Published Online:https://doi.org/10.5465/amd.2017.0033

Boredom is likely one of the most prevalent, yet least understood, emotions. It is easy to find examples of how boredom can engender other negative emotional states that often lead to somewhat negative—albeit unintended—outcomes (e.g., risky or delinquent behaviors). But does boredom invariably lead to negative consequences? Could being bored also have less obvious effects, such as increased creativity? We explore the consequences of being bored using three experimental studies that manipulate boredom and identify the benefits for creativity of being bored. In Study 1, we found that boredom helped boost individual productivity on an idea-generation task. In Study 2, we showed that the boredom manipulation only increased boredom and not other negative activating emotions (i.e., anger and frustration), thus highlighting boredom’s unique effect on creativity. In Study 3, we found that boredom did not universally increase creativity for a product development task; instead, only those individuals with a high learning goal orientation (LGO), high need for cognition (NOC), high openness to experience, and high internal locus of control (LOC) showed a significant increase in creativity when feeling bored. These counterintuitive findings offer an empirical basis and theoretical motivation for viewing boredom as a variety-driving emotion that motivates individuals to engage in novelty-seeking responses—i.e., engaging in different, often unusual, ways of doing things that are unlike typical or predictable responses. Building on our findings, we discuss how organizations can use this untapped resource to motivate employees for positive outcomes.

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