The uncomfortable path

How happiness and innovation are linked

Hi, thanks for reading this.
Before we try to understand what this text is all about, let`s take a minute thinking why you are reading it.

Unlike that bizarre book about chemistry that you`ve read once for school or a highly cheesy text over a highly cheesy image, this text already suits you in some way. You, like me and everyone else, are biased to seek, accept, do and spread what is consonant with your own values, knowledge and ideas.

While many are worried about the limiting effect of the so called ‘internet filter bubble’, we do not realize that during our whole life we have been choosing friends, places to go, courses, jobs, hobbies and spouses based on our previous references of what is relevant and pleasant. We love them because of it.
Living the known is comfortable notwithstanding limiting.

On the other hand, during our life we can also perceive the beauty and benefits of facing contexts that are strange, uncommon or challenging for us, like talking to an interesting person with whom we usually would not talk to or discovering a passion for some kind of art [e.g. dance, music, painting and so on].
Facing the unknown is interesting but uncomfortable and possibly harmful.

How to deal with comfort and discomfort?

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one is able to achieve [not only happiness but] maximum performance during flow experiences. The flow state is an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he is doing. This is a feeling everyone has at times, characterized by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment and skill.

To reach this state, one element is crucial: facing contexts where your skills and the given challenge match.
If a given context is too difficult for your capabilities, you tend to feel frustrated, anxious and disinterested
If it is too easy, you tend to feel bored, wasted and disinterested as well.
Balance is ideal.

Unfortunately, to cope with the complexity of the world, people, at least most of us, were taught since primary education to apply reductive models, with which we divide, disassemble and transform into numbers our complex reality.
The result of such approach is an endless pile of guidelines, methods and step-by-step books that are useful for known and predictable contexts but damaging for other ones.

When pursuing innovation, professionals in general need to work with dynamics, relationships, stakeholders and variables that they don’t fully understand.
Some will be learned with time. Some will never be predictable.

With an untrained mind to deal with higher levels of uncertainty, professionals ignore and reject opportunities for innovation and, most of the cases, come up with existing and know ideas/answers.
New challenges come. “Old” answers are given. No innovation happens.
No wonder, so many sectors were disrupted by new players who do not have on their minds the previous mindset.
As an example just look at the music industry, in which great services are now provided by companies who are extremely different from the previous “record label + artist + physical music store” system, like Apple [iTunes], Spotify, YouTube, Netflix and so on.

If you want to be innovative, start from your mindset, change your stance.
Look for challenges and projects with higher levels of uncertainty. It doesn’t mean that the challenge is riskier. It means that things are blurry for you and you need to think about and test new ways to work with it.

In the end, maybe you will be innovative, maybe you will grow as a professional and a person… and maybe you will be happier.

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