That's the hypothesis put forth by Alan G. Carter in a brilliant web series found at "The Programmer's Stone". It begins as a critical examination of the effect of stress on creative solution finding. What the author refers to as juxtapositional thinking is a method of holding multiple opposing proposed solutions in one's mind at the same time. This type of advanced conceptual problem solving forms the basis of effective and intelligent design, programming or otherwise. Discover how our body's response to stress is to focus on frontal lobe thinking which is predictable and methodical but highly concentrated. The Programmer's Stone continues by suggesting solutions addressing the issue of stress for individuals and organizations. In addition to mitigating the effect, techniques for inducing advanced cognitive states are given for those who are stuck in procedural or stressed mental conditions. Some of the ideas are fairly advanced (to readers like myself who are new to the concept) so the brief but dense series may require a careful (re)read and time to digest.
Some of my own thoughts to add to the topic:
- Connect to other designers who are dealing with the same difficulties as yourself through social media (programming or otherwise)
- regular exercise does a great job of resetting my bodies stress system
- determining the magic stress threshold that optimizes our
cognitive performance is unique to each individual. A simple hypothesis is that
any individual interested enough in a topic won't require ANY outside stress to achieve superior design performance
- antidepressants that block stress receptors could actually improve cognitive ability when under tight schedules or managerial pressure (I wouldn't try it, update: there are side effects related to modern antidepressants that inhibit optimal thinking)
- an incredible amount of great scientific research has been done on lab rats cognitive impairment when under stress, we need to apply these findings to our daily work environments to better utilize our work force (and our own time)
- no we're not lab rat's! But under stress we have a similar drop in cognitive ability
- of course we need to balance work + out of work life
- stress stops your brain from producing new neurons
- stress is ruining our best CEO's and leaders, read more on how this happening
A related article, Tough Choices: How Making Decisions Tires Your Brain discusses how sequential thought processes can affect decision making quality. It goes on to explain how the exhaustion of the executive decision making process of the brain can negatively effect later decision making.