CAREER ADVANCEMENT / AUG. 01, 2014
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Want to Brainstorm More Effectively? Ditch Chairs and Stand Up

We already know that sedentary work – in which people sit at desks and work on computers, is bad for your health. Not only that it increases the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases and obesity, but it also reduces your lifespan. Now there is another reason why you should stop sitting at work. According to a new study, standing can help you brainstorm more effectively.

Researchers from Washington University in St. Luis divided 200 participants into groups and asked them to engage in 30-minute brainstorming sessions. Their task was to generate ideas for a university recruitment video, which they were asked to record at the end of the session. Some groups were seated in chairs, while others had to brainstorm in a room with no chairs.

Arousal

First finding of the study was that groups that had no opportunity to sit down showed higher physiological arousal than those who could comfortably sit and relax. This was established by measuring participants’ skin sweatiness via a gadget that was attached to their wrist. As researchers note, standing while brainstorming increases arousal because people are more likely to move when they cannot sit.

Territoriality

Second finding of the study was that groups that were standing showed less territoriality than groups that were sitting. In a typical office, furnished with a conference table and chairs, each person has his/hers own spot – one of the chairs and a place at a table. As it seems, having no place to sit eliminates this feeling of individual ownership and people use less territorial behaviors to protect their idea from the modification by others.

Idea Elaboration

But what do arousal and territoriality have to do with the performance on brainstorming sessions? As the study shows, both higher physiological arousal and less territorial behavior are associated with more “idea elaboration”. This process consists of the exchange of information and perspectives so that best ideas can be combined and improved. Thus, findings showed that standing helps people elaborate more when coming up with an idea.

However, it is important to note that groups that were standing did not produce more creative videos than those who were sitting.  This may mean that working as a team while standing does not necessarily impact the final product of brainstorming, although it does impact the process.

Implications of the study

As researchers note, "Our results suggest that if leaders aspire to enhance collaborative knowledge work, they might consider eschewing the traditional conference room setup of tables and chairs and, instead, clear an open space for people to collaborate with one another."

Thus, if you have to brainstorm about an important topic, ditch chairs and tables. You will feel more physiologically aroused, less territorial about your ideas, and more open to idea elaboration.

 

Image source: http://blog.mitchcommgroup.com/

 

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