An article in the NY Times “Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?” discusses how trying new things can change your neural pathways and boost your creativity.
It says that the quality of “wonder” is key to innovation….that when we “decide” things all the time we close our mind to alternative possibilities, and that an innovative mind is continually investigating new possibilities.
It discusses the benefits of being in “stretch””
ie “there are three zones of existence: comfort, stretch and stress. Comfort is the realm of existing habit. Stress occurs when a challenge is so far beyond current experience as to be overwhelming. It’s that stretch zone in the middle — activities that feel a bit awkward and unfamiliar — where true change occurs”
Stretch can be cultivated through the Japanese practice of Kaizen.
Kaizen is used within the innovative Toyota Production System and Anthony Robbins is also a fan.
From Wikipedia: “Kaizen (改善) is Japanese for improvement. It is a Japanese philosophy that focuses on continuous improvement throughout all aspects of life. When applied to the workplace, Kaizen activities continually improve all functions of a business from manufacturing to management and from the CEO to the assembly line workers. By improving the standardized activities and processes, Kaizen aims to eliminate waste”
Unlike the west concept of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, Kaizen has its route in a philosophy of continuous improvement…yielding mental stretch..and innovative thinking.
On a final note the article notes that:
“You cannot have innovation…unless you are willing and able to move through the unknown and go from curiosity to wonder.”
(I have include an image called Wonder:Zena Gazing at the Moon by one of my favourite artists Alex Grey)