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What if a CEO, a Buddhist, a neuroscientist and an engineer would have a conversation on innovation?

Let me guess, you are wondering what this article is about. And what a Buddhist has to do with innovation. In the last 6 months, I read over 200 books, studied ancient philosophy, became a yoga Nidra teacher (an ancient deep relaxation technique) and took several personal development courses. What did I learn? Our brain is our biggest asset but also our biggest challenge. And right now, our brains are frustrated and fed up with our lifestyle. We have managed to create a system that developed faster than evolution. In other words: our brains have not developed as fast as our society.

A simple answer solves all complex problems

Do you want to know what the answer is? It is quite simple (literally and metaphorically speaking).

  • A CEO wants to grow: in revenues and even more important profits. The answer: laser sharp focus.
  • A Buddhist wants to experience enlightenment. The answer: focus.
  • A neuroscientist wants to fully understand the brain. The answer: focus.
  • An engineer wants to build great solutions. The answer focus.

So this is where they all agree. You get better in what you do, by focusing. And mind you, your brain does not like multi-tasking. In fact, it hates multi-tasking so much, that it starts producing stress hormones. So again: the solution is focus.

Do you know how all these people, from CEO to engineer stay focused? By continuously working on their skills, mindset, and knowledge. And by reducing stress. Good leaders are fit leaders.

But hang on: what this does have to do with innovation? Everything.

Why innovation is so hard

Over the years I have spoken to >100 companies and organizations in the United States and Western-Europe about innovation. Every innovator that I have ever met, was in some way frustrated. Does any of this sound familiar (these are random quotes from different organizations and companies)?

Yes, we have the support from our Board but when it comes down to it, they are not willing to make the necessary changes.

I feel like the silos are just not helping. Every business has their own interests which makes lobbying almost a day-time job.

Employees are so tired of change. As soon as you come in, they think "here is another program that might get us fired".

Our culture is just not helping.

Why our brains are the answer

Almost all innovation experts agree: culture eats strategy for breakfast. Yes, the strategy is a good start. But it is the culture that makes innovation projects successful or not. You need to embed an innovation culture into an entire organization. And no, setting up a club for changemakers who randomly talk about culture is not going to help (although a good initiative).

And this is where the brain comes in. A CEO would tell you "show me the results, the return." A Buddhist would add that only purpose-driven action and the right energy will make an impact. A neuroscientist would add that setting goals (backed up by the right skills and motivation) are essential for success. And an engineer would build a solution based on a clear problem.

This ladies and gentlemen is the recipe for innovation. Motivated by a clear purpose, people with the right skills and mindset can achieve the goals you set. If they are allowed to focus on them. And build a solution that solves a problem.

This sound about right, but what has our brain got to do with this?

When your brain gets frustrated/ feels threatened/ is overwhelmed, it will activate the reptilian brain. You go into fight or flight mode and this is not good. This is the best (and fastest) way to stress, a burn-out, depression, high blood pressure, etc. Not good. Exhausted leadership is poor leadership.

Just look at the evidence: from NLP to mindset books to stress reduction. They all state that your thoughts create your truth.

If you want innovation to succeed, you need to work on the mindset of people.

If you want innovation to succeed, you need to work on the mindset of people.

  • Find out what really drives them (and not what they say it is). A purpose or why is strong motivator.
  • Deal with everything that is holding your employees back. Create a culture where vulnerability is rewarded. Where emotional intelligence can grow. (Silicon Valley has already embraced this concept). Have real conversations for a change. Don't reward the liars, the manipulators, the ones who play the game. Reward the one who dare to interrupt the game. Reward courage.
  • Learn employees how their brain works. Learn them how to relax. To make them stronger. To change their thoughts. Don's start another transformation programme with a big name. Work on mindset instead of hiring consultants.

And yes of all the above can be backed up by science. This article is based on lots and lots of literature (see below for some of my inspiration).

Now what?

You might ask: is this where she starts selling herself? Not really. I dare you to have conversations on this topic. If you are up for it, send me a message. Great things often start small, don't they?

p.s. There is a little bit more to the Buddhist mindset then I describe here. I am fully aware. For the sake of argument I simplified some of the messages.

p.s.s Wondering who or what inspired me? Neuropsychologist Margriet Sitskoorn, NLP, Mindvalley, Neuroscientist Kamini DesaiGabby BernsteinTess de WolfRobert Bridgeman ,Otto Scharmer and many others. Feel free to message me if you need a specific recommendation.