Why you should care
Because subtle, small tips can help you go a long way in the workplace.
Competition in the workplace nowadays is fiercer than ever. It is generally accepted, for example, that most employers expect high productivity from fewer numbers of people, so managing your time while maximizing your energy are incredibly important skills to reach any sort of sustained success. Since those of us at OZY want to help you succeed in the workplace, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting pieces of work advice we’ve reported on to help you accomplish your work goals. We don’t like stalling or balling up into a ball of fear in the face of difficult challenges around here (frankly, we don’t have time for it), so let’s get on with the show.
A recent study found that if you focus your creative energies on things you are most familiar with, instead of thinking outside the box, you might actually find better and more insightful solutions to problems. But isn’t that exactly the opposite of what we have heard in creative thinking circles for decades? It’s true. But the researchers say that trying to find a great solution from blind experiments is like trying to see in the dark. So what were the methods they used that came up with this rather surprising result? Find out in the following excerpt from the original article:
[Joel] Chan and his team sifted through 2,341 concepts from OpenIDEO, a online crowd-sourced innovation platform that addresses various social and environmental issues ranging from the solving the world’s e-waste buildup to restoring vibrancy in economically declining cities. On this site, people can post 150-word solutions, which are then evaluated by an expert design panel. Chan’s statistical analysis revealed that those participants who cited sources of inspiration related to their own subject matter were actually more creative and were soon favored by the OpenIDEO’s expert panel.
The big takeaway from another surprising American study is that total freedom of speech can totally squash creativity. That doesn’t seem to make sense, you’re thinking. Well, it turns out that abiding by political correctness in the workplace can actually help you better generate ideas than letting them run wild. Anarchy, altogether, does not breed creativity. Instead, it is structure that helps harbor good relations between people at work by reducing uncertainty. For example, the team led by Cornell scientist Jack Goncalo tasked students of both genders with a problem: What business should be built in an empty lot? They found that the groups that were politically correct — avoiding sexist language — generated a greater number of ideas, and more novel ones, than groups operating without the norm. Why? Check out the following excert from the original article to find out.
When men and women enter the same space, both genders need to know what to expect, experts say, making some pre-defined rules helpful. For women, the ability to express ideas without fear of being patronized is key. For men, knowing what could put them in the doghouse is a useful metric.
Everyone knows by now that standing is good for you: moving about throughout the workday keeps your heart rate up as opposed to sitting all day. But did you know that standing up also has important benefits beyond health? Professors at Washington University’s Olin Business School found that standing even for just the first half hour of any meeting could engage a work team in more productivity. Check out the original article to find out how they did this, also excerpted below.
Andrew Knight and Markus Baer [wondered]: Should the standing trend expand beyond cubicles? Could it help meetings, too? The academics looked at 54 meetings, with each one about 30 minutes long(since about 75 percent of meetings run for 30 minutes or less). Their answer: Yes, yes it could. The professors created test meetings, as it were, to see if their theories held water. They staged meetings to task groups with planning and producing a recruiting video for the university, as they might for developing marketing content for a business. Those who stood said the felt their colleagues were more open to their ideas, [and] less territorial…
Working hard and long hours is one way to produce exceptional results, especially in startup environments, but a recent study found that taking breaks from all that work to play games on your phone may actually help you. Doctoral student Sooyeol Kim tracked workweek usage of gaming on friends’ personal devices and found that participants were happier at the end of the day. Kim says these “microbreaks” benefit both employees and their employers since the smartphone time allows people to play a quick game or connect with family or friends. Of course, there are exceptions, as the following excerpt notes.
[Playing] an hourlong game, sure, will hurt performance. But someone taking aim at a few Angry Birds here and there might have a winning habit. The human mind isn’t built for focusing so intently on work for hours on end, non-stop. We need mental as well as physical breaks.
Researchers from the University of Warwick recently found that workers are 12 percent more productive when they’re surrounded by happy thoughts instead of tragedy and glumliness. The method was interesting: before a meeting when comedy clips were watched, a segment of people were asked about recent tragedies in their lives while another was given drinks and chocolate. Then they were given a standardized productivity test. The people who were given the sweets were more productive during the test than those who were asked about tragedies, with the latter group having a difficult time shaking off the glumliness. The science behind the effect of happy thoughts is quite vast, as the following from the original article one attests.
At George Mason University, researchers found that the level of “companionate” happiness at work boosts productivity too. This is the chitchat with your co-workers, the bonding over shared experiences (or a beer), the feeling of connectedness over a common goal, putting your co-workers’ needs above your own — all of that boosts those cubicle warm fuzzies.
Researchers are now trying to quantify people’s nonverbal communication in the hope they will teach us about our best versions of ourselves. At Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, scientists repurposed two Microsoft Kinect systems to track 24 body measurements and asked 160 study subjects to interact in pairs — to teach and to learn. The researchers sought answer to questions such as: Are their bodies in tune? Are they conducive to creativity? Is the lesson sinking in? Then there was a second study that examined idea generation, asking couples to brainstorm water-conservation ideas. Here’s what they found, in an excerpt from the original article.
The more in sync the subjects’ head movements were, the more creative ideas they found. So if a work project isn’t going as well as planned, perhaps the answer isn’t banging a head against the wall or yelling at your poor employees. Perhaps the answer is switching up the team. Instead of matching person A and B, switch it up with person C. Check their body language for signs of creativity as they work together. Maybe tracking body language measurements could eventually lead to a new way of interviewing potential hires or setting up workplace teams.