As I listened to Hod Lipson, Vilayanur Ramachandran and Matthieu Ricard presentations at Ted Talk present on the topics of robotics, neurology and brain plasticity, I realized there was a common theme that all of them mentioned. Each of them referred to a concept where repeated action reinforced the brain and led to specific consequences. In the case of Hod, it was a behavior learned by his robots on how to move through emergent actions, trying to learn about themselves through repeated actions and refining their internal state before emerging with specific behaviors – movement towards a reward in the robot’s case. Vilayanur discussed his theory of learned paralysis and postulated that perhaps, there are methods that can help us unlearn paralysis, thereby allowing us to function normally. Matthieu Ricard in his elegant speech gave an example of how the brain changes after 10,000 hours of violin practice and how we can use this to alter our mind state.
How does this tie back to innovation? Well, when we talk about innovation, we often talk about the result of the process, the object, the service etc. More and more at schools like Institute of Design, we are now talking about the recipe of successful innovation, the methods and frameworks. However, we rarely talk about the ingredients, the aspects of the individual that help them become successful innovators. Larry Keeley in a recent lecture constantly stressed the importance of creativity in the innovation process and after listening to Hod, Matthieu and Vilaynur’s speech, I believe that we need to train our brain in curiosity. It is not enough that we on occasion find interest in random topics. We must treat curiosity as we would an athletic ability, constantly exercising it and helping reinforce our abilities to find and identify opportunities, ideas and theories across multiple disciplines, helping us become better innovators.