaming.

A study from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that daydreaming during work may be a sign of intelligence and creativity.

“People with efficient brains may have too much brain capacity to stop their minds from wandering,” says Eric Schumacher, the Georgia Tech associate psychology professor who co-authored the study, in a report from Science Daily.

The team of researchers measured the brain patterns of more than 100 people while they lay in an MRI machine. Participants were asked to focus on a stationary fixation point for five minutes, while the team used the data to identify which parts of the brain worked in unison. Once the team figured out how the brain works together during an awake, resting state, they compared the data with the tests the participants took to measure intellectual and creative ability.

They found that participants who reported more frequent daydreaming scored higher on intellectual and creative ability, and have more efficient brain systems measured in the MRI machine.

“People tend to think of mind wandering as something that is bad…Our data are consistent with the idea that this isn’t always true. Some people have more efficient brains,” says lead co-author Christine Godwin in the report.

This is not to say that you should give your team the liberty to daydream to their heart’s content during office hours. But perhaps you can use this to spot who among your team members has the potential to take on more creative tasks, especially for start-ups who thrive on out-of-the-box ideas.

Take Fungjai, for instance. The three-year-old Thai music-streaming app strives to keep their employees creative by encouraging them to propose projects that spark their passion and letting them take the lead.

“Every Friday, one employee gets to present about anything they are interested about, whether it be their hobby, their life experience, [even] their obsession about UFOs,” says Fungjai co-founder Piyapong “Py” Muenprasertdee.

Every other Friday, Py adds, one department will be chosen to prepare, design, and host a themed party.  

“To encourage creativity, leaders should challenge employees to generate ideas on how to address specific issues. This should not be perceived as a time-waster, rather an exercise to develop creative minds in the long run,” says Anj Vera, founder and CEO of employer branding firm TalentView.

Vera explains that creativity is not just about coming up with novel ideas. It is also about thinking of the right solutions for specific challenges. Problems have a way of bringing out creativity after all.

Vera also has this advice for start-up leaders: “Team members who can articulate their thought process well can take on more creative roles. I say this because ideas are easy to generate, but getting buy-in is another story.”

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