Trying to think creatively? Take a walk!

My clients move around a lot in my coaching sessions. Sometimes we get up and move from one place to another. Sometimes we go outside and go for a walk. Sometimes we walk around inside the room. Sometimes, a client calls in for a session while on their daily walk, so they can multitask: physical movement, life-changing work, and the anonymity/privacy of walking down a public street. The effect of all this movement is to shake things up a bit, to get my client out of his or her head and into a more open-minded and creative space. I can tell this works, just from listening to my clients. And as a recovering scientist, I was curious what “the research” says about it.

And “the research” out of Stanford University shows that walking, indeed, helps people increase their creative thinking: it helps generate new ideas, draw new connections. The study I've linked to tested a variety of conditions, all backing up what I suspected. The researchers found that walking increases creative thinking by about 60%—whether you walk around indoors or outdoors, with gorgeous nature to look at or on a treadmill facing a blank wall, whether you try to come up with ideas while you walk around or after you’ve finished walking and sit down. All of the possibilities that involve walking will help you think more creatively than if you simply sit down and think.

So, when you want to think up new ideas, go take a walk.

Go outside, or schedule a walking meeting, or add a long walk before a creative meeting. Or, you can take a short walk: simply go the long way to the bathroom, or take the stairs an extra time—you don’t even have to leave the building. Just walk. That’s it. It’s like magic, right?

Put-Downs and Put-Ups