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How to develop an innovation mindset

How to develop an innovation mindset

Innovation starts with the right mindset and being open to new ways of thinking. All of us can re-engage and grow the most creative parts of our brain.

CommBank’s Innovation Lab has been experimenting with Growth Mindset and Mindfulness as a precursor to innovation and we’re already seeing the positive impact. At our pop-up Innovation Lab in Perth this month we invited two experts in mindfulness and growth mindsets to discuss how organisations can make innovation more likely to happen and succeed.

Jodie Gien, Founder of Mindful Future, cited studies indicating that the average worker gets distracted every 11 minutes and takes 23 minutes to re-focus. 

The science behind mindfulness

Constant interruptions cause the mind to jump from one idea to the other and run on auto-pilot. When stressed, the brain’s creative parts shut down.

Thanks to neural plasticity – the brain’s ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections – we can shrink the stress centres and grow the brain’s creative areas. Mindfulness is one way to make new neural connections. 

Software upgrade for the brain

Mindfulness means being fully present in the moment. Practising it is as simple as closing our eyes for a few minutes to focus on our breathing and register the surrounding sounds and sensations. Whenever our attention wanders, we must bring it back to the present. These “bicep curls for the brain” strengthen its ability to focus for longer without getting distracted.

Mindfulness is being practised by the UK Parliament, US Marine Corp and World Economic Forum, by elite athletes including Novak Djokovic and Tiger Woods, and now by CommBank. 

Mindfulness is a set of skills that are trainable and accessible by everyone immediately. 

Growth mindset not fixed

Susan Mackie, a leader in innovation and creativity and former CEO of the de Bono Institute, explained that neural plasticity also sits behind the theory of growth mindsets. 

It is a concept that Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University has developed and researched for over a decade. Having a growth mindset requires an inherent belief that your personality, natural abilities, creativity and intelligence can strengthen and change by forming new neural connections and weakening old ones. Fixed mindsets, however, view basic talents and abilities as fixed traits. 

We are all born with a zest for learning and willingness to step outside of our comfort zone. Over time many people lose that zest and recoil from taking risks or trying new things. In the workplace this translates to task-focused rather than goal-focused employees. In contrast having a growth mindset means we take on challenges and bounce back after setbacks. The ultimate goal is learning and developing.

Reframing the mind

Mindfulness is about calming the mind while growth mindset is about reframing it. It is more contextual and requires more effort. A growth mindset is difficult to cultivate without mindfulness. Both have major implications for priming our brains for innovative thinking.

At CommBank we have been running mindfulness and growth mindset workshops for both clients and staff. From this we are beginning to see the positive effects they have by encouraging smart failure as a way to build confidence and resilience so that we get better at being agile, taking risks and innovating.