So much, by so many, for so little

January 10, 1997

YOUR correspondent (THES, January 3) asks "when do you start work?". There is a researchable issue here (I feel a proposal coming on): academic productivity is related to generating new and valued ideas and that often takes place in bed.

Professor Geschka from the Technical University of Darmstadt has studied the idea-generation practices of European and Japanese managers (Creativity and Innovation Management, Vol.I No.1, 1997). He found that most ideas occurred outside the workplace in relaxing conditions. There are some cultural variations. Japanese respondents reported getting most of their ideas in bed; the Swiss and Austrians were more likely to be inspired while walking in alpine serenity. On a visit to Finland, I found that my Finnish hosts had arranged for a brainstorming in a sauna - which was quite a cultural jolt.

I know of no systematic study of the geography of academic inspiration. Anecdotal evidence seems to have enshrined the bed, the bathtub, and the Clapham omnibus as sacred vehicles of creative discovery. I can just about see the case that the tutorial, lecture room and senior common room provide the associated climates that condition or trigger creativity. The breakthroughs are likely to occur late at night or in the small hours of the morning. This is the point of my proposed research. I seek to test the hypothesis that academic enquiry is a 24-hour-a-day process. If confirmed empirically, we should lobby to be paid to stay in bed for periods adequate for the successful conception and delivery of our creative brain children. This would be of great value in achieving better RAEs (Research Active Eurekas).

Tudor Rickards

Professor of creativity and organisational change Manchester Business School

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