Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
United States


00:00:00Support for Ted radio hour and the following message come from rocket mortgage by Quicken Loans with award-winning service throughout the home buying process at rocketmortgage.com ideas Equal Housing lender licensed in all 50 states. Nmls consumer access. Org number 3034. We get to the show. I want to tell you about a podcast from Ted work-life with Adam Grant in each episode of work-life Adam takes you inside the minds of some of the world's most unusual professionals to discover the key to a better work-life this week the jerk free office can it actually exist? And what's the right way to deal with a jerks Who Remain you could find work-life with Adam Grant wherever you listen to podcast.
00:00:47Is the TED Radio Hour?
00:00:50Each week round breaking Ted Talk human imagination had to believe in impossible things true nature of reality beckons.
00:01:09Just beyond those talks those ideas adapted for radio.
00:01:16from NPR
00:01:21a guy Roz today with the story. It's about something that happened in Cologne Germany in 1975. It's a story about the legendary jazz pianist Keith Jarrett, but it doesn't actually start with him. I think of this actually from the point of view of Vivir Brando's in many ways. This is an economist to Harvard was this young go 17 years old who had somehow managed to persuade Keith Jarrett. It was already a big star with a time to come to cologne and she had persuaded the cologne Oprah house, which is a big venue 1400 seats to host Keith Jarrett and she's just she's just a kid, but she loves Jazz and so she's hugely ambitious and her skills and her experience. Do not match up to make this happen.
00:02:17And there's some miscommunication and when she takes Keith out onto the stage for the rehearsal to meet the piano. It's the wrong kinda it's a Tesla Model. It's from some little corner somewhere wasn't even a grand piano said it was like half a half a piano and the the keys were sticking pedals didn't work. The felt was a waterway in the upper register. So the upper register sounded very harsh and Antony and because it's not enough to know the reasons why this is a bad piano for people who don't know anything about Keith Jarrett. What do you know about the kind of person he is. Well, he's famous for his perfectionism in many ways. He's a he's a very free-thinking musician. He doesn't he's entirely improvised Concepts. He walks out on the stage. He sits out of the piano when he just plays whatever comes into his head, and I'm so
00:03:17That sounds as though this is very loose free-thinking flexible person. But but he has a reputation as insisting that everything be perfect. So the perfectionist meets the world's worst piano.
00:03:33And it's a sell-out called said it was going to be there in a couple of hours. That is no way to get a replacement. It's pouring with rain in Cologne at a time and basically said I would like to play.
00:03:47So this is not going well right for being so she she goes out she finds out he's sitting in the car waiting to meet him by the hotel and she goes to notes on the window and he looks and he sees the seventeen-year-old kid drenched in the rain.
00:04:09And she just begged him to play. She makes him.
00:04:12And I think about moment. He just feels sorry for that and he realizes she's just a kid 1400 people about to show up at his concert and there's going to be no concert.
00:04:26and he says
00:04:28never forget WVU Supply
00:04:34This is a man who hands out cough drops to the audience. So they do not disturb the performance. Yes. I don't know what exactly was going to his head. But yeah, he he sits down and on the way he goes.
00:04:52And it's magic.
00:05:01It is an absolutely astonishing performance. It is within moments. It's it's apparent that he's producing something astonishing.
00:05:16It was supposed to be a disaster. He's giving us unplayable piano and he doesn't just hope he doesn't just produce a decent performance cuz he's a genius he produces what many people think called his best performance.
00:05:30You must have read accounts of that obviously of that night two people in that audience know that they were watching something.
00:05:43well, I think they they were spell down whether they knew that it was particularly unusual. Maybe they thought it's always like this. I don't know but the certainty that the music has stood the test of time because John and his produce a man that I could decided that we get a record this concert as a cautionary tale. This is this is as a demonstration a documentary evidence of what a disaster sounds like if you don't give teeth the right piano, this is what you get, but they never expected that the music would be releasable as an album. Let alone the Koln concert album, which is the best-selling jazz piano album of all time.
00:06:32What was the spark that jump-started Keith Jarrett screen of energy that night were allowed for that breakthrough because at the heart of any great achievement is creativity, but is it a force that can be cultivated that can be teased out to help anyone create something Unforgettable?
00:06:56Well, that's what we're going to explore on the show today ideas about jump-starting creativity. Here's more from Tim Harford the Ted stage.
00:07:06Keith Jarrett have been handed a mess.
00:07:10hidden price that mess
00:07:13pirate sword
00:07:15Let's think for a moment about Jared's initial Instinct. He didn't want to play. Of course, I think any of us in any remotely similar situation would feel the same way with have the same Instinct, but Johnson's think was wrong and I think our instinct is also wrong.
00:07:35I think we need to gain a bit more appreciation for the unexpected advantages of having to cope with a little mess.
00:07:45Let me give some examples Lee psychologist Daniel Oppenheimer a few years ago teamed up with high school teachers and he asked them to reformat the handouts. They were giving to some of that classes.
00:08:00So the regular hand out would be formatted in something straightforward such as helvetica. Will Times New Roman?
00:08:06Hafiz cost is getting handouts that will format it in something intense like package Fila LG phone that difficult forms to read but at the end of the semester students were given exams on the students to read the more difficult phones. And actually I'm better lyrics and the reason is
00:08:35The difficult font has slowed them down. To work a bit harder. And so they learn more.
00:08:43These disruptions help us solve problems to help us become more creative.
00:08:51I mean when people hear the word creativity they often think that it's someone else who has that or it's this elusive thing that is in a gifted to people with talent, but I suspect that's not right right that that creativity actually is just a like a skill like any any other skill will having another creativity research, but I have read a little creativity research and one of the most healthiest things is that nobody agrees what this thing is when people have lots and lots of different ways of talking about it and lots and lots of different ways of measuring it but I tend to agree that creativity is different from Thailand. It's different from technical skill if you always starting in the same place.
00:09:38Your skill and your abilities and you'll have it's just become a cliche and if you are if you want to go somewhere different something either skill. We'll find a new way to express itself and you'll reach New Heights.
00:09:51What's the best way to finish somewhere different the best way to finish I'm waiting for this to start somewhere different.
00:09:57So we'll talk about somebody from the world of rock and roll. He is an ambient composer. He's also behind some of the great rock and roll albums of the last 40 years. So he's worked with David Bowie on Heroes. He went with you to on action baby and the Joshua Tree he's what we call.
00:10:23What does he do to make me break rock bands better?
00:10:28Well, he makes a mess.
00:10:30He disrupts the creative process is it's his role. Just tell him that they have to play the unplayable piano and one of the ways in which he creates this disruption is through this remarkable that could cause they called the oblique strategies. He developed them with a friend of his.
00:10:47When did they stock in the studio?
00:10:50Ronnie and I will reach for one of the, to which one around him and he'll make the band for the instructions on the card. So this one change instrument rolls. Instruments drummer on the piano bringing destructive unpredictable action incorporate.
00:11:13discounted disruptive the musicians hate them
00:11:19So at Phil Collins with playing drums on the Ellie Brian Eno album across the studio doesn't mean it isn't helping you.
00:11:35You know, I just imagining Phil Collins throwing it across the room is enough for me to want to jump start creativity. Yeah, he was just so frustrated with the way we've been discussing this. It sounds as though. This is a very refined playing for people to be almond Keith Jarrett David Bowie. I mean, he's a genius isn't another genius. I mean, maybe your Genius guide to know I'm not and I think most of the people listening to this will be thinking of this doesn't apply to me but actually it this is true. I think on it on a very everyday scale and this wonderful example from London that could not be more everyday wear a few years ago the London Underground suffered a partial shutdown because there was a strike of the labor dispute the shutdown lasted two days. So for those two days everybody who was used to commute to come out of London.
00:12:32Probably have to find a different way to get to work. And so three Economist got hold of the dataset and looked at what people have done and they found that a very large number of people commute to work exactly the same way every day and then during the strike that changed. I found a different way and then a substantial minority of them never changed back. So they realized a 48-hour shutdown. They realized they have been doing wrong their entire lives and it was only when the destruction comes in and says, no you can't do it, you know more like you have to find a new way tens of thousands of people. When wow I should the new eyes better.
00:13:19I always think about how many things do we do in our lives not be soaring Feats of creativity everyday things how many things do we do? If we were forced to do it differently. We would never go back.
00:13:34Text Tim Harford. He's an economist. And Rider Tim will be back later in the show with another idea on how to jumpstart creativity. Stay with this guy Roz and you're listening to the TED Radio Hour from NPR hate everyone just a quick thanks to two of our sponsors who helped make this podcast possible first to better help their help offers licensed professional counselors who specialize in issues such as depression stress anxiety and more connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment at your convenience. Get help at your own time and your own pace schedule secure video or phone sessions plus chat and text with your therapist. Is it better help.com radio hour to learn more?
00:14:21It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm Gyros and I'm sure today ideas about jump-starting creativity. And we tend to think of creativity is something that's unique part of Being Human, but what if it's not
00:14:38Is there a future in your mind maybe not in your lifetime or mine? But a future where artificial intelligence is as creative as the most creative humans in history. Well, that's hard. I mean we consider ourselves to be intelligent and creative but I'm not as creative as most creative give me the mystery but I'm creative enough and we'll sort algorithms are creative enough. This is Steve angles. He's a professor at the University of Toronto where he research is artificial intelligence and creativity the sooner that we use for creativity who look at you know, like the Masters. I think the the ultimate musicians ones I can create something new that's never been seen before the other people than emulate but you know, it's not really fair to compare a high right now with the best IQ Manatee has to offer but rather if it's as good as average humans that still that's still a pretty good achievement.
00:15:36Okay, so let's talk about humans for a second because we are born and we're like this unformed blob of stuff and then over time, you know, we can learn stuff we grow we experience the world and we are all these inputs and experiences we have and then with all that you have these tools to think in a creative way, right? That's kind of how it works. And as part of the basis of the research we were doing is creating artificial intelligence is trying to create things that emulate human behavior, especially when it comes to cognition. And so we had the idea of trying to create creativity is often times trying to say what what kind of things do human beings do when they are presented with a blank site and I'm like they take their lifetime experiences and then they put it together and the random ways in order to try to create some overall product.
00:16:36And the artificial intelligence that we create is trying to do a lot of the same thing. It just doesn't have a lifetime experience to build up.
00:16:42There's more from Steven Ingalls, Ted stage. What is the difference between leave behind a computer intelligence and human intelligence can computers be as creative as humans with enough data a computer should be able to take all the things that humans can do we got to see what the task is and be able to do it as well as a human can a resource that I've been doing it off as a natural language programmer when I first started in the eye which meant that I was doing a lot of things with English text and what we were doing were things that could actually read through English text and understand the things that is reading and Trey models for you to be able to recognize the patterns with it. But we usually see models not just to record and classify text but to be able to generate it. There was an example of someone who actually made a research paper generator where it actually created a journal article and submitted to a conference and got accepted.
00:17:33So this is the sort of thing where computers are able to create new interesting original text.
00:17:38And this led into my research on music generation.
00:17:42I have software where you can feed and music files and it'll actually read through and understand the patterns in the music and be able to generate original music in that style in real time forever a person wasn't great.
00:17:56But over time we better stability sinks and now it's actually has a larger scale progression so that it now has a sense of a start and middle and an end and it actually has like an overall musical flow.
00:18:08Show how the guac me to this like how does a machine compose a piece of music that is beautiful and resonant and emotive beautiful resident is fine. There's lots of examples of beautiful music listened to enough of them and you can start to try to figure out what those patterns are and figure out how you create something kind of in that style. That's the motive. It's as hard to pin down as you would think trying to figure out. Okay, what kind of songs are happy so you could maybe say okay with these are the songs that make me happy. Can you make other songs that make me happy?
00:18:49And it's possible but it's about what you'd expect for a human to do to if you gave them a hundred songs that are considered happy music. They would probably look at these things try to figure out what they have in common and then see if they could reproduce.
00:19:02But you know, that's why it's so hard for people to be successful at music or art the idea of looking at these things and then trying to make something new and trying to capture that.
00:19:15Yeah, I was just trying to solve that same task and is running to the same problems. Do you imagine a future where the creativity produced by AI artificial intelligence can actually jump starter or supercharged human creativity. Well, that's the main thing that we've been working on his we can make things that can either stimulate human creativity get people who are stuck where they got writer's block and then help them see enough examples to make the neural Connections in their brain to help figure out what it is that they want to do.
00:19:49So I artificial intelligence right now has the ability to help provide almost like an assistant for bigger more creative tasks.
00:20:00Now I've been working an artificial intelligence for a while and I'm basically since the 90s. My whole thing is just to say well, you know, what if AI has been making advances in all these different areas. One of the next ones that's going to be a dancing into is creativity because really I mean when we talk about creativity is it's really just intelligence having fun, whether it's a human intelligence or artificial intelligence the same rules apply. If you let this thing train off of existing pieces and see where I can go they can create all sorts of interesting things Neil. Now, I do work in video game design people use a software in order to generate background music for a level. And then as you move from one section four level to another the music will change as it goes from one level to the next.
00:20:45Send images have been done where neural networks would train off of existing images and create a new original pieces of art things that no one has ever seen before and some of these neural networks when you don't give it a specific task or a specific domain and you just let her own free create some things that we've never seen before me all of the equivalent of Dreams.
00:21:07So I believe that our future is not just going to be limited by you know, what kind of things computers are able to make we're actually going to be the ones who are teaching these new generations of computers how to do new things.
00:21:21Tacoma going to show me her the story of Keith Jarrett playing with Korn concert and everything that led up that moment his frustrations his anger at this piano how he stood there on the keys without rehearsing without any plan and he produced the greatest live records of all time and I still can't get my head around and nonhuman doing that a replicating that we would be able to produce that moment. That's definitely true because I mean that's something that that inspires you through a series of experiences that are very unique to what a human can experience but I think that for again the 95% of us and the creativity that we need in our lives artificial intelligence is definitely a tool that has Illustrated that we can actually create things based on just what we have seen before.
00:22:20The thing that we're always like in those at 5% in all of the 5% which be looked to as what makes us distinctly human and I'm not the average composer or the on the average artist, but mother knows the Masters know and that's a level of innovation where you're creating something that can't be modeled off main thing else because it is completely original new. That's the parts that is going to be ever-elusive that Steve angles. He's a professor at the University of Toronto in the department of computer science. You can see Steve's and tire talk at Ted. NPR. Org.
00:23:05On the show today ideas about jump-starting creativity.
00:23:10And sometimes what you need to spark that creativity is something completely out of the ordinary. Yeah, which tries to do on a scale nothing but we do sits at a very strange Junction of the Arts and transformation of place so you can see the audience he won't necessarily kind of people he would ever go into Gallery moved by the way the imagination of analysis Can Transform Ya Devi experience. A company called artichoke based in the UK and we create extraordinary events in the public realm. Basically, these large-scale art installations that exist to ignite creativity to spark joy to grieve moments of Wonder the everyday even if I say moments to your thing for your first child being born
00:24:10Disastrous things are funny things. It's the moment. It's not the routine that you remember and Helen and her team had no idea in mind to really disrupt the routine in one of the busiest cities in the world London telling marriage picks up the story from the Ted stage.
00:24:29Image of the world city like a while since his dedication to 12 trade and traffic. It's a machine to get you to work on time and by we will complicit in wanting the routines to be fixed and everybody to be able to know what's going to happen next and yet what if this amazing City could be turned into a stage of platform to something. So unimaginable that would somehow transform people's lives. We do these things often in Britain. I'm sure you do them wherever you are from his horse guards parade and his something that we do open his always about winning things about the marathon or winning a war will Triumph cricket team coming home. We close the streets everybody traps, but this is not possible except a story told by a French company a song about a little girl and a giant elephant the came to visit for 4 days, but all I have to do is persuade.
00:25:29Medical services that shutting the city for 4 days with something completely normal.
00:25:37Jobs for people who don't know the story or even the huge sort of large-scale performance that you mount it to me. What's the story of the Sultan's elephant elephant is about Sultan aboard a time traveling machine, which comes in the form of a giant elephant man in uniform who control ended say I'd say it's a kind of Fairy Tail and assaulting his heard about her job and he wants to meet her so he commissions an elephant flying machine and he arrives with his Entourage. You can imagine how well is going down. I'm his insides with her just in London this amazing moment. I may spend 4 days.
00:26:30Meeting each other but more importantly meeting people of London doing the things that any visitor to City would do traveling on a bus going to a party and then she decides to leave a rocket is reassembled the sultan and his Entourage mole on her departure and she disappeared in a puff of smoke simple. Maybe one thing we should say is about the scale say when you say large elephant people think of an elephant but this totally articulates moving in every direction elephant was the size of a three-story building it was in feet. It was 40 feet high and a bull that were 14 what cold manipulative puppeteers who removing the trunk and the eyes and the body in the legs and the tail all of it move. It looks so real but you didn't it was obviously made of steel and
00:27:30Flixbus like the best of it shows you've ever seen you stopped watching the mechanics and just saw this is magnificent creature. And remember the date that you actually starting you were on the Streets of London. What what date was May 2006 so we close Central London. So if any of your listeners have been to London we close the area from Trafalgar Square horse guards parade, the mileage lease and Buckingham Palace Melrose St. James's Piccadilly in a mass Haymarket will that so we closed the absolute Center or it may of 2006 comes the streets are blocked. The Centre London is clear. Take me there. Like do you have you just gather the night before say the night before Mickey and I my pain that we stood in the mail and it was completely deserted and we met I meant we both lost each other and said to think anyone will
00:28:30Because the event is free to the public you don't have any sense of an audience or he might come home and think so the night before we were nervous.
00:28:43And then the show sausage with the little girls rockheads apparently crash-landed into Street outside the Athenaeum, which is one of the big clubs in central London. And if you went there at 6:00 in the morning this enormous rocket 30-40 feet high made of wooden frame looking like something out of a Jules Verne novel serviceable slightly setting that. Was embedded into the ground with smoke billowing out of the floor as if it had just crashed and it did nothing for the day before the Thursday performance the rocket just no sign of it in
00:29:21What is a lot more excited what I'm looking at in front of me? It looks like it is planted itself from the sky about 20 minutes de Village comes of the rocket on the little girl 24 feet of a little girl with a peaceful flying helmet in her hair trapped underneath it emerges from the top of the she's a giant puppet. She's a job puppet and she walks through to file the square into the mileage is the road that leads down to Buckingham Palace and onto horse guards parade wet miraculous, escape a giant elephant has appeared overnight and the sultan he's aboard the elephant gets off the elephant and greet her and then she starts with an A.
00:30:07Together and sometimes separately just explore these areas in central London that we had negotiated was that sort of playground and the first day maybe 50,000 people which we thought was great. It was great having a controllable. It was amazing, but by the Sunday we start counting, but the BBC said they were a million people in the streets. And if you look at the images, you can see that they were Minion Happy People.
00:30:38Puerto Rican believe in magic
00:30:50when you think about art and the kind of art you do, you know huge public events. How do they how do you think they transform?
00:31:02Someone's ability to think in an imaginative and creative way in their own lives. If you can physically transform place you can change forever the experience in the Outlook of anybody who experiences not so
00:31:22Off to the elephant. I mean that we found Last Vegas shows in December this interesting elephant because it was the first and the most shocking in a way because it really did nobody tried to do anything like this before.
00:31:37We got an email. Thousands and thousands Mimosa go to the email from a man. He said
00:31:43I work today.
00:31:46with the most extraordinary feelings of grief and joy
00:31:50Raise the tile never see them again. Enjoy that I met them. Thank you for teaching me that cynicism isn't a way of life.
00:32:01Suggesting that one with Whitney mail, you can see the extraordinary transforming fact that those few days and I don't text Helen Merrick sheet director of artichoke gets an organization that helps produce large-scale art performances in public Spaces, by the way, the name of the French marionette company that created the Sultan's elephant is called the Royal Deluxe. You can see Helens full talk at 10. Com.
00:32:35Show today ideas about jump-starting creativity. Stay with this guy Roz and you listening to the TED Radio Hour from NPR.
00:32:45Everyone just a quick thanks to two of our sponsors who helped make this podcast possible first to better help their help offers licensed professional counselors who specialize in issues such as depression stress anxiety and more. Can I give you a professional counselor in a safe and private online environment at your convenience get help at your own time and your own pace schedule secure video or phone sessions plus chat and text with your therapist. Is it better help.com radio hour to learn more? It's the TED Radio Hour from NPR. I'm guy Roz on the show today ideas about jump-starting creativity to inspire creative thinking
00:33:36Take a walk early is a behavioral and learning scientist at Stanford and she spoke about her idea from the Ted stage. So the creative process, you know, that's from the first idea to the final product is a long process. It's super iterative. Lots of refinement blood sweat tears and years and we're not saying you're going to go out for a walk and come back with the Sistine Chapel in your left hand. Right? So what frame of the creative process that we focus on just this first part just brainstorming coming up with a new idea. So we actually ran for studies with a variety of people either walking indoors or Outdoors. All of these studies on the same conclusion. I'm only going to tell you about one of them today. So one of the tests we use for creativity was alternate uses and this test your four minutes and your job is come up with as many other ways to use common everyday objects as you can think of so, for example, what else would you do with a key other than to use it for opening up a lock soap.
00:34:36Who came up with many ideas as they could and we had to decide is this creative or not? So the definition of creativity that a lot of people go with is appropriate novelty. So for something to be appropriate has to be realistic. So unfortunately, you can't use a key is an eyeball boo, but novel the second thing is that nobody had to have set it. So for us had to be appropriate first and then for novelty nobody else in the entire population that we surveyed could have said it so you might think you could use a key to scratch somebody's car. But if somebody else said that you didn't get credit fortnite of you did however only one person said this if you were dying at a were murder mystery and had to carve the name of the murderer into the ground with their dying words,
00:35:25So one person said this and it's a creative idea cuz it's appropriate and it's novel so you either did this test and came up with ideas while you were seated or while you were walking on a treadmill.
00:35:39They did the test twice with different objects three groups the first group that first and then that again for the second test the second group that first and then did the second test while walking on a treadmill the third group in this is interesting. They walked on the treadmill first and then they sat okay. So the two groups that fat together for the first test they look pretty similar to each other and they averaged about 20 creative ideas per person the group that was walking on the treadmill did almost twice as well. So remember they took the test twice the people who sat twice for that second test. He didn't get any better practice didn't help but these same people who are sitting and then went on the treadmill got a boost from walking.
00:36:26Here's the interesting thing.
00:36:29The people were walking on the treadmill still had a residue effect of the walking and they were still creative afterwards. So the implication of this is that you should go for a walk before your next big meeting and just start brainstorming right away. So we have five tips for you that will help make this the best effect possible. So first you want to pick a problem or topic to brainstorm. So this is not the shower effect. This is not when you're in the shower and all of a sudden a new idea pops out of the shampoo bottle. This is something you're thinking about head of time and they're intentionally thinking about brainstorming a different perspective on the walk. Technically I get asked this a lot is this okay while running will the answer for me is that if I were running the only new idea I would have would be to stop running so
00:37:18But it's running for you with a comfortable Pace good. So it turns out whatever physical activity is not taking a lot of attention. So just walking at a comfortable pace is a good choice. Also, you want to come up with as many ideas as you can so one key of creativity is to not lock on that first idea keep coming up with new ones until you pick one or two to pursue you might worry that you don't want to write them down because what if you will forget them, so the idea here is to speak them. Everybody was speaking their new idea. So you can put your headphones on and record through your phone and then just pretend you're having a great of conversation. Right? Cuz the act of writing your idea down is already a filter you're going to be like at this point enough to write down and then you write it down. So just speak as many as you can record them and think about them later and finally don't do this forever, right? If you're on the wagon ideas not coming to you come back to it later at another time.
00:38:13It's merely a peso to use an instructor of medicine at Stanford University. Find out more about merrily go to ted.com.
00:38:25Two earlier in the show we heard Economist Tim Harper talk about unexpected challenges can make someone more creative. But he also has another idea about how to jumpstart creativity multitasking which sounds kind of weird because normally creativity and multitasking do not go hand-in-hand. Yeah, and I tend to agree. I mean everyone agrees some it. Maybe it's a generational thing. I don't know but some people seem to think it's it's just great to be watching Game of Thrones while also tweeting and Snapchatting some people love it. Some people hate it. I personally hate it. I think that was a different phenomenon that we shouldn't hate the different on the Wii Wii Shop Ashley Embrace and for once of a better word. I've called it slow motion multitask.
00:39:13What is it that mean is having several important projects on the go single taenia? How do I access notice this in my own life where I was working on a book for years like I got stuck.
00:39:36I actually stopped and wrote another book and then restarted and finished the first book that feels like an extreme case. I have to write every week for the financial times and I have to BBC Radio shows and so I stopped my book writing and I work on them and then I stopped and I constantly feel like I have these different things on my plate and sometimes I think to myself and really I should focus if I was really it if I was a proper artist Robin just some hack I would be focusing and achieving something great in a in a single endeavor.
00:40:21And then I look at the real rights the great artist great scientists. And I realize it's nonsense because almost all of them had really serious project on the go symbol taneously again on the Ted stage walkable scientific papers. One of them was on Brownian motion it provided empirical evidence that atoms exist and it laid out the basic mathematics behind most of financial economics. Another one was on the theory of special relativity another one.
00:41:05When the food was introduced to the equation, you might have heard of E equals MC squared. So tell me again how you shouldn't do several things at once feels like a counter-intuitive idea for the reason it seems counterintuitive because we used to lapsing into multitasking out of desperation. We're in a hurry to go to do everything at once.
00:41:29If we were willing to slow multitasking down, we might find that it works quite brilliantly.
00:41:3860 years ago a young psychologist by the name of Benny say Jason, we got a long search Project into the personalities and working habits of 40 leading scientists research went on for decades and continued even after Professor ages in his self had died and what are the questions that answered was how is it that some scientists are able to go on producing important work right through the lines. What is it about these people was clear and I think to some people surprising.
00:42:15The top scientists kept changing the subject. They would shift topics during the first hundred published research papers.
00:42:32no one averaged the most injury Lee creative scientists switched topics 43 times in their first hundred percent papers.
00:42:46Play it's almost unbelievable how they were working all these different things at once you pay for it. Was it was it a new area this curiosity we watch Captain fresh. I think they're probably three reasons why the slow-motion multitasking works. The first is that when you switch out of a problem with your bit stuck, then you come text helps you forget your old wrong on so that you'll see that it's the crossword puzzle problem meeting you stuck on a crossword puzzle. You got the wrong on swing your head will you need to do is forget it for a second. So just a change of context helps you solve a problem. The second reason is different areas cross-fertilize each other. So an idea that you come up with a monteria helps you in another and the third reason is I think it just provides you with an outlet.
00:43:40You have time to to destress to relax you feeling stock. You're feeling under pressure. And you just got something interesting to get home with wet when you'll stop at something productive as it with my own experience of literally stopping writing a book and writing another book.
00:44:01Who gets stuck sometimes even Albert Einstein 10 years after the original miraculous year that I describe Einstein was putting together the pieces of his theory of general relativity his greatest achievement and he was exhausted.
00:44:19So he turned to an easier problem. He proposed the stimulated emission of radiation, which as you may know is the zoo in laser. So he's laying down the theoretical foundation for the laser beam. And then while he's doing that he moves back to general relativity and he's refreshed. He sees the theory that the Universe isn't static. It's expanding Einstein, bring himself to believe it for years.
00:44:55That's the case for slow-motion multitasking and I'm not promising that it's going to turn you into Einstein but it is a powerful way to organize our creative lives. I want to give you one final exam my favorite example Charles Darwin.
00:45:12What do you have to school age of 18? He was initially interested in two fields to zoology and geology pretty soon. He signed up to be the onboard naturalist on the Beagle while he was on the bagel coral reefs. This is a great Synergy between these two interests in Zoology and geology and processes.
00:45:38When he gets back from the voyage his interests start to expand even further psychology for the rest of his life. He's moving backwards and forwards between these different fields. He never quite abandons any of them. Then he has his Eureka Moment In A Flash. He realizes how species could emerge an evolved slowly through this process of the survival of the fittest. It all comes down every single important element of the theory of evolution, but then
00:46:14Is some Williams born?
00:46:16Well as a natural experiment right there, you got to observe the development of a human infant so majorly Darwin starts making notes how cool she still working on the theory of evolution and the development of a human infant all the face. He doesn't really know enough about taxonomy. They start studying that and in the end Origin of Species is finally published twenty years after Darwin set out of all the basic elements. Then The Descent of Man controversial book and then
00:46:50The book about the development of the human infants the one that was inspired by what he could see his son William cooling on that the sitting room floor in front of him when the book was published when he was 37 years old.
00:47:05Yeah, I know. It seems that we would run our personal experiences to generate new ideas. It is appointed. I didn't even run to that. So it makes sense that our brains would dark and all these different directions at the same time. Yeah, but that could be incredibly stressful. So I think the creativity comes naturally from that from having these different projects. They cross-fertilize each other. They provide a richer pattern of references that you can use they own stick you in your stock not so great. But I think we have to recognize that having six projects on your plate in your inbox on your desk. It can be incredibly stressful at anxiety-producing. I mean, that's one of the more productivity challenge. Its I think how do you handle multiple projects without just constantly switching from one to another in this state of heightened anxiety. How do you how do you make it a productive experience in a relaxing experience?
00:48:051937 Darwin start studying earthworms. He fills his billiard room with earthworms in pots with Gods coming from them to see if they'll respond. She holds a hot poker next and see if they move away to Sir backhoe. He blows on the iPhone see if they have a sense of smell. He even plays the bassoon actually earthworms.
00:48:32I like to think of this great man when he's tired, he's stressed. He's anxious about the reception of his book. The Descent of Man Darwin would go into the billiard-room to relax by studying the earthworm's intensely.
00:48:50And that's why it's appropriate that one of his lost great works is the formation of vegetable mould through the action of worms.
00:49:00He went to Palm that book for 44 years.
00:49:07We don't live in the 19th century anymore. I don't think any of us could stay till now creative or scientific projects 44 years, but we do have something to learn from the great slow motion multitasking seems to present us with a choice. If we go to browser window. We have to live like a Hermit focus on one thing to the exclusion of everything else. I think it's a.
00:49:37Return make multitasking work for a leasing on natural creativity.
00:49:44We just need to slow it down.
00:49:47Thank you very much.
00:49:49That's Economist Tim Harford. But like Tim has a new season of his podcast out. It's called 50 things that made the modern economy can find all of Tim stocks at 10. Com.
00:50:03And let my mind wander.
00:50:10And what did it do?
00:50:17It just kept right on going.
00:50:23Until it got back to you. Thanks for listening to this episode jumpstart and creativity this week if you want to go to npr.org and ask for Ted Talks check out today, or is it had happened at NPR includes Jeff Rogers son has Michigan for Janae West Eva Grant Casey Herman Rachel Faulkner Diva Moda. Fashion, James delahoussaye and JC Howard with help from Daniel. Shukan and Katie Monteleone are Partners at Ed Sanderson calling Helms and a feeling and Janet Leigh die rise and even listening to ideas worth spreading right here on the TED Radio Hour from NPR.

Transcribed by algorithms. Report Errata
Disclaimer: The podcast and artwork embedded on this page are from NPR, which is the property of its owner and not affiliated with or endorsed by Listen Notes, Inc.


Thank you for helping to keep the podcast database up to date.