How Mindfulness Cultivates Innovation

by Marlena Zakrzewska on October 14, 2014

curiosity_innovation_by_sachiaoitori-d5jso2bInnovation is about taking chances and taking risk and not being afraid to ask yourself new questions. I believe that innovation is about believing that change can happen and as most people are afraid of change, maybe I should rather say it  is about evolution. It is looking at where we have been and where the world is going and not be caught up in the past that really restricts you from liberating your thinking and moving on.

Therefore I think that innovation is to be willing to succeed and try new things. If we don’t ask ourselves new questions and challenge ourselves, life will never change and we will never have progress. We shouldn’t be afraid to eliminate many methodologies that we have embraced in the past. Then, if you have an open mind and start looking where we are and where we need to go, hopefully most of what you figure out is not eliminating what you have already done. However, you should be willing to let go and the curiosity is the most important feature in innovation today.  You have to be curious and not be afraid to take it to the next place.

“The qualities that set [successful] people apart” are “Passionate curiosity. Battle-hardened confidence. Team smarts. A simple mind-set. Fearlessness.”

Distilling the Wisdom of C.E.O.’s (Bryant, Adam. New York Times, 4/17/2011)

Curiosity, has long been a subject of inquiry and study with references dating back prior to the times of Aristotle. Lowenstein in “The Psychology of Curiosity” (Psychological Bulletin, 1994), starts out by stating that “curiosity has been consistently recognized as a critical motive that influences behaviour in both positive and negative ways at all stages of the life cycle.” Kagan in “Motives and Development” (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1972) describes curiosity as the “motive for cognitive harmony.” Or put another way, “the need to know.” Thomas Gilovich in How We Know What Isn’t So (Free Press: 1993), states that humans “are predisposed to see order, pattern and meaning in the world and we find randomness, chaos and meaninglessness unsatisfying.”

Therefore, the more familiar you are with a situation–or you perceive that you are with a situation–the more quickly you will experience it. This is a good argument for mindfulness.

Mindfulness-meditation-002Mindfulness has been described as “bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999). And as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994).

Now, on the science of mindfulness, in the following video, Dr. Richard Davidson, speaks about his research on neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change its structure and function in response to experience.

More importantly, how can mindfulness cultivate innovation?

I have recently read  a very interesting article on Harvard Business Review,  and accordingly to Ellen Langer, Mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to context and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement. Also, there are many other advantages to mindfulness. It’s easier to pay attention. You remember more of what you’ve done. You’re more creative. You’re able to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. You avert the danger not yet arisen. You like people better, and people like you better, because you’re less evaluative. You’re more charismatic.

jonny-628x179Taking this into account, I believe the link between innovation and mindfulness is rather clear. The principle of mindfulness helps us to tap into  our innate capacity to imagine and to  discover new ideas and innovate.  Luckily, mindfulness  is a learned skill, not an inherent trait and by practicing to be mindful, we can enhance our awareness of ourselves,  and of our  ideas.

About Marlena Zakrzewska :

Marlena is a consultant with Bearing, with a strong background in analysis, cognitive and behavioural studies and innovation.

Marlena was educated at King’s College London and Humboldt University Berlin, and has been involved in extensive studies regarding social psychology and consumer behaviour.

She believes that by understanding what affects behaviour and, by extension, how to influence behaviour, both organisations and individuals can become more successful. Understanding exactly how small changes to the details of an offer can influence the way people react to it is crucial to unlock significant value.

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