Neuroscience is now supporting something which creative people have long understood: New experiences are a pathway to creativity. It seems our brains, and therefore our patterns of thought, get in a rut when we live each day like the last. Doing something new causes the brain to “jump off of its usual track” and expand. In this “disruption” we find new ideas or new ways to solve old problems.
In the Innovation Leadership course I teach, I implore business leaders in the class to enhance their creativity and break out of the rut by pushing themselves to do new things.
In particular, I suggest that the new thing involve doing something artistic: Take an art class, play an instrument, see an opera, etc. I push them to exercise the “right side” of their brain as the right hemisphere is utilized the least in rational business thought processes.
These high-level executives wince at my suggestion and I understand their apprehension. My heavily trained left brain often rejects the notion to get in touch with my artistic side. It seems a bit frivolous and my business training begs the question of ROI. However, innovation relies on both brain hemispheres — right and left — and those with equally developed sides of the brain have greater resources to draw upon.
But do I practice what I preach? Yes, and sometimes I have to push myself to do so. Take for example a recent outing to the Siskel Film Center in Chicago to see “In search for Hayden” – a documentary on composer Joseph Hayden. I’m not a classical music guy. My musical taste is rather indiscriminate and generally falls into the category of bad taste. My iPod hasn’t been updated in years and it contains nothing classical.
During the film, I learned that Hayden was an unusual man for an 18th century musician. He was well-adjusted and genuinely a “nice” guy. He learned his craft at the family kitchen table and continued to maintain a healthy relationship with his art throughout his entire life. No mental illnesses, mercurial attitude or months of self-flagellation while seeking his creative muse. And, he was an innovator.
Instead of scoring symphonies only the ruling class could love, and thereby building monuments to his ego, Hayden chose to bring music to all the people. His made highly complex music accessible and enjoyable to everyone – the kings and the peasants. He utilized ideas such as surprise and humor in his composition in a time when seriousness in music was taken very seriously. He made music fun and, in the process, captured a large and diverse fan base. As a result, Hayden was the rock star of his age and the first widely accepted musician. He was greeted with wild enthusiasm by the public on his first tour from his native Austria to the UK.
By doing something new, I now see Classical and the whole world of music a little differently. I see connections between the world of art and the world of business. Like Hayden, I think about the value of broad vs. narrow acceptance of commercial ideas. And, I may just add some classical selections to my iPod.