Published Online:https://doi.org/10.5465/amj.2018.1471

Although it is widely assumed that procrastination is counterproductive, delaying task progress may have hidden benefits for creativity. Drawing on theories of incubation, we propose that moderate procrastination can foster creativity when employees have the intrinsic motivation and opportunity to generate new ideas. In two experiments in the United States, we tempted participants to engage in varying degrees of procrastination by making different numbers of funny YouTube videos easily accessible while they were supposed to be solving business problems. Participants generated more creative ideas in the moderate rather than low or high procrastination conditions. This curvilinear effect was partially mediated by problem restructuring and the activation of new knowledge. We constructively replicated and extended the curvilinear effect in a field study with Korean employees: procrastination predicted lower task efficiency but had an inverted-U-shaped relationship with creativity. Employees who procrastinated moderately received higher creativity ratings from their supervisors than employees who procrastinated more or less, provided that intrinsic motivation or creative requirement was high. We discuss theoretical and practical implications for time management, creativity, and motivation in organizations.

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