Back in 2006, when I wrote my Business-Driven Enterprise Architect as IT Linchpin post, I noted several success tips directed at CIOs. Including this one:
“Encourage Enterprise Architects to “Feed Their Brains.” For enterprise architects to stay on top of their game, they need to continuously explore, stretch their boundaries, and sometimes, just sit and think. Recognize this is part of the deal. Be patient when the areas they explore don’t have an obvious connection to your business or technology plans. Trust their instincts.”
In a recent Wired article, Clive Thompson calls out recent brain science research that suggests, “daydreaming can actually be useful”:
“For years, brain scientists viewed a wandering mind as merely a lapse in cognition. But recent studies have found that we lose concentration shockingly often. A 2007 study by Michael Kane of the University of North Carolina found that our minds drift away from our tasks fully one-third of the time. And this suggests that daydreaming can actually be useful — because if it were such a bad thing, it’s unlikely that we’d do it so often.
Why do our minds wander? Brain-scanning technology has uncovered some clues. It turns out that when your mind drifts, your temporal lobes — which are associated with processing long-term memories — become busier. So when you float off into a reverie, you’re actually doing important data-storage work.
Daydreaming isn’t just the mind’s way of processing information, though. Other scans have found that the wandering mind also utilizes the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that’s involved in problem-solving. The upshot, says Jonathan Schooler, a professor of psychology at UC Santa Barbara who is studying this area, is that your idling mind is likely doing deeply creative work, tackling your hairiest long-term tasks — projects you’ve been trying to address for months, the arc of your career, the state of your marriage. “Mind-wandering is actually a very involved task,” Schooler says. “You leave the here and now and focus on more remote concerns that nevertheless might be more important. We’ve been focusing on the downside of this, but we need to think about the upside.”
Indeed, Schooler suspects that research like his explains why so many “aha” moments occur when we’re drifting — like Archimedes in the tub.”
Thompson goes on discuss how these findings, if proven correct, should lead to a redesign of the way we work:
“How about designing software that optimizes daydreaming? For example, one problem with drifting is that we’re often unaware we’re doing it. We can hit upon a cool idea but never even realize it. Imagine an app that randomly pings you to see if your mind is wandering — and if it is, lets you record what you’re thinking about.”
While I’d rather not be pinged out of my daydreaming, err deep thinking, I found the follow-on point to be key:
“…a way to strip away the crud of daily work and learn what your brain’s real priorities are.”
Imagine that, the positive, sustainable, business impact of enterprise architecture, once the crud is stripped away.
Cheer up, Sleepy Jean.
Oh, what can it mean.
To a daydream believer
And an architecture team.
[With apologies to John Stewart, composer of Daydream Believer.]