5 Reasons Why Innovation Is Good For Your Brain
August 16th | 2016

Innovation is something all companies strive to be successful at in order to stay ahead.

The problem with innovation is that it can be difficult to achieve and often involves taking risks. These risks can be daunting – human brains are programmed to seek the most logical, secure path in life. For those who choose to defy their biological programming and take an innovative leap, the benefits can be surprisingly valuable.

Here are 5 reasons why pursuing innovation is actually good for you:

1. Learning a new task increases your grey matter.

In a 2008 study, researchers taught participants a new skill – juggling. After only seven days, learning to juggle caused an increase in grey matter in the areas tasked with processing and storing complex visual motion. In addition, their research showed that learning a new visual and motor-oriented task results in more structural changes in those areas of the brain than continued training of an already-learned task. That means learning something physically new actually increases the volume of grey matter cells in your brain, which can help you better perform at certain kinds of tasks.

2. Enriched environments and experiences foster the development of individuality. 

Scientists in Europe have found that our environments and experiences may help shape who we are as individuals. Using mice as an animal model, they were able to show that individual experiences influence the development of new neurons, leading to measurable changes in the brain. In the study, the more the mouse explored its environment, the more its brain was likely to develop. It’s possible, then, that seeking out and exploring new environments could help us all develop as individuals by creating more neurons.

3. Mistakes help your brain grow. 

According to a Stanford Professor and co-founder of Youcubed, a school for innovative mathematics teaching, when we make a mistake, the brain activates more of its synapses and grows as a result even when we’re not aware of our mistakes. In other words, when our brains are challenged, they grow – whether we know we’ve challenged ourselves or not. It’s only by seeking out situations in which we’re likely to make mistakes, however, that we’ll experience the right conditions to make that growth possible.

4. New experiences make time appear to slow down. 

According toneuroscientist David Eagleman, the more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass. For example, if you look at a series of pictures on a screen that are all the same and then a new one appears, you’ll have the impression that the new picture stayed on the screen for longer. “Time is this rubbery thing…it stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,’ it shrinks up.” Therefore, by searching for new experiences and new sights we’re really making the most of the time we have.

5. New experiences can strengthen old memories. 

Psychologists at New York University discovered that new experiences can change the way we remember old experiences. In fact, if a new experience indicates that an old experience is important, we’re able to remember the old experience in more detail and accuracy than before. That means that seeking out experiences that add context to what we already know may help us remember and use our existing knowledge better.

The bottom line is that by exposing your brain to new environments, tasks, and ideas you’re likely elevating your personal experience and your capacity to think in new ways. Innovation, therefore, is a risk worth taking when you consider both your business and your brain may benefit.