Have you ever felt like you’re on autopilot? This can sometimes be a good thing and serve as a break of sorts. But, for the most part, being on autopilot can be detrimental. When we are on autopilot, we are not thinking of new ideas or striving to improve. In a nutshell, being on autopilot can be the most efficient way to ensure the status quo is never changed.
Especially now, we are in the middle of a changing landscape that will take an openness to new ideas to be ready for what tomorrow brings. In a Harvard Business Review article, titled, Cognitive Fitness, one of the key methods to improve cognitive fitness was to seek “novelty and innovation.” By having a variety of experiences to draw upon, you can keep your brain from getting stale and always have a well of creative ideas to draw from.
One of my favorite ways to improve my cognitive fitness is to do diverse things so my brain doesn’t ever adapt to one way of thinking. This does not mean I do something different every twenty minutes but instead, I make sure that my week and month varies in what I’m doing.
A recent example of my own relates to video game development. Throughout our ongoing quarantine, I elected to take on the project of creating a video game. The goal was not to come up with the next summer blockbuster and win Game of the Year. It also was not necessarily something I’d want to pursue as a career. It appealed to me because it needed skills that I don’t get the chance to exercise as much as I’d like. These include things like programming, math, and some graphic design, among others. These are all things I could still develop and benefit from even by making something as simple as a small web game; or at least what I thought would be simple!
One of the best parts of doing things outside of your wheelhouse is that skill building can get you to think about solutions in brand new ways. As the Einstein adage goes, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” I’ve learned that a common issue faced by game developers is how to market their games. You can create the best game ever but if no one knows it exists, it doesn’t matter unfortunately.
By getting outside of my usual comfort zone to take part in a community I usually don’t, I was able to look at some of my core competencies (e.g. business development and marketing) through a different lens. The best part of this is there is a compounding effect when it comes to novelty. One idea leads to another, which in turn leads to a couple of new ideas and so on and so forth. After developing one’s cognitive fitness, you may find that a new problem you’ll have is having too many ideas and avenues for improvement!
Improving Your Cognitive Fitness
There are a variety of things you can do to improve your cognitive fitness by seeking novelty and innovation. While this could be an entire blog post by itself, here are a few ideas of things you can do to get the ball rolling!
- Watch a movie in a different spoken language with subtitles.
- Exposing yourself to different types of media can be great to see how tropes and entertainment varies across cultures.
- Read a different genre of book than you’re used to.
- Getting out of your comfort zone can open your mind to new ways of delivering information that can be useful to you in your personal life and business.
- If you go for a walk, mix up your usual route!
- The fresh air will do wonders for you and going a different way will make it easier for you to be more present.
- Develop a new skill!
- As mentioned above, you’d be surprised how many skills can be transferable. Life is inherently interdisciplinary and your business can benefit from that!
- Try cooking or eating a new cuisine.
- The act of using a new ingredient or cooking technique you aren’t used to can help spark ideas and creative problem solving.
There is no “right way” to seek out novelty and innovation that not even the sky’s the limit! As someone who strives to be agile in all spheres of life, I’m sure that I’ll address this topic again in the future. For regular readers of our Blog, it also shouldn’t surprise you that a future post will be about lessons learned related to game development and what the average person and business owner can take away from that.
Originally published at the EID Visions Blog on May 27, 2020.