Daydreaming: Imagining Creates Reality

Imagining creates reality

Ilustration by Christian Laborin

We live in a society that values and rewards efficiency over creativity. Yet, the tasks that lead to efficiency are slowly being taken over by robots and bots leaving us humans to do things that are not repetitive in nature. As this happens, we’ll have more time to do what leads to creativity: daydreaming.

And while this may sound like fun, in this day in age, daydreaming gets a bad rap; often seen as frivolous and waste of time. Those of us who are called dreamers get criticized for spending too much time in our heads and not a lot on actually doing. And while some of it might be true, we’re simply misunderstood for daydreaming holds great power and benefits over the long run for both people and the organizations they work for.

Daydreaming is good for us

As someone who’s very instrospective I value the practice of getting lost in my thoughts and disconnect from everything else. It’s well known that inspiration hits when putting off challenges to focus on something else; this is a form of daydreaming.

I’ve never been one to be put off by people who criticize dreamers because people don’t understand what actually happens when you get into your head and just let your mind wander. Contrary to popular belief, as explained in the video below, daydreaming is not idleness; it’s a normal part of our cognitive process:

A main point of contention about daydreaming is that we’re not focused on the task at hand while letting our mind wander; thus making us lazy and unfocused. A new study on daydreaming points to the benefits of letting your mind wander:

The results suggest, Kane says, that people with good cognitive control—who also tend to score high on tests of intelligence and achievement—adapt their thinking to circumstantial demands. They daydream when they’re free to do so, and focus when it’s necessary.

Daydreaming is important for creative thinking

I believe there are two kinds of daydreamers: those who only dream and those who dream and execute. For the latter, call it productive daydreaming if you will, it’s the equivalent of playing with ideas in physical form but in your head.

Daydreaming has many benefits, for example:

The last point is important because our brain needs downtime and it doesn’t rest just when we sleep.

Imagining creates reality

Across the globle business leaders want innovation but reject creativity. It’s a fact. Most people are threatened by creativity. In schools, science, and business, we reward familiar ideas; not novel ones.

Yet, human progress depends on our ability to imagine new realities and then making them real.

A good way to know whether or not an organization is creating the conditions for creativity is by understanding if and how they let people think and work on things that have absolutely nothing to do with their day to day job as opposed to just keeping their head down and being as efficient as possible. Idle activities like procrastrination and getting bored all contribute to creativity. So, it’s no secret why organizations have a hard time thinking about how to create the conditions for innovation to happen because they rather not have any idle time.

Efficient, productivity-orientated tasks are easy to reproduce by another human and a machine. Creativity is rare. Creativity is the antidote to the poison of efficiency over effectiveness. It’s the solution to sending endless e-mails and making meaningless presentations, because it allows us to perceive the new opportunities that are unfolding in front of us. While the specific factors that provide the optimal circumstances for creativity are debated, a brute force approach, based on clocking the hours, is not amongst them.

As a business leader, you future-proof your organization by unleashing people’s creativity. Though considering possibilities might seem like a deliberate brainstorm activity, there is point in time where you need to step back from the challenge and let the ideas simmer in your head and just daydream and do other things; it’s necessary for the brain.

Bottom line: You can’t mandate innovation. And you can’t tell people it’s their job and not let them do it. You have to create the conditions for it to take place which means embracing activities that breed creativity; like daydreaming. Your future depends on it.