What Your Brain Looks Like When You Innovate

Publicerat: november 7, 2014 | Sparat under: Aktuella frågor

During this year’s Innovation Leadership Summit, a top innovator from Converse shared insights on his team’s success with new product introductions. He remarked that “love is a big piece of it.” The Converse executive spoke about the love his team members feel for one another during the innovation process and the fact that he truly loves coming into work every day.

A recent study performed by a researcher of Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill suggests that there is a new scientific definition of love.

The researcher, Barbara Fredrickson, says that love is the “micro-moment of positivity resonance” that you feel for a person with whom you feel really connected and understood. This person can be any person – your friend, parent, kid, a colleague, or even a complete stranger. The only true requirement is that you feel connected and understood. The emphasis on feeling connected to feel love made me wonder if that is one of the key emotions triggered when you innovate.

Imagine an innovator who is looking for the right technical solution all over the world and finally finds a solution provider with the answer he is looking for. That “micro-moment” of understanding, and being understood, opens up receptivity, and new opportunities for both parties and marks the beginning of a potentially exciting new business relationship, creating a win-win situation.

Fredrickson uses the presence of biochemical and physiological components to prove her theory. In her study, Fredrickson proves that all three known biochemical “markers” of love are present when a mutual understanding is established between two or more individuals and positive emotions are shared.

It would be interesting to conduct similar studies on the biochemical and neurological processes present in innovation seekers, innovation intermediaries and solution providers during technology searches at moments when everyone agrees on a solution. I’m willing to bet their feelings would be in perfect sync with each other, and there is a great deal of connection and understanding that opens up a world of possibilities for real break-throughs that never could have happened without these biomarkers aligning.

In his book “The Moral Molecule,” Paul Zak, PhD, Professor of Economic Psychology and Management at Claremont Graduate University identified ways in which the levels of oxytocin – the hormone that’s been dubbed the “love molecule” – can be increased.

Among the ways such as hugging (even a complete stranger – yes!) and sharing a thrilling experience together, he found that in-person interactions can boost oxytocin levels substantially. “We’re a connective species: The more interaction, the better,” says Dr. Zak.

A study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, found that people who make more social connections experience warmer, more upbeat emotions. This study finds that it is possible to self-generate love and other positive emotions by having positive social connections, and these connections in turn lead to enhanced positive feelings, thereby creating an “upward spiral.”

“The daily moments of connection that people feel with others emerge as the tiny engines that drive the upward spiral between positivity and health,” explains one of the co-authors of this study.

There is an “upward spiral” in the world of open innovation as well. Just as connections between the various actors in the value chain of the open innovation marketplace create feelings of “love” between them, such feelings may also drive innovation further.

When somebody comes up with a solution to a complex problem that no one was able to help with before, there is a resonance in thoughts, happiness and relief in finally finding the solution, excitement in realizing that your efforts have succeeded and the love for your work increases further by having solved a challenge (and thus the love for the person who helped you solve the challenge increases). Additionally, this boosts happiness as you come nearer to your innovation goal, and love for the people who facilitated the identification of the solution provider! In light of all this, it’s no wonder that innovation networks are so powerful.

I’ve talked about innovation being good for the brain. Now it turns out that collaborative innovation may also enhance our emotional well being.

Author: Andy Zynga


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