Keep walking past those creativity studies

walking-signThere is a recent buzz in the echo chamber about a Stanford study on walking and creativity. The derivative blog post based on the said walking study takes several steps further (pun intended) to say that explains the creativity of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg,

Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, was known for his walking meetings. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has also been seen holding meetings on foot. And perhaps you’ve paced back and forth on occasion to drum up ideas.

new study by Stanford researchers provides an explanation for this.

If you do a simple google search you will find several such studies – all published in reputed magazines with editorial oversight or in peer reviewed journals telling us about a recipe to increase creativity. Here are some samples,

  1. We are highly creative in showers  (this blog post says based on 3 research reports)
  2. Seeing Apple logo makes you more creative (Journal of Consumer Research)
  3. Self imposed restrictions increased creativity (Cognitive Psychology)
  4. Imagining spatial distance between you and the problem increased creativity (Journal of Experimental Social Psychology)
  5. Dim light and ambient noise increase creativity (my take on these two studies here)

All academically rigorous, all found statistically significant difference in increase of creativity between control and treatment groups. Some like the Stanford study found 60%+ increase in creativity.

So if you combined all these studies

Weighing yourself down with iron boots while holding Apple logo in front of you, with dark shades and ambient noise piped through earphones to take a walk in rain and thinking your problem came from a galaxy far far away, should increase your creativity by 480%.


There is too much of these non-sense out there. While the studies themselves may be more cautious in their reporting the regurgitated media posts get too far ahead.

Most of the studies are not reproducible. Even if they are, the study conditions, problems and the metric they use for creativity do not reflect any of the real world scenarios. And statistical significance does not mean managerial relevance. There are just too many such non-sense studies and definitely their effects are not additive. In fact you and I could design an experiment that could should the effects cancel each other out.

Your best bet is to keep walking past these silly studies.

Hat tip to Shlomo Argamon for the walking in rain suggestion


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