24 May 2018

Just 10 minutes of mindfulness can make you more creative, research finds


Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery

Cathryn Newbery is head of content and community at Ciphr. She was previously deputy editor at People Management magazine. You can find her on Twitter @c_newbery. Her writing focuses on HR systems and solutions, as well as the employee experience at work.


Health and wellbeing


Mindfulness – the meditation-style technique that is rapidly growing in popularity – can boost quantifiably creativity at work, according to a study from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) released earlier this year.

Employees who participated in a guided mindfulness mediation for just 10 minutes were found to generate a 22% wider range of ideas compared to workers who took part in a fake mediation or just relaxed.

In the study, one third of participants were taken through a guided meditation; one third had a fake meditation session, and one third were told to “relax and let their thoughts flow freely”. Afterwards, they were asked to present as many business ideas as they could for using a drone. Participants in all groups generated a similar number of ideas in the time allowed, found the researchers, but those who had completed the mindfulness mediation produced more innovative uses such as washing windows and feeding giraffes.

Encouraging mindfulness at work could be a boon for employers looking to get an edge on the competition, say the researchers who carried out the study. “Mindfulness meditation is not only an effective creativity booster, it is affordable, accessible and easy to organise,” said Evegnia Dolgova. “All it needs is a quiet place, a comfortable chair and access to one of the many mindfulness exercises that can be found online or in apps.”

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness centres around paying more attention to the present moment, and to the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing right then and there – rather than allowing your mind to dwell on past experiences or race ahead to what the future might have in store. “It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clear,” professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, tells NHS Choices.

“Creativity has traditionally been the responsibility of research and development departments; however, it is now vital for company survival that employees at all levels contribute to organisational innovation,” added fellow researcher Dirk Deichmann.

RSM’s study is just the latest in a growing list of research looking at the effectiveness of mindfulness in the workplace. Mindfulness also has the potential to increase both sustained and selected attention, neural efficiency, and fluid intelligence – which broadly correlates with IQ – with just a week of practice.