Want To Innovate? Science Says, Be Spontaneous!

Want To Innovate? Science Says, Be Spontaneous!

Psychology February 21, 2017 / By Dr. KH Kim
Want To Innovate? Science Says, Be Spontaneous!

People think too much to be spontaneous, which leads to paralysis by analysis, but innovators think spontaneously and even impulsively.

Innovators exhibit the persistent attitude, but they balance their focus and mental persistence with the spontaneous attitude, which gives them the ability to think flexibly. The spontaneous attitude, one of the 27 characteristics found in all innovators, is being flexible and immediately acting on new ideas and/or opportunities. It is common for people to over-think or over-analyze a situation or a problem, but this inhibits their ability to come up with a solution or an action. Innovators have shown to think spontaneously, which makes their decision-making processes flexible and chaotic. Innovators prefer to lead a more spontaneous lifestyle than a stable path. They are not self-conscious about their thoughts, which enables them to think randomly and subconsciously.  Innovators do not give much thought to practicality, which helps them generate unique ideas.

Ideas that are unique but not useful are considered irrelevant or crazy, thus they require critical thinking that consists of analysis and evaluation. However, generating and evaluating ideas at the same time is like driving with one foot on the brake and the other on the accelerator.  Innovators balance spontaneity with persistence to generate and evaluate ideas.  After spontaneously generating many ideas, they work on other simple work; take a break; relax; or daydream, which often leads to unique ideas. Later when they return to the ideas they generated, they critically and persistently analyze and evaluate them for usefulness.

Then, how can you nurture your spontaneous attitude?

First, discover what is keeping you from living spontaneously, and remove it from your life by:

  • Finding predictable behavior by making a list of your daily routines to determine whether you:
    • Do things in the same order
    • Take the same route to work every day
    • Talk to the same people every day
    • Order the same drink or meal at a restaurant

Second, shake up your routine by

  • Not over-planning or over-scheduling your life
  • Making an immediate plan and going through with it, instead of talking about it
  • Experimenting with new ways of doing things
  • Changing something around you
  • Standing up, sitting less, and moving more
  • Leaving a choice up to chance by flipping a coin or rolling a dice
  • Breaking a plan for a more exciting one
  • Getting someone to be spontaneous with you
  • Not letting others make your decisions for you
  • Not getting hung up on small decisions
  • Not setting expectations for yourself
  • Following your heart and not logic
  • Disconnecting from technology for 24 hours and keeping the day open for anything

Third, be unpredictable and keep others guessing.  For example:

  • Participate in activities that will lead to an exciting story that can be shared with others
  • Be expressive and add drama to a situation
  • Act on your thoughts or ideas, instead of just thinking about them, and improvise
  • Experiment with different styles or colors than you regularly purchase or make
  • Draw or color to express your feelings
  • Trim bushes into new shapes
  • Learn or use a different accent
  • Wear something unconventional or ridiculous
  • Make or play musical instruments
  • Take a walk without a destination, or explore a place you’ve never been
  • Try a new route or method of travel—a scenic route and/or public transportation or bicycle
  • See a movie without seeing the trailer
  • Give a random stranger a compliment
  • Meet new friends by
    • Going to a party without knowing anyone
    • Going to a concert alone
    • Spending time with different kinds of people, especially older adults
    • Reconnecting with old friends or people from your past
  • Be unexpectedly romantic to your significant other by
    • Giving him/her something special
    • Telling how much he/she means to you
    • Going somewhere scenic and/or making a new memory together
    • Expressing affection or intimacy in an unexpected time, way, or place

Finally, spice up your life by trying something new:

  • Cook a new recipe or use ingredients you’ve never heard of
  • Try different or exotic restaurants
  • Order the waiter’s favorite dish
  • Try a new hobby, activity, class, or exercise you’ve never done before
  • Join a book club
  • Go to a local play, a flea market, or a farmer’s market
  • Do things you don’t usually do or you dislike
  • Do something that scares or intimidates you
  • Do something you loved to do as a child
  • Do something you've always wanted to try
  • Travel without a plan by:
    • Letting serendipity rule the day
    • Doing or trying things as you go

Find more research findings about how to innovate in The Creativity Challenge: How We Can Recapture American Innovation, and follow Dr. Kim @Kreativity_Kim

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