In many mediations (including those I have conducted), there comes a point when the parties are at an impasse: they are stymied in reaching a settlement. The plaintiff wants more, and the defendant believes it has already offered too much. The parties want to settle but do not know how to bridge the gap.

What to do? Take a walk! According to an article published on April 30, 2013 in the New York Times entitled “Want To Be More Creative? Take a Walk” by Gretchen Reynolds, there is now a study that supports the anecdotes we have all heard that taking a walk always helps to clear the mind and get the thoughts flowing once again.

The study evolved out of a real life experience. Marily Oppezzo, a graduate student at Stanford University, would take walks with her advisor and discuss topics. As a result of those walks, Ms. Oppezzo would find her solutions. Then the “ah hah” moment hit her: she should conduct a study to determine if the anecdotes are really true.

So, Dr. Oppezzo gathered some undergraduate students in a deliberately dull, unadorned room equipped with only a desk and a treadmill. She asked them to sit and complete some creativity tests. Then she asked them to walk on the treadmill (which faced a blank wall) at an easy pace and take the same creativity test. The result: creativity significantly increased while the students were walking.

Dr. Oppezzo wondered if this creativity would carry over once the walking stopped. So, she tested this as well by having the students take creativity tests, go for a walk and then sit and take the tests again. She found that the walking did have a lingering effect;

[W]alking markedly improved people’s ability to generate creative ideas, even when they sat down after the walk….[T]he volunteers who had walked produced significantly more and subjectively better ideas than in their pre-exercise testing period. (Id.)

Dr. Oppezzo next wondered if it made a difference whether one walked on a treadmill indoors or outside in the fresh air. She found no difference. Whether the students took a stroll through campus or on an indoor treadmill, they were as equally creative. In short, she concluded it is the act of walking and not where one walks that matters.

So… the next time you are stymied for a solution or at an impasse in a negotiation, take a walk. It will help get the creative juices flowing.

…. Just something to think about.


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