December 2

Have you ever had an idea appear at the most unexpected, and maybe the least convenient moment, like while driving or while in the shower? Of course you have, and there is a scientific reason why ideas appear in this way.

In their book The Breakout Principle, Herbert Benson and William Proctor argue that brilliant breakthroughs often occur when someone deeply immerses themselves in the problem they are solving, then “break away” and engage in some sort of mindless activity like knitting, or walking, or humming. Upon their return to the problem, they often find a solution much more easily than before because their mind has continued to work on it behind the scenes while they were engaging in some other mindless activity. Benson and Proctor argue that we can strategically implement this method in our daily life to help achieve creative breakthroughs when under pressure.

Consider an important problem you are working on. Now, block some time today or this week to delve deeply into it, attacking it from all angles. Then, structure time to break away and engage in some sort of mindless activity, and after a time, re-engage the problem. You’re likely to find new insights upon your return.

To achieve break-throughs, we sometimes need to break-away from the problem and engage in mindless activity.

Question: How can you implement The Breakout Principle in your work today?

Related Articles