Brain Health for Innovation and Creativity S14 Ep31

Anyone who wants to be highly creative, be an innovator, and generate killer ideas needs above all else one thing.  You need your brain. That’s why it’s of primary importance that you take care of your brain health. Your brain, like any muscle can be exercised and strengthened.  In today’s show, we talk about how you can optimize your brain health for innovation and creativity.  

Brain Health

Good News for Your Brain

Reading the Chicago Tribune, I came across an interesting article by Leslie Barker.  The article reveals research findings from the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas.  At the forefront of the research is Sandra Bond Chapman, founder of the Center for Brain Health.  The research indicates that we can strengthen our brain and improve our brain health.  If you’re thinking Sudoku, think again. And while I do practice some of these tips for brain health, there is room for improvement. Since I plan to be in the innovation game for life, brain health is essential.  So, I’ll be working on these. I hope you’ll join me.

Steps to Brain Health

What’s good for your body is also good for your brain.  Want to increase your brain bandwidth to maximize your innovation and creativity output?  Do you fear the potential diseases of Dementia and Alzheimer’s? Maybe someone in your family has gone through one of these cognitive diseases.  Don’t sit back and give up because the disease is in the genes. There’s hope to increase your brain’s potential and minimize decline.

Physical Exercise

First, getting physical exercise increases your brain health.  The higher your fitness level, the better your brain wiring. Exercise can increase the number of pathways through your brain and widen pathways.  This can only increase your ability for innovation and creativity. Physical fitness may also slow cognitive decline. Conversely, if you let your body get out of shape, your brain will follow.  To slow or prevent the development of Dementia or Alzheimer’s, stay active. The study recommends 30 minutes most days. I’ll admit, this doesn’t come easy for me. While my wife is great at keeping an exercise regimen, this is something I have to get better at.  Set the goal and make exercise a habit for your brain health.  

Five by Five

The second step for brain health is to take five -minute breaks five times a day.  It’s what we call five by five. Breaks can mean getting up from your desk and taking a walk outside or even staying at your desk, but unplugging from work.  In the office, I sometimes sit back in my chair at my cubicle, close my eyes, and take a short break. As CEO, I do this in full view of my team as we are all in cubicles.  In this way, I let them know it’s ok to take a brain break. If you’re a leader, I encourage you to model this with your team. Those of us in the innovation game put our brain under a lot of pressure and stress.  By doing five by five brain breaks, the benefits are all around.  Brain health improves innovation and creativity.  Remember five by five.

Quit Multitasking: Focus

The third step to brain health is to stop multitasking.  This one goes hand in hand with the “F” in the innovation framework FIRE.  That is focus. If you are doing multiple tasks at once, the quality of your work declines and the potential for mistakes increases.  The time it takes to do these tasks increases. By focusing on a single task, your ideas will have greater depth and quality. Even better, you are exercising your brain when you focus on one thing at a time.  In the office, when I need deep focus, I put my earbuds in and listen to instrumental music. No lyrics and low volume. This helps to minimize the background office noise and keep me focused on the one task at hand.

Eat More Fruits and Veggies

For brain health, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.  If my wife were listening to this podcast, she would quote this back to me.  Your brain needs healthy eating. Eat whole berries, fresh vegetables like green leafy vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and fish.  I’m getting better at this. Eating more fish. Snacking on trail mix. Trying to eliminate the sugary drinks. As I was preparing for my TedX Boulder talk, I noticed I needed more fuel.  I’ve put more effort into this talk than any talk I’ve ever done in my whole career.  The mental energy has made me consume more. But I didn’t crave the sugary stuff. I craved real fuel, healthy food.  Feed your brain the good stuff.

Practice Innovative Thinking

Innovative thinking actually improves your brain health.  Thinking about things differently and in new ways increases the brain’s strength.  This helps you to maintain mental independence as you age.  It’s also what we do in the innovation game.  Innovation and creativity are good for brain health.  Just in the day to day, some ways to practice innovative thinking are coming up with new words to thank someone.  Or use a different structure for your emails. Change it up. Find creative ways to practice innovative thinking daily.

Put the Tech to Rest

As laughable as it may seem coming from me, put the tech away to give your brain a rest.  While technology may stimulate the brain, it may not always do so in a beneficial way. So, give your brain a respite.  In my own experience, I don’t seem to retain as much information reading from a screen versus paper copy. Research shows that reading things digitally, the brain tends to click into skimming mode.  For depth, retention, and the thinking process, shut off the technology. If there’s a topic or book I want to think deeply on, I’ll buy the book. Even consider removing technology from meetings. It may result in shorter more productive meetings.  Give your brain a break from the digital.

Don’t Doubt Your Brain

If relatives have suffered from Alzheimer’s or Dementia, don’t give in to fears that it’s on the horizon for you.  Believe that your brain will be strong and that you can strengthen it. Through exercise and eating well, exercising your creative muscle and keeping your brain sharp, you can push back symptoms.  

If you’re in the innovation and creativity game, you are doing amazing things.  What’s helping you to do those amazing things is your brain. It’s your most valuable asset.  So, I hope these tips will help you to protect, maintain, and improve your most valuable asset, your brain.

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This episode of Killer Innovations is produced by The Innovators Network.
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