A recent study suggests alcohol can improve creative thinking. HRM examines the impact of unconventional drinking and drug use in the workplace.
Ever thought about setting up a bar in the office? Because now might be the time. A recent study by Mississippi State University professor Andrew Jarosz has attempted to answer the age old question of whether drunk people are, like, good at creative stuff.
While the sample size was relatively small and gender biased – 20 males downing vodka cranberry cocktails until they reached legal intoxication – the results were clear. Surprisingly, the drunk males were unequivocally better at solving strategic problems than their sober counterparts, giving more correct answers in a shorter amount of time.
In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Jarosz says alcohol consumption allows for more “sudden insights”, and prevents people getting stuck on their first thoughts.
“Instead of doing a very focused, goal-directed search for the answer, they engaged in what neuroscientists call ‘spreading activation’,” he says. “If you looked at an fMRI of their brains, you might see different areas lighting up, indicating that they were subconsciously activating all the recesses of their memories for the right words.”
But don’t get too excited. If you’re looking for these benefits Jarosz says you should only be having a martini at lunch or a couple of drinks at the end of the day to get the creative juices flowing – because anything above a blood alcohol level of 0.8 is dicey. Not only do the benefits stop, it’s more likely to render you useless. Plus says Jarosz, “you might have trouble screening out terrible ideas”.
You should also rule out attempting to solve a complex math problem or operating heavy machinery. So, drinking before an afternoon strategy session? Maybe. Actually implementing the strategy? Lay off the hooch. And don’t hastily send anything off to a client or the higher-ups without casting a sober eye over it first. “You know the old saying ‘write drunk, edit sober’? Well, there’s a reason the edit part is in there,” says Jarosz.
Some of the other reported positive effects of mild alcohol consumption include boosting happiness and memory, clear thinking, reducing stress, and improved sociability. So, drink (moderately) up (if you want)!
Turn on, tune in, drop out?
Psychedelic drugs have been used to treat depression and post-traumatic stress, and it appears Silicon Valley engineers have taken note of the destressifying effects of LSD.
“Microdosing” refers to the use of mini doses of drugs, namely LSD, to produce a calming effect and inhibit stress (HRM previously touched on the subject last year). Paul Austin, founder of The Third Wave, a pro-psychedelic community, is a proponent, defining microdosing as, “the act of integrating sub-perceptual doses of psychedelics, such as LSD or Psilocybin Mushrooms, into your weekly routine for higher levels of creativity, more energy, increased focus, and improved relational skills.” The procedure is reported to be growing in popularity and a lot of people in the San Francisco tech community are hip to the jive.
An Indian tech worker recently spoke to mid-day.com about the growing popularity of microdosing LSD and marijuana in his home country. “With microdosing, you are not tripping – this is not a trip. The euphoria isn’t there. It’s not about feeling good, it’s about calmness,” he says.
It’s not only software engineers getting into the groove, but biologists and mathematicians too, breaking the tradition of drug use being relegated to creative spheres.
But there’s a flip side, of course. It can be easy to take too much, and suffer one of the worst days anyone can have in an office (or a very beautiful, enlightening day where you still get fired). And there is little knowledge of the long-term effects of regular psychedelic drug use. Scientist David Nichols, who experimented on the effects of LSD on rats in 2011, found that they became aggressive and displayed symptoms of psychosis after long-term exposure.
“Using these drugs once a month is one thing. Using them every day, I’m not sure they are innocuous,” says Nichols. “They may bring about subtle behavioural and hormonal changes that we don’t yet fully understand.”
Err… rock on?
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