Today innovation is the key word in the policies of many companies. In the competitive world and in the advent of massive robotization, innovation is the condition of survival and leadership for many companies. Engineers, IT professionals, designers and many others feel constant pressure to resolve complex problems and innovate. How can they bring their performance on a new level under constant market pressure, tight deadlines and with a heavy workload?

Innovation cannot be forced, and the managerial pressure to find solutions to new and complex problems will only add more stress and tension to the working environment. Furthermore, it is not only about individuals but very much about the organizational culture which may encourage or hinder creativity and innovation.

From the perspectives of organization science, neuroscience and mindfulness, there are precise strategies and solutions managers may bring to their companies to create a climate for systemic creativity. Before looking into them, let us first discuss most frequent barriers to innovation.

1. ORGANIZATIONAL RIGIDITY
Norms, procedures, rules and hard structures have already been known for their negative impact on creativity and innovation. They may be introduced to ensure effectiveness, order and productivity, but in reality they may take a lot of time, inspiration and enthusiasm out of human resources.
2. STRESS
Stress, as any “uncomfortable emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changes”5, occurs when the demands and pressures at the workplace do not match a person’s ability to manage them. It generally reduces people’s performance and simply leaves no resource for creativity and innovation.
3. SCARCE COMMUNICATION
It is important to ensure free and efficient communication in an organization, both horizontally and vertically. Gathering multiple talents at one table to find new solutions, however, may lead to disagreement and conflict. It is up to managers to create a climate of “passionate disagreement”.
4. CULTURE OF NO RISK
Countless stories of successful entrepreneurs teach us the value of risk. The best products came on the market because somebody was willing to risk and go through trial and error. Fears of a tight budget, of a serious error or loss of time discourage creativity and innovation.
5. LACK OF COLLECTIVE VALUES AND PURPOSE

People are more inspired and enthusiastic when they know their work contributes to something bigger than their own wealth or to market success of their organization. When the mission is clearly formulated and the values are properly aligned and communicated, employees are more engaged, dedicated and creative in their jobs.

6. UNIFORMITY
Human resources are so far the main source of creativity in the organization. Their selection is crucial for the success in designing new products and finding solutions. Research suggests that diversity is crucial for addressing problems at different angles and thinking styles. Therefore, recruit talents from different backgrounds, different fields and different perspectives to favor creative thinking.

By addressing these barriers managers lay a great foundation for a culture of creativity and smooth the way for smarter problem solving, breaking barriers, uncovering new solutions, challenging of established models and searching for new sources of value.

However there is a whole new dimension of innovation emerging from neurosciences and the practice of mindfulness going further than just removing obstacles. Every brain has a capacity to be creative, and by knowing the neurocognitive principles of its functioning we can significantly increase our power to generate ideas.  

New research suggests that the right/left distinction is too simplistic and that the interplay of various brain parts during creative processes is much more complicated9. There are multiple networks in the brain involved responsible for creative work and they can be activated through specific decisions and activities.

There is likewise scientific evidence that mindfulness, defined as “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment”6, also plays a significant role in creativity. It brings an improved ability to focus and remove internal or external distractions, promotes “divergent” and flexible thinking and better prepares a person to cope with complex and conflicting issues and negative arousal.

Building an innovation friendly culture based on learnings about functioning of the brain and teaching staff to use mindfulness and other techniques invites organizations to work in a more open-minded, balanced, enterprising way and be at the frontier of innovation.

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If you wish to bring the creativity and innovation in your organization on the next level, gain insights of neuroscience and mindfulness on how to foster “aha” moments, unconditional and creative thinking, contact Neuroptimist to receive information on training Creativity & Innovation.

 

 

References

  1. Adams, K. (2006).  The sources of innovation and creativity. National Center on Education the Economy for the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce.
  2. Dingli, S. How innovative is your organization? The Edward de Bono Institute. https://www.ep.liu.se/ecp/021/vol2/006/ecp2107v2006.pdf
  3. Gartner, C., (2013). Enhancing Readiness for Change by Enhancing Mindfulness. Journal of Change Management, 13 (1) pp 52-68.
  4. Understanding chronic stress. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-chronic-stress.aspx
  5. Stress at the workplace. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/occupational_health/topics/stressatwp/en/
  6. What is mindfulness? Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition
  7. Hill, L., Brandeau, G., Truelove, E., Lineback, K. (2014).  Collective genius. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2014/06/collective-genius
  8. Capurso, V., Fabbro, F., Crescentini, C. (2014).  Mindful creativity: the influence of mindfulness meditation on creative thinking. Frontiers of Psychology, January https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.01020/full
  9. Kaufman, S. B. (2013). The Real Neuroscience of Creativity. Scientific American, https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-real-neuroscience-of-creativity/#
  10. Ostafin, B.D., Kassman, K.T. (2012). Stepping out of history: Mindfulness improves insight problem solving. Consciousness and Cognition, 21(2), 1031-1036.
  11. Colzato, L. S., Ozturk, A., & Hommel, B. (2012). Meditate to Create: The Impact of Focused-Attention and Open Monitoring Training on Convergent and Divergent Thinking. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 116.