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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Does Helping Others Hurt Your Creativity? The Cost of Interruption | Christian Jarrett, 99U

You've come into the office ready to go - it's going to be a productive day. You're finally going to make some headway on that overdue blog post, or perhaps it's a new design layout, or a complex spreadsheet. Yet, as soon as you find your focus, a colleague wheels over a chair and interrupts your flow, asking for help. Sound like a familiar frustration?

Responding to that anecdote about distractions often in modern open-plan offices, Jarrett describes recent research in Germany and Switzerland. And he reports some surprising findings.

Jarrett then discusses the lessons of that research for real-life working?
Of course every office situation is different and we must be cautious about extrapolating too literally from a lab study. That said, these results suggest it pays to think about the kind of conditions under which anytime help-seeking might be preferable to having controlled quiet times, or vice versa.

If you're in an office where there is a large discrepancy in expertise or knowledge between staff, then allowing help-seeking and interruptions at anytime is likely to be highly beneficial, especially if a couple of minutes sacrifice from one team member will save hours or more for the person making the inquiry.
But he also offers some suggestions to ensure success:
  • [W]e should also encourage a culture in which people think twice before seeking help – first asking themselves if they can solve the query alone. 
  • K√§ser's participants only derived a benefit from decent stretches of quiet time. So consider a day or a half-day as compared to 1-2 hours. 
  • [I]f quiet hours are introduced in your office, it's worth planning how you might make the most of them; or if you're a manager, consider sharing some strategic pointers.
This article is featured in today's (Aug. 1) Garbl's Creativity Connections -- available at the Creativity tab above and by free email subscription.

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