You probably think this post is about terminations. Well hate to tell you but it is about creativity and why it is a good thing to tell someone to “go take a hike.”
Do you know what at RAT is? This acronym stands for remote associates test. Let me give you an example. What do bass- complex- sleep have in common? Researchers have found that the more time people spend in front of a computer or one a mobile device the worse they get on RATS. According to Kevin Charles Redmon of Pacific Standard, “Little is known about the human brain on technology – less even than the brain on drugs – but many social psychologists fear that so much ‘screen time’ is rewiring our neural circuitry, and not for the better.” He reports about the work of David Strayer, a professor of cognition and neural science. Strayer always noticed that he always got a mental boost after taking a hike. He started asking students and colleagues along and they reported similar results.
On one extended hike in Utah, a psychologist asked all the hikers to take a RAT prior to starting and then again two days into the trip. There was a 45% improvement from one test to the next. This peaked Strayer’s curiosity, so he teamed with the psychologists, Ruth Ann and Paul Atchley, and they contacted Outward Bound to run an experiment. A hiking group of 56 people were administered the test, half at the beginning and half in the middle of the hike. The latter group scored 50% better than the early test takers. To the researchers it seems that spending time in nature, away from technology has a positive effect on creativity.
Granted, the study is limited in scope and does not really reveal how this effect occurs. However, combined with other studies on the effect of leaving children with technology “babysitters” it shows that children’s social skills take a major hit.
There is some good news however. Redmon quotes Strayer as saying “…you can undo some of that negativity by just disconnecting, getting off the grid, and going into a natural environment.” Just how much is a question. Older adults may not recover as well as kids, who have more plasticity built into their brains, but that has not yet really been quantified.
But, the next time you have an employee who has been in front of that computer for a long time and they have become stale and grumpy and not creative, tell them to go take a hike, a real one, before you consider telling them to take a hike in an employment sense.
By the way, did you get the answer to the RAT I posed at the beginning? The answer is “deep.” If you got it good for you, if you didn’t get up and move around at least.