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Boredom not such a bad thing after all

1 April 2019

Research shows that boredom can trigger an immediate and targeted response that leads to creativity.

In our daily lives, boredom can easily be masked by other negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and irritability. This may be why boredom is generally associated with negative effects in many studies. However, Dr Guihyun Park has found that when a mild and negative state of boredom is selectively induced, boredom can increase one’s creativity.

Dr Park has a background in organisational psychology and joined the Research School of Management, having come from the Singapore Management University. She has contributed extensively to the area of team dynamics, and her recent research on boredom and creativity broaden our understanding of positive and negative emotional effects.

Untapped source of motivation

Boredom is something that affects everyone at different points, whether at work or at home, and finding out how to put it to use has potentially large consequences for improving productivity and creativity.

“Our findings suggest that boredom could potentially be an untapped source of human motivation, especially in creative work; further, this latent energy could be harnessed by managers in a positive way to benefit their work teams and organizations as a whole,” says Dr Park.

This means that managers and organisations should be more nuanced in how they manage boredom in the work environment.

Time to do nothing

Dr Park’s research also identified different individual traits such as openness to experience and learning goal orientation that, with better awareness and control over, could help regulate desired work performance by designating certain parts of the day ‘boredom periods’.

Organisations such as Google and Zappos have already created spaces for employees to nap or spend time without disruption. In large organisations, this allows them to disconnect and recharge.

The results of Dr. Park’s study suggest that organisations can go even further and trigger boredom to boost employees’ creativity.

“The inner tension created by boredom activates one’s desire to explore and develop different novel strategies, some of which will give us an edge in survival or competition—and thus justify the important role boredom plays in our psychological repertoire,” says Dr Park.

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Updated:   9 April 2019 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team