In todays (2012-11-22) Stockholm edition of the daily newspaper Metro, the author and freelance free-marketeer Johan Norberg writes a column called "Do not marry rich – marry smart" in which he discuss todays society when it comes to stimulus and input.
In short he explains that the IQ-levels, measured from the abstract thinking tests, have – since World War 2 – increased by 2-3 points per decade. Thus making each generation smarter than the previous.
The Scientist have many explanations to this, but he focus on the fact that in today’s world our brain is under a lot of constant input and white noise from mobiles and computers that stresses our brain. This makes, according to his theories, the brain more able to handle information and divert attention as needed, and when the brain is working on the limit of its capacities, that is when it evolves and becomes even better. A bit as exercise makes your muscles stronger.
In his just released book "Hjärnrevolutionen" (Brain revolution) he talks about this issue more in-depth, unfortunately it’s still only in Swedish. But the point in this article, going back to his head line, is that if you want to innovate your brain, you should choose to be with smart and talented people, as this encourage your brain to work harder and better as well.
Companies and/or ideas that one can categorise as innovative are always a product of inputs and inspiration from areas all around it. Sitting alone in a dark cellar with no-one to talk to or discuss with will make a person more dumb in time. And the same is applied on any company or organisation you can think of.
To spend time with smart people is of course not enough, I have tried that my self. For example, Johan also notes that to truly work on the path to become more innovative and smarter you also need to physically exercise so the brain gets oxygen and is stimulated by the proteins that is released
A company, or an idea, is perhaps not as easy to exercise as one human body. But exercising a company can be done in many different ways. Keeping the working atmosphere open and fresh, by permitting and promoting free thinking, open ideas with no internal boundaries that refrain people from talking to each other – that is something all companies should exercise and constantly make sure is healthy.
To be innovative, the classic proverb is "Think outside the box". But you need also to FEEL outside the box – as this article from INC explains: The Innovation Factor: Your Brain on Innovation
Yet is thinking outside the box all it takes to be innovative? Are reasoning and imagination — the twin faculties that most of us associate with innovation — enough for Ray Kurzweil to know which of the formulas that he’s dreamed up based on past technological trends will lead to the best mathematical models for predicting future trends?
No, says Antonio Damasio, head of the neurology department at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. The innovator has to be able to feel outside the box, too — that is, to make value judgments about the images and ideas that he or she has produced in such abundance. "Invention," as the French mathematician Henri Poincaré said, "is discernment, choice." And choice, notes Damasio, is based on human emotion — sensations that originate in the brain but loop down into the body and back up again. "What you’re really doing in the process of creating is choosing one thing over another, not necessarily because it is factually more positive but because it attracts you more," says Damasio. "Emotion is literally the alarm that permits the detection."
So a company, to be truly innovative, not only has to be smart and intelligent, it also need to have a conscience.
But who defines and governs the conscious in a company?
Dr Simon Longstaff at St James Ethics Centre writes in his article about Corporate Conscience:
"Who keeps the conscience of a corporation? Is it the role of the Board, senior management, the whole company (or all of the above)? Can a corporation have a conscience? …. However, I want to suggest that thinking about the underlying character of a company is no longer a luxury, but instead, a matter of necessity.
… Indeed, management expert, Peter Drucker, has stressed that an ability to manage change is going to be the defining characteristic of the successful organisation of the future."
So if you want to be innovative, as a person or as a company:
Make sure you spend time with other smart and innovative people
Exercise, both your muscles and your brain
Be conscious and feel outside the box
… and as the robot Number Five from the film Short Circuit would say: "I need input! More input!"