Every business wants to stand out from the competition and grow, but few actually do. Every professional desires to become more distinctive, yet only a fraction really are.
So, what’s the problem? Interestingly, there are some insights from a study of hip hop and rap artists. Scientfic American’s website recently reposted an article from Nature on a study of brain scans of rappers that was revealing in terms of creativity.
Researchers Siyuan Liu and Allen Braun, neuroscientists at the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders in Bethesda, Maryland, and their colleagues had 12 rappers freestyle while connected to a form of MRI machine. Then, they had the rappers recite from memorized lyrics and compared the brain scans.
“We think what we see is a relaxation of ‘executive functions’ to allow more natural de-focused attention and uncensored processes to occur that might be the hallmark of creativity,” said Dr. Braun.
When a customer interacts with you, they seldom stop to assess all of the effort it has taken you to get to that point. Frankly, when I get my Pike Place from Starbucks, I (probably unfortunately) do not often reflect on the coffee growers, shipping barge operators, and delivery truck drivers who made my morning java possible. I simply experience the interaction created for the customer.
Yet, when we want to create distinction by becoming more innovative in how we serve our customers — or a myriad of other aspects in business — our “executive function” thinking usually kicks in. The result is the “we’ve never done it that way before” or “do you know how much it would take to do that?” syndrome that kills the very type of creativity required to stand out in today’s marketplace.
The article states that the study suggests there are two phases to creativity: Phase One is spontaneous and based upon improvisation to create unique ideas and approaches. Phase Two is where we process, revise, and improve our original thoughts.
I’d suggest the problems most often encountered with innovative business thinking is that we: 1) don’t want to stretch ourselves by becoming spontaneous and “off the cuff” out of a fear of, 2) the fact we frequently attempt to evaluate and process simultaneously as we create new ideas.
Without “breathing space” between innovation and evaluation, we shut down the flow of our creativity — just as rappers can’t concurrently freestyle and analyze their performance.
As the article states, “Michael Eagle, a study co-author who raps under the name Open Mike Eagle, agrees: ‘That’s kind of the nature of that type of improvisation. Even as people who do it, we’re not 100% sure of where we’re getting improvisation from.’”
Strange as it may sound, if you want to create distinction…maybe you need to think less like a business professional…and (if only for a little while) think like a rapper.