In honour of International Cat Day, we’re taking a brief hiatus from writing about employee experience, or the Psychology of Employee Engagement, to bring you another aspect of working life: pictures of cats.
Many of us have been guilty of spending the odd afternoon in the office browsing images of funny felines, but why is this noteworthy? Well the answer lies in the link between cat memes and procrastination (an obvious one), and the less obvious link between procrastination and creativity. But if you’re just here for the cat pics, scroll on.
Can procrastination be a source of creativity?
According to research from The University of Calgary, 15-20% of adults are frequent procrastinators – this might seem like a reasonable amount, but Adam Grant, a professor of both Management and Psychology at the Wharton Business School, would argue that it’s not enough.
It all started when one of his students at Wharton, Jihae Shin suggested that she had her most creative ideas right after a period of procrastination – and Grant challenged her to prove the association. Shin started by surveying employees in two companies, asking them how often they procrastinated, and then asked their superiors to rate their level of creativity. She found that frequent procrastinators received much higher creativity scores, but Grant wasn’t convinced.
Later, after becoming a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Shin developed an experiment in which participants were challenged to come up with new business ideas. One group would be instructed to start working on the task right away, while another would be told to first spend five minutes playing Minesweeper or Solitaire. The results of the challenge were rated by an independent panel, and the procrastinators were deemed to have been 28% more creative in their approaches.
According to Grant, our initial ideas are usually our most conventional, and allowing ourselves to procrastinate gives our minds a chance to wander. He even cites highly successful people who he says benefitted from this behavioural trait. “Steve Jobs procrastinated constantly, several of his collaborators have told me,” he wrote in the New York Times. He also highlighted that Bill Clinton was a serial procrastinator, often leaving his speech-writing to the last minute, and that Aaron Sorkin (the screenwriter behind “Steve Jobs” and “The West Wing”) would only start writing just before a deadline. “You call it procrastination, I call it thinking,” Sorkin once said.
Cat memes: the solution to your creative block
So, on this International Cat Day, I asked our (very international) Peakon team to help provide our wider community with a creative boost. We’ve dug deep through our internet history to bring you the best cat pics that the internet has to offer, while introducing some of people working hard behind the scenes.
Amy Spagnolo – Head of Customer Support
I am a total procaffeinator: I need that coffee before functioning. The Italian in me makes it hard for me to avoid those roasted beans. I don’t call myself addicted, but I think it started when my grandma used to make me try coffee when I was very young and then it continued when I started bartending in my teenage years in Italy. The best coffee memory? My grandpa making me an espresso corretto, when I was just 12 years old. The coffee dream? Have my own bartender coffee machine at home!
Shanice Duggan-Keefe – Customer Success Manager, APAC
As a 90s kid myself, I feel like I totally get the 90s cat and that’s why this cracks me up so much. Us 90s (NZ) kiwi kids grew up chucking a tape in your mum’s car radio and being ready to press record when your favourite song came on, you hoped to befriend someone who had Crash Bandicoot on Playstation, you ate simple things for dinner (none of this fancy stuff like quinoa and kale), going to rent a movie on video was an absolute treat, you wrote notes and letters to your friends, you still have no idea how minesweeper works and there was a strong chance your room was filled with posters of 90s icons such as the Spice Girls, Michael Jordan and Cher from the movie Clueless. Kids these days… they have their phones and that’s about it!
Martin Daniel – Community Manager, DACH
I love music and I love to sing but I was always too shy and not confident enough to go for it. When I moved to Berlin, my friends took me to Karaoke. Guess what, I was the first on stage singing the Beatles’ “Eight Days a week” and it turned out I was really good at it. Since then, it’s become a passion. Funny thing is, our new office is directly opposite that Karaoke bar – but it seems the bar just closed. Is it a coincidence?
The Grumpy Cats
Charlotte Cobbaert – Customer Success Manager
Grumpy Cat and I are connected in many ways – not sure who copied who – but it seems like this smile has some true leadership potential. Biggest proof so far: even Obama copied us (see below).
The perils of over-procrastination
As with everything though, procrastination is best done in moderation. As part of Shin’s experiments, she randomly assigned a third group to start their task at the very last minute. Unsurprising, the work was rushed and the overall quality was judged to be lower than that of the other two teams.
Grant, however, offers some useful guidance on getting the balance right and boosting the creative process:
- Imagine yourself failing miserably at the the task at hand. The resultant fear may help to kick-start your creative and lateral thinking
- Focussing on “small wins” and lowering your standards for “progress” will prevent you from becoming paralysed by the curse of perfectionism
- Setting aside short windows of time for productive spurts will help you overcome mental blocks
On a final note, thanks to Charlie on our Data Science team for providing the picture of Twiglet in a shoebox at the top of the blog. Happy International Cat Day 2018.