Create a culture that fosters innovation

Kevin Chapman from the Physical Intelligence Institute who was a guest on episode 108 of the Access to Inspiration podcast, explains how to use physical intelligence to live and work more effectively.

Sanjay, a Regional Sales Leader, was recently assigned to a new team. They needed a new strategy, and Sanjay thought he knew the best approach. Sanjay had already established trust with the new team members and team members already trusted each other, so with plenty of oxytocin across the team, they felt comfortable telling Sanjay he was wrong.  He was receptive, unthreatened and curious, showing high DHEA, and asked the team for ideas, releasing dopamine.

Three new ideas emerged in addition to Sanjay’s one of which met with a lot of resistance and was considered ‘crazy’ by all but a few staunch advocates. They couldn’t reach agreement on which approach to adopt, so Sanjay took a risk and suggested that they divide into four teams, with each team using one of the four proposed approaches for an entire quarter.

This solution gave everyone status and restored balance, releasing serotonin. They all agreed that the approach that generated the best results by the end of the quarter would be the winning strategy and would be adopted by the entire team.  In the end, the ‘crazy’ idea was the most successful and later was implemented company-wide, significantly improving performance. Both the approach taken by Sanjay and the idea adopted are excellent examples of innovation in action.

woman in yellow shirt sitting cross legged

Leverage the great minds around you

When working to achieve your goals, especially if part of a team, leverage the great minds around you.  Use Physical Intelligence to create an environment grounded in trust that is not only receptive to but encourages healthy debate (divergent thinking), fuels creativity and innovation, and supports executing against the best ideas. Physical Intelligence is the ability to actively manage the levels of certain key chemicals [hormones and neurotransmitters] racing through our bloodstream and nervous system so that we can stress less, achieve more and live more happily.)

Dopamine for creativity

Dopamine enables connections across multiple areas of the brain – including vision and imagination – and is released when things are novel, fun and when you look at them from different perspectives. It is also released when you see stimulating or inspiring scenery (art, for example), and is critical in our desire to reach our goals. A quiet mind and an internal focus help so that ideas can be captured rather than drowned out by too much external data.

Relax, let go, and let the ideas come naturally

It is also important to detoxify your brain through quality sleep. Innovation involves risk and determination and a clear head to structure the work, which means DHEA, testosterone, and acetylcholine are other important ingredients in the innovation cocktail. It can be frightening, exhilarating and hard work, and we need energy and vitality to sustain us through the highs and lows of innovation projects.  How we move and behave impacts our convergent and divergent thinking. Once we know how to move, we can use that to our advantage.

For example, according to a study from Stanford University, we are 45% more likely to have a high-quality new idea when walking vs. seated. It doesn’t matter if you walk on a treadmill or outdoors; the simple act of walking makes us more creative. In addition, research by Dr Peter Lovatt, (aka ‘Dr Dance)’, from the University of Hertfordshire, UK, indicates that structured, repetitive movement improves convergent thinking, and flexible, spontaneous movement improves divergent thinking.

The sports we choose to play, type of dance or fitness class we attend, type of yoga we practice or type of holidays we take all influence our thinking. More freestyle choices help us think creatively and more repetitive choices help us think in a more structured way.We need both divergent and convergent thinking to generate new ideas and effectively act upon them.

Are you a divergent or convergent thinker?

Divergent Thinkers:  Naturally divergent thinkers often struggle to focus on implementation.  Structured activities and movement such as archery, ballet, fencing, climbing, oil painting, and tidying up their desk at the end of every day will help. Creating order and organising your body and environment, punctuates divergent thinking and enables you to capture the essence of what you have explored so that you can begin again the next day with a clear head.

Convergent Thinkers:  Naturally convergent thinkers often struggle with generating creative ideas.  Free form activities like aikido, salsa dancing, cliff diving, joining the society of abstract expressionist painters and practicing walking away from a less than perfectly organised desk, ready to pick up again in the morning will help. Creating a little chaos and moving in ways that are flexible provoke connections between multiple brain areas – memory, emotion, experience – rather than only the pre-frontal cortex where decisions are finalized.

Today everyone is expected to contribute to creativity and innovation.  To embed this in your culture, you need to commit to it.  Take charge of your time and environment and block out time for activities that support creativity and innovation – and effective implementation. Recognising what we need to change or approach differently is important for all of us to remain sharp and flexible and will help us not only achieve but exceed our goals.