WORKSHOP

Innovation And Creativity:

Helping Your Brain Search For The New and Different

Innovation & Creativity

The Brain Innovation Project. Innovation Workshops. Innovation Coaching. Berlin.

WHAT YOU WILL GET

  • A heightened ability to tap into and unlock creative and innovative solutions
  • The ability to quickly move between focused and more expansive thinking
  • An understanding as to how and why the brain takes in, organises and makes connections between sensory data, experience and knowledge
  • A wide range of practical tools and techniques to increase your awareness, perspective shifting, imagination and strategic problem solving and opening up of new creative avenues and options
  • Complements rather than replaces your innovation processes
  • While the focus is on practice (tools), there is also an emphasis on the theory (brain) as to why and how the tools work

WHEN

This is offered as an in-house course or workshop.

WHERE

This is an in-person workshop. Short or introductory sessions can be done online.

DURATION

This can last from a few hours (introduction) to a week or an extended course.

Other

This can be combined with individual or team coaching for specific innovation breakthroughs.

SUMMARY

The world is going through profound and rapid political, economic, technological and environmental change. The ability to innovate will be the difference between surviving and thriving.

As well as being indispensable, innovation and creativity are vast in scope. They range from patient trial and error through to moments of great-insight and from visionary individuals to organisational processes to be managed.

Yet underlying all innovation and creativity is the willingness to explore and be comfortable with what is not known, make novel combinations and be open to unexpected solutions. While this might sound entirely obvious, it is far from the reality for many people, whose days are spent in an expertise-driven and task-oriented mode. Often, this is in the context of relentlessly pressured working environments. Here, at best, “thinking differently” becomes confined to away-days, retreats and ‘creative sessions’. At worst, innovation and creativity are viewed as indulgent luxuries, distracting from practical day-to-day realities.

But these are false and short-sighted choices in the rapidly changing modern world.

What is required is both task-oriented outputs and innovative thinking, to the point where they become two sides of the same coin. And, ultimately, these come together in our brains, which is where all our thoughts, choices, beliefs, decisions, actions, insights, mental models and insights occur.

This workshop does not seek to replace your existing innovation practices and systems. Rather, it complements and strengthens them by helping people understand more about how and why their brains react to and process novelty and change. In doing so, it becomes possible to ‘hack in’ to their natural functioning and expand the range of cognitive options available. While innovative and creative results cannot be produced on demand – insights come when they come – it is possible to nurture innovation and creativity as a mindset.

Central to our approach is an emphasis on both theory and practice. The theory is important because it helps people understand how and why something occurs in the brain, making the knowledge transferable across domains. But the really unique feature of this workshop is the emphasis on the brain-based practical tools and techniques. For the most part, they can be done ‘anytime/ anyplace’ and can often be used in a matter of seconds to change the way you perceive situations and, in doing so, open up to alternative options.

As far as we are aware, you simply will not find another workshop or course on innovation and creativity like this. Because we use the same brain and underlying mechanisms whatever we are doing, the workshop or course is relevant whether you are seeking to innovate in scientific research, develop a human rights campaign, design sustainable transport systems, compose new music or undertake a strategic planning process.

CONTENT

NOTE

The below is illustrative as the precise contents included in the workshop will depend upon the length of time available and your needs and interests. The content can be explored as the generic topic of innovation and creativity, or tailored to a specific issue or breakthrough.

How our brains process novelty and make new connections

The content from this introduction will be introduced gradually throughout the course, but will include the following:

  • From trial and error to ‘aha moments’: Exploring different types of innovation and creativity
  • Understanding the biological and evolutionary basis of our brains and why this important for innovation and creativity
  • How our brains make connections and unconscious inference
  • The importance of managing underlying physical and psychological ‘states’ in promoting innovation and creativity

Sensory input: Looking for the new and different

The ‘data’ we receive about the world comes to us through our senses (touch, vision, sound …) and forms the basis of and raw material for our experience and interpretation of the world around us. We like to think that we perceive the world ‘as it is’. But, as resoundingly demonstrated by neuroscience, the reality is that we are aware of only a tiny fraction of the information about the world which is available to us. And even this, we all experience and interpret differently.

While people vary significantly, the underlying point is that if you leave the inputs to the brain the same, the results will be the same. This is particularly true when there are high levels of deeply engrained expertise involved and when past strategies have proven effective. So in order to innovate, we must be able to get new and additional input and be prepared to build on and go beyond our automatic responses. But we can’t always be meeting new people, travelling to exotic places or receiving visionary input. So what are we supposed to do in the meantime during the day to day business of working and living?

Here we explore:

  • What learning and new experiences really are
  • Predictive Processing: a central theme in modern neuroscience
  • The Zeigarnik Effect: Closing and opening cognitive loops
  • Exploring the New and Different

Changing perspectives: Seeing The Wood and The Tress

A central dilemma in most innovation is getting the balance right between seeking novelty and drawing upon experience. This is also the same with people in creative modes. Here we explore some underlying differences between narrow focus and broad vision and their underlying physical correlates. The point is not that one is better than the other, but that they both have their uses and the key is being able to switch between them at will. This is central to having the flexible and open-minded approach needed to identify and take advantage of new opportunities.

Here we will:

  • Look at spotlight v lantern consciousness (a key concept in Cognitive Neuroscience) and how to instantly swap between them
  • Explore synaptic connections and pruning
  • Attention shifting and information processing
  • Changing physical perspectives to change mental perspectives

Unleashing Imagination: Childish Toy Or Adult-Super-Power

Imagination can be a divisive topic, with some believing they have none and others seemingly stuck in their imagination. It can also seem like a mystical process, where unexpected insights, creativity and ideas come together.

Whereas our normal perceptions are based on our external sensory input, imagination essentially uses ‘internally generated sensory data’ (i.e., memories, mental maps) and reorganises them in novel ways. By learning to leverage imagination more strategically, we can solve problems in unexpected ways and open up new possibilities for innovation. But to do this, often it requires being prepared to let go of what we know – at least on a temporary basis – as our expectations and expertise can actively prevent us seeing new possibilities.

In this module we will explore how to:

  • Combine imagination and rational, systematic and logical thinking
  • Develop your own 24/7 advisory committee
  • Use metaphors to open up stuck situations
  • Visualise different outcomes

Going Deeper into innovation: Deep Relaxation, Dreams and Sleep

Getting good sleep is a – perhaps the – key requirement for performance. But it’s restorative powers go beyond that.

For at least 2 – 3 hours every night we go into a world of delusional, make believe hallucinations where, according to modern studies of sleep and dreaming, we explore possibilities, run scenarios and test hypotheses. While most of our dreams are seemingly mundane, sleep is also a time when our experiences and information gets deleted, cut, stored and rearranged and, in doing so, new insights can emerge. Indeed, the number of scientific and artistic breakthroughs in dreams highlights the enormous creativity that can occur when we are no longer anchored in our waking reality.

While it is beyond the scope and available time of this course to explore this issue in detail, we can touch on that intermediate state between being awake and asleep called hypnogogia. As well as having many proponents (e.g., Thomas Edison, Salvador Dali), hypnagogia has also recently been studied more systematically by researchers and this will be our starting point.

Here we explore:

  • Aha Moments, what they are and where they come from
  • A simple technique for quickly getting to a state close to hypnagogia and the ‘space’ where Aha Moments are more likely to occur
  • Using sleep to solve problems.

Action: From Moving Your Finger To Moving Mountains

Innovation goes far beyond just imagination and creativity: it means actually doing or introducing something.

Movement is the only way we can do anything, from delivering a key note speech (tongue muscles), typing a report (fingers) or dancing the Samba (your whole body). For intentional action – the core of innovation – this ultimately means linking up your sensorimotor system with your higher cognitive processes. This is relatively straightforward when you know what you want, what to do and have the motivation to do it. But often ideas and insights can seem vague or disjointed and we don’t know the exact path to take.

This section is, in a sense, where all of the rest starts to come together, as it builds on the previous approaches and incorporates them into two main tools and techniques.

These are:

  • Agency: giving yourself permission to succeed and make an impact
  • Linking optimal states, imagined outcomes and movement

WHAT OTHERS SAY

The word we most often hear in feedback is ‘surprising’, as things start to make sense in a way which is both intuitive and obvious at a certain level, yet entirely unexpected and different at another. 

But here are some other comments:

Feedback

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