Your Brain on Courage

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When Helen Keller claimed that life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all, she described those run with courage to create new possibilities.  But have you ever felt stuck like Velcro to persistent problems that appeared to have no way out?

When courageous opportunities stir, why do some dash forward with new talents as tools, while others dash for cover?

It could be as small as reorganizing our schedules for flexibility. Or it could be a bold new adventure such as welcoming a peer from another culture into our circle of friends. Do you leap toward daring adventures or do you stick to what you already know.

Good news is that courage can be learned.  Human brains come equipped to build and sustain the courage to dare new adventures. The kind of escapades that teens crave,  success feed on, and a life without risk fails to achieve.

Add courage to learning and hope emerges like a fueled engine

Consider mental equipment that typically goes hidden or unused at work:

1.  To kindle new ideas takes circles of trust. Teams that consciously cultivate trust, open spaces for new ideas. The iPod’s inception, for instance, started with an innovative  idea that Steve Jobs’ team kindled into revolutionized communication. Similarly, Fast Company’s  awesome design moments unveiled original ideas that emerged from committed teams. Passionate communities, such as Apple and  Fast Company, differ mentally from typical workplaces, just as brains of  genius inventors vary from minds of complacent masses. How so? The brain’s hippocampus releases a shot of dopamine the brain chemical for kindling novelty.

2. To mimic innovative talent takes passionate people who speak up and feel heard.  Believe it or not, we literally adopt another person’s talents by observing them. The innate process of  mirror neurons creates innovative cultures through mimicking talents cultivated by others. Deep inside your brain cells are neurons that will fire in reaction to another’s beliefs as they roll into activity. See any new opportunities for building communities of passion where you work?  How does it play out in an innovator’s actions, and in those who observe the results?

3. To build originality takes linking opposites together to generate novelty from both sides. Passion for novelty builds across racism and stomps out flame wars by taming the amygdala to harness brilliance. Luckily the human brain builds new neuron pathways for different kinds of thinkers when we engage many to prosper a wider community.

4. To introduce innovative technology takes game-changing guides. Recently I was invited to an online innovation meeting where I couldn’t access materials ahead, nor get into the meeting on time due to technical glitches. Technology can be a bear – and can rob innovative contributions. While I’d been brewing original  ideas on our topic, only desperate attempts to catch up, got tossed into the ring. Innovation springs from workplaces that bubble over with pools just outside of prevailing thought where all participants can hook difficult facts or barriers onto solutions that others live. Just as one talented member of my group tweaked the technology, any of us can ensure that technology sparks rather than stops progress.

5. To end up with innovation takes starting with opposing or wide angled views.  Passionate teams rarely wait for situations to improve.  They refuel by  engaging opposing views to discover original designs built from different angles.  They come to problems equipped to lead in a multifaceted world. To benefit from multiple talents is to share a common vision, and then go for different offerings!

6. To develop and reward talent takes more than a few leaders. Leaders emerge when encouraged to ask – What if…? or Have you thought about …? Simple prompts from all corners go a long way toward talent growth. People bring multiple intelligences to work daily, and mindful leaders help to unwrap those gifts. As part of that process we often  survey unique intelligences to help workplaces awaken new abilities that stand a chance to blossom across differences.

7. To build innovative cultures takes altering practices that stagnate workers. Here at the brain center – we pose two-footed questions to cultivate passion for solutions. Our approach integrates passionate solutions and improves existing practices when we question current barriers. With one foot we confront problems, and with the other we leap toward creative solutions. In and MBA course on innovative leadership, we challenge novice leaders with a two-footed question: What innovation will you propose that will gain followers and  facilitate inventions?

8. To pull through downturns takes tone tools for tough times. Fervor for innovation gets lost in climates where tone toxins such as bullying or intimidation exist. Simply put,  tone makes or breaks passion for innovation. Passion flees when stress, negativity or ego shoots down lofty ideas.  Participants hang up their cleats and revert to bare routines. Luckily the brain comes with equipment to restore passion! Tone tactics tend to tug innovation and purpose back into play. Start by asking trusted peers what tone they hear in your words and then compare their responses to what your words meant to convey.

9. To avoid problems at meetings takes gathering possibilities ahead. It can be as simple as tossing out a good question, or as complex as launching a web discussion at work. Recently I started a simple back-and-forth on Twitter to toss around insights and brain facts about multi-tasking as it affects innovation. I expected to see how people view multi-tasking as it relates to their own innovation. Social networks added new colors and textures for an ASTD leadership session I facilitated, because people held up lived experiences to the rainbow for shared look.

10. To navigate past cynicism without yielding to pessimism takes running past skeptics.  Have you noticed how stocks rise when people speak hope? While it seems trite to say hope lies beyond the sea of cynicism, it’s true that passion and purpose are fueled with serotonin, a hormone for well being. You spark curiosity by cultivating serotonin, while you fuel cynicism with dangerous cortisol chemicals of cynics. When passionate creators spark curiosity, imagination tends to kick into drive.

If you agree that we need more passion for original breakthroughs at work, you’ll likely also agree that passion starts with choice but is sustained by genius.  What do you think?

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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset