The Time for Creativity and Memory

A few posts back we wrote the Sense to Remember; a blog about the role that senses (touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing) play in our ability to remember.  A recent pair of articles posted on the MPI (Meeting Professionals International) Blog, sparked the idea for this entry that will look at how “downtime” for conference attendees can enhance creativity and memory.  

“Downtime” can be understood as silence in solitude. It can be time to step away from the relentless stream of information giving the brain time to process information, commit it to memory or spark that “AH-Ha!” moment of innovation or creativity.

”Downtime” can also be offered as playtime;  time away from the bombardment of information, to do something playful requiring less thinking or thinking that requires a different part of the brain, freeing the mind from active cognition.

“Relentless is a word that saps creativity. In a study on workday design, researchers identified relentless mindfulness as a key challenge to employee creativity ... relentless programming could well be programming the creativity and innovation out of your delegates … In the workday study, researchers concluded that work design should combine relentlessly mindful tasks with intervals of mindless work.” (from: DOWNTIME IS CRITICAL FOR YOUR CONFERENCE)

Downtime can be hard to find during a conference or meeting; the desire or pressure to create the highest “Return on Investment” for attendees can lead to tight schedules offering little more than travel time. 

Maybe downtime isn’t meant to be found, but rather created.

“How? Consider individual pods to relax into when delegates need some thinking space, a permission slip to escape for an afternoon walk in the park, a chance to do a CSR activity—filling bags of unused items for local charities, mindless but mind freeing.” (from: DOWNTIME IS CRITICAL FOR YOUR CONFERENCE)

The evolution of information and the access to it is continually shifting the way in which we as people are absorbing, retaining and utilizing information.  As our relationship to information changes so must the way we approach education and the sharing of information.

“Meetings are more than networking and knowledge exchanging. Truly great meetings, now and in the future, need to inspire innovation. But this means meeting designers being more mindful of mindlessness.

As the researchers remind us, “The music of Miles Davis was great not just because of the notes but also the silences between the notes.” Silence gives us pause for thought. And all of the best ideas start here.” (from: DOWNTIME IS CRITICAL FOR YOUR CONFERENCE)

Additionally giving delegates time away from the deluge of information facilitates the memory process.

“Another reason downtime rocks is because it reinforces newly learned information. In an article to be published in the journal Psychological Science, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientist Michaela Dewar and her colleagues show that memory can be boosted by taking a brief wakeful rest after learning something verbally new and that memory lasts not just immediately but over a longer term.

“Our findings support the view that the formation of new memories is not completed within seconds,” Dewar said. “Our work demonstrates that activities that we are engaged in for the first few minutes after learning new information really affect how well we remember this information after a week.”” (from: DOWNTIME BOOSTS LONG-TERM LEARNING)

As a Conference attendee, would “Downtime” or “Playtime” benefit you? 

What kind of activity would provide you with a beneficial break for your mind?
What would re-energize you? Inspire creativity and innovation?

As a planner what kind of mindless time could you offer your attendees?

We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!


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