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Contemplation Is the Crux of Innovation

Many companies and educational organisations actively endorse and pursue strategies for innovation. There are books, articles and workshops on the subject. Networking and collaboration and other such tools are also used to speed up innovation. All these tools are certainly helpful in bringing about innovation, but they aren’t its essence.

Simply imagined, innovation could occur when you think of something completely new or an application of something that already exists but in an unrelated area. Let us examine a few of the tools that are used actively to bring about innovation.

When you read a book or an article about innovation, you learn about the subject, and perhaps learn some examples of how innovation took place in a certain area, industry, or organisation. You could read about someone’s key rules or techniques that they used effectively to bring about innovation. You could read about a certain culture that an organisation created, sometimes including how their workspaces were designed, to encourage innovation. When you attend an innovation workshop, you could learn about similar techniques and even methods to adopt to bring about innovation. New tools could be deployed to study, assess, and improve collaboration amongst the team members, which could increase the odds of innovation taking place in that organisation.

But at its heart, the process of innovation is really a mental exercise. When you gain knowledge about various domains, you create different ideospheres in your mind that relate to each of these domains. Innovation becomes very probable when such ideospheres connect or overlap with one another. For the sake of simplicity, please visualise this as a picture of multiple groups of neurons inside the brain where each group represents a single ideosphere. When these ideospheres overlap, meaning when new connections start to form between Neuron Group 1 and Neuron Group 2, or even within the same neuron group, the probability of innovation increases by many orders of magnitude.

How do we make this happen? Reading a book about innovation or attending a workshop, studying the innovative techniques of other people or using networking or collaboration tools can be helpful, but only if you take time to immerse yourself in contemplation later on. Innovation needs a mental environment where all these thoughts, these ideospheres can come together and interact with each other. Contemplation allows you to disconnect from other distractions and focus very deeply on certain matters. When you ponder on something, you allow your brain a chance to start building new interconnections between existing neural groups. It also allows your imagination to take root and develop, which means a new group of neurons developing altogether.

It is this mental, and most importantly, the physical act of Contemplation — stopping to do what you were doing, sitting on a chair or going for a walk, and only thinking and doing nothing else — that makes innovation possible. Contemplation is an innovation incubator. If you delete Contemplation from the equation, the tools that we mentioned earlier are usually very ineffective.

Long periods of being able to stare into blankness is a prerequisite to bring about any innovation that has superior quality. Newton used it. Shakespeare used it. Beethoven used it. Alan Turing used it. You can use it too. It is free.

Contemplation used systematically can help companies build newer growth areas or predict future changes that might affect them negatively. Contemplation can help educational institutions tap their students’ latent creativity leading to better focus, better research, and better incubation ideas. Both companies and academic institutions can use Contemplation as the new competitive advantage. They would very likely have created something truly inspiring in the process.

Use the biology of innovation — Contemplation. It will help you write your own theory of relativity.