Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, is a surprisingly insightful guy. I've been following his blog for some time and I read his latest book. If you like thought-provoking stuff, I highly recommend them.
He just made this post about creativity:
There have been several articles floating around the web lately about how inspiration comes to us when we take our mind off of the problem. For example, this one.
The idea always goes something like: "you have to let your subconscious work at the problem." That sounds reasonable, I guess. But it doesn't go far enough.
Scott posits that "creativity is something that happens naturally so long as your brain is not actively suppressing it for some sort of survival advantage... Putting it in simpler terms, creativity is a mental luxury that your brain will not allow until it feels safe or until the watchdog part of your brain gets busy handling some routine task such as driving the car."
He goes on to suggest that research (A-B tests) should be done to determine which distraction methods yield the most creativity. I suppose the challenge here would be how to quantify 'creativity.' But I'm sure that, at the very least, we could measure some proxy for it.