There’s a lot written in business journals or psychology magazines about ‘how to be more creative?’…a bit like there is a silver bullet or logical answer. In fact we’re pretty sure TED.com thrives on trying to answer this very question. Anyway, some recent research suggests being tired is good for creativity.

Ron Friedman, in this book ‘The Best Places to Work’ (subtitled: ‘The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace’), believes that being tired at work can be a key ingredient to a breakthrough idea – because you’re not as good at filtering out ‘weird’ ideas in this state.

We’ll let Friedman explain:

“We’re actually better at being creative when we’re fatigued… And it’s partly because, in order to be creative, sometimes you need to consider some ideas that don’t necessarily feel like they’re on track with what you’re trying to achieve. And so having all these ideas come into your mind because you’re not quite as good at putting them off when you’re tired can actually make you more creative.”

This advice sounds counter-intuitive but has scientific grounding.

A 2011 study by Mareike Wieth from Albion University, found that participants did better at solving problems that required creative thinking (as opposed to analytical thinking) at times of the day when they were less awake – in fact there was a 20% greater ‘solution rate’ than at times when participants felt awake (or ‘optimal’). Wieth defined these as the types of problems ‘that seems unsolvable until an ‘aha’ moment dawns’.

So when you want your organisation to come up with some wacky ideas (ie. get creative)…do it at times you know people will be tired – like post lunch, or first thing Monday morning. In essence, what we’re saying is tailor when you work to certain tasks.