Zoning out or breaking through? Linking daydreaming to creativity in the workplace

Markus Baer, Erik Dane, Hector P. Madrid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Much has been written about the liabilities of mind wandering in the workplace. Given its prevalence, however, mind wandering may carry underappreciated benefits-especially with respect to creativity. Examining this possibility, we hypothesize that mindwandering involving imaginative thoughts, also known as "daydreams,"has the potential to spur creativity. We develop a theoretical model in which we examine two facets of daydreams based on their content: Problem-oriented daydreams and bizarre daydreams. In addition, wespecify an antecedent condition that produces such daydreams (cognitively demanding work; Studies 1 & 2) as well as a boundary condition of the effects of daydreaming on creativity (professional identification; Study 2). Taken together, the studies reported here largely support our theoretical model. Cognitively demanding work reliably elicits both facets of daydreams. However, only problem-oriented daydreams relate to creativity directly; the relationship between bizarre daydreamsand creativity is entirely dependent on professional identification. In addition, we observe negative relationships between both facets of daydreams and performance more generally when employees lack professional identification (Study 2). Our results indicate that among professionally identified individuals, daydreaming carries noteworthy benefits for creativity but can also impair performance in the absence of identification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1553-1577
Number of pages25
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Volume64
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2021

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