When you are in a better mood you are more open to new ideas,
lateral thinking, and discovering alternate creative solutions to your
problems. Don Norman spoke at TED
about this several years ago. When we are happy we are more inclined to breadth-first
processing where we look at lots of possible solutions first before
thinking more critically about any one idea. This “out of the box” thinking is
what allows us to stumble upon new ideas.
The opposite of this is depth-first processing,
where you take a deep-dive in one direction without a second thought to
alternate ideas. This is great for getting things done, because you are solely
focused on the execution of the work, but not so great if you need to find
alternate ways of getting things done. You are essentially working with horse
blinders on, only looking down the path you are focused on.
When it comes to taking care of business (TCB as Elvis would say), you
need a mix of both processing types. For the initial ideation phase of idea
generation you want to be happy, open to new ideas, breadth-first processing,
and explore a variety of paths.
Then you need to transition between gears and move from
breadth-first to depth-first processing. You need to narrow your focus to the
one solution you have chosen and make it happen. It is worth mentioning that there
are a variety of ways to focus. Stuff You Should Know has a good
podcast episode on anger and how, when channeled appropriately, can be used
for good and depth-first processing. People who are angry can have better
analytical skills and greater focus, both of which lend themselves to completing
the work in front of you and not getting distracted.
With that said it would seem then that the advice would be to get
happy to generate new ideas but then lose your cool to execute the chosen idea.
This can’t be right. When we look at the key to depth-first processing we it’s
the concept of focus. It is the removal of distractions and the devotion of
your attention to a singular thing. Anger can do this too but it has other
obvious side effects.
So the best path is to get happy to generate new ideas but once a
chosen path has been decided, temporarily remove the things around you that
will divert your attention from the matter at hand and work until the job is