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Posted by on Dec 30, 2013 in Blog, Life, Media |

How Do You Find Breakthrough Ideas?

Last week I wrote a post on choices entitled “Don’t Overemphasize the Moment of Choice”.  In it, I mentioned the work of Stanford professor Baba Shiv, and expert in the neuroscience of decision making.  This week I want to highlight a video produced and an article written by Shiv for the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  Shiv demystifies the brain chemistry that controls our decision making, and explains how you can regulate it to make better decisions, getting the most out of yourself, your employees, and your boss.  You can read the article here.  Some summary thoughts are below. Watch and read.

Take Care of Yourself

Research shows that the best way to maximize creativity is to maintain high levels of both serotonin and dopamine, which will keep a person calm but energized.  But how?  Bottom line: take care of yourself.  The three key ingredients here are:

Proper rest. Arrive in bed relaxed by taking a hot shower or bath beforehand, avoiding alcohol in the two hours before bedtime, and turning off all lights, including those illuminating electronic devices, which affect the pineal gland and make people think they should be awake and alert. It also means eating lightly in the evening, and not less than three or four hours before retiring. Digesting a big meal can hamper sleep.

Eat well. A high-protein breakfast is easily converted into serotonin and dopamine, while caffeine is a physiological arouser, meaning it will amplify whatever emotions one is already feeling. If a person is motivated, it will help him or her; if stressed, it will agitate — the last thing an innovator needs.

Exercise regularly. When the heart muscles pump faster, they release a peptide believed to help produce serotonin. That means considering a brisk walk before an afternoon meeting — or better yet, walk and talk.

Engage Your Employees

You’ve probably heard that the greatest innovations come from the ‘front lines’.  Moving innovation from the board room (where it rarely takes place) to the factory floor creates positive energy, increases buy-in, and creates a built in recognition system that inspires greater creativity.  Democratizing where innovation can come from, encouraging grass-roots ideas, and utilizing social recognition are powerful methods for encouraging innovation. But the most inspiring method is, as Gandhi affirmed, to “be the change.” A manager who takes time to feed her own creative side well is the one who knows how to elicit the creativity of others best.

Understand Your Boss

Managing from the bottom up is always tricky, and that’s particularly true when it involves bringing something new to the table. But there are several things employees should keep in mind when trying to inspire their higher-up.

The secret to success is to determine which neural pathway the target audience favors. Those focused on traveling between stress and calm will be less likely to embrace new ideas; they’re clinging to the familiar. Those riding the boredom-excitement highway will relish a new opportunity.

How Do YOU Find Breakthrough Ideas?

Do any of these thoughts resonate with you?  As you reflect on when and where you do your best thinking, what principles emerge?  What has experience taught you about how to bring the best thinking from yourself and those around you?

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