Well this past week has been one of those wonderful times when some of the themes that I’m particularly passionate about have been coming together in ways that I thought would probably happen but I didn’t quite know when.
So earlier in the week I was talking with Professor John Bessant with whom I’m preparing some material on innovation and how to be innovative. He is somebody who has spent many many years at the forefront of exploring innovation in organisations and we first met because John was just interested in what he considered to be the missing piece - namely how to be innovative at an individual level; what can you do and what can you give people that can enable them to be more so. That has been the focus of our attention. We’re in fact going to be doing some work later in the year showing people exactly how to do this and as team leaders how they can enable others to be more effective too.
A few days ago I was also talking with Professor Patricia Riddell about neuroplasticity and the ability of the brain to essentially reinvent itself and the extraordinary potential possibilities that this throws open. Of course this started with a re-understanding of the field of neuroscience of just what was possible. Initially it was assumed that the brain was the brain and there you go: you got what you got. However, what has been so clear in the last ten years is that essentially the brain can re-invent itself, not just to any degree at all but beyond our wildest previous imaginings and we really don’t know the limits.
Now, when you put these two things together; innovation and what is called neuroplasticity do you think they might just have anything to do with each other? Well of course, because what we’re taking about with neuroplasticity is not just people having a new idea once in a while, it is about the brain literally changing itself at the bio-electrical and chemical level. When you have, for instance, new insights, you are changing the organic structure of your brain. It is not just a nice idea, there is something going on internally laying down new neural pathways.
This has got amazing implications. People recovering from traumatic injuries? Well clearly this will be good news because much more may be possible than we thought. In addition, just in ordinary everyday life, pretty much anybody can learn to become more able to do things that they previously thought they couldn’t. If that is true for an individual then it is also going to be true for a group of individuals who might just be known as a team. Or for many teams who might just be known as an organisation.
Now think about this, what would it be like if we started looking at teams and organisations as able – or not - to encourage more people to be more innovative, that is to say, to be become more capable of demonstrating their own brain’s neuroplasticity. Or are we working in organisations where there’s an extraordinary kind of rigidity? As in, it must be this way because it has always been this way. It is not that we don’t want procedures, it is not that we don’t find protocols useful as they have an enormous role to play in making sure we don’t wake up every morning and re-invent the wheel. But if you want to stay stuck make sure you don’t believe that change is possible, that you don’t believe that your own brain can deliver an extraordinary rate of change that you can barely imagine - and make sure that you don’t think other people can do it either. Well who on earth would want to do that?
And of course that is why bringing these different worlds together is so potentially rewarding and for me incredibly exciting.
We are actually going to be having a Celebration Day on 1st June and John’s going to be joining us on that day. He and I will be exploring some of the dimensions of innovation and how to be innovative as an individual. But before then Trish and I will be exploring the promise of neuroscience as it relates specifically to this new quality of being able to achieve greater plasticity - and thus greater flexibility and greater creativity.
Our whole world opens up if we just understand what is possible for our brain. That’s why I’m looking forward to this coming weekend on neuroplasticity. So, until the next time.
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