Innovation is peculiar to humans. We are the only one animal on earth capable of making our vision a reality. We are able to fly like birds thanks to aircrafts, we can swim like fishes thanks to snorkelling or submarines, we even have been to the moon… Innovation is not something that happen once in a life, it is useful in our everyday lives. Being innovative better our solving problem skills.
But, how do humans do to innovate ? Innovation can come from a simple idea or it can be a complex technological concept. Whatever it is, I believe that few things help to improve our innovation thinking process. Neuroscience has been very inspiring to understand the relation between the brain and innovation.
Here are my 4 commandments to boost my innovation thinking process.
1/ Pay attention to your biological needs
The brain works like a machine. If you don’t feed it with satisfying food, if you put it under pressure or if you don’t give it a rest, you won’t get the best of it.
So many people are having a “burn out” that it seems having a break is easy to say but not easy to do. Lots of situations show that. For example, imagine you back home at the end of a (long) working day. Aren’t you tempted to run to your phone to check your e-mails ? Or, the situation when you are at work and you run into a colleague who comes back from vacation. You already know what he’s going to say : “I spent a wonderful time, bla bla bla… BUT, I couldn’t log off. I had to work during my vacation “. It has become “normal” so everybody does (or say) it. Unfortunately, the brain can’t work efficiently without breaks. The brain do need some rest to restore energy.
2/ Be curious
I’ve learnt that the brain creates patterns to make sense of things. Why ? To make up for its low capacity of conscious attention. Indeed, 90% of the time, our behaviour is unconscious and our brain works automatically based on the patterns it created.
Janet Crowford, who is one of the world’s pioneer in applying neuroscience to business, says that innovation is “the intersection between two previously unrelated neural patterns”. Only curiosity can makes you think differently, in a unique way. You need to “feed” your brain with new activities, meeting new people, and thanks to your experience you will be able to create new bridges between patterns your brain created.
3/ Combine creativity with logic
Not only the brain works “automatically” most of the time, but it is also designed to resist change. It’s a survival instinct. Change causes discomfort and stress, and when the brain doesn’t feel secure enough it makes us go back to the initial situation.
So, it’s important to really believe in your idea. To believe you need to prove yourself. And to prove yourself you have to be rational. It means that during the innovation process there must be a time dedicated to conscious thoughts. Ideas come up unconsciously, depending on the patterns your brain has created. But to deal with all the ideas you have, you’ll need to focus.
4/ Do what you love
Being innovative shouldn’t be your first goal. It seems that the more we try to be innovative, the less we are. I think that passion is the emotion our brain really need to innovate. It also makes you be naturally curious. As the french writer Daniel Pennac said, “we don’t command curiosity, we awake it”(“On ne force pas une curiosité, on l’éveille”).
And remember that most of the time, innovation is not revolutionary, it’s about improving what already exists.