Most people know that I have a passion for walking.  Often, I have also taken my clients for a walk when we have reached a point where we cannot come up with a solution or the party is blocked in a psychological space  that prevents them from seeing the possible solutions.  Recent research has shown that those walks may be powerful ways of helping the creative mind arrive at mediation solutions.

Researchers at Stanf0rd decided to test the proposition that walking helps to open up the creative juices. What they found was compelling.  “For almost every student, creativity increased substantially when they walked. Most were able to generate about 60 percent more uses for an object, and the ideas were both “novel and appropriate,” Dr. Marrily Oppezzo writes in her study, which was published this month in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.”   The researchers also found creativity increased substantially after a walk, even when the person sat down.

Finally, to examine another real-world implication of walking and creativity, Dr. Oppezzo moved portions of the experiment outdoors. “Most people would probably guess that walking outside should be much better for creativity” than pacing inside a drab office. But surprisingly, her study undermined that assumption. When volunteers strolled Stanford’s pleasant, leafy campus for about eight minutes, they generated more creative ideas than when they sat either inside or outside for the same length of time. But they were not noticeably more creative as a result of their plein-air walk than when they subsequently walked on an indoor treadmill, facing a blank wall. (Want To Be More Creative? Take a Walk, in the New York Times)

In other words, the act of walking, by itself, helped to enhance the creative juices.  In a mediation or negotiation, if you find that you are stuck and need to come up with alternative solutions, think about taking a walk to open up the creative juices. Here are some ways to take a walk in the middle of a mediation:

  • Walk the long way to the restrooms
  • Step outside the building and walk around the building
  • Walk to get a cup of coffee
  • Suggest that you need to get something from your car and walk there

At the end of the day, walking is good for many reasons.  Creativity is just one of the many benefits of walking.