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I haven’t touched the issue of No More Rules! for a while now (link straight to the presentation). But something I came across last week reminded me of it. It turns out that a couple of years ago, two scientists did an interesting experiment that links directly to my claim.
They studied Jazz musicians while they improvised their music. Jazz improvisation is unique in that it demands a lot of creativity to play as it is distinct in style and in the way it is played. They compared those people to people who played regular music, out of notes. What they studied was their brains.
It turns out, that when the musicians improvised, thus needing creativity, the areas associated with creativity in their brains lighted up. When they played what on the notes in front of them, the areas in their brain associated with following rules lighted up. Up to this point, there were no surprises. However, what was surprising was that when the musicians improvised, the areas in their brain that are associated with following rules, not only did not light up, they showed decreased activity. As if in order to improvise and be creative, you need to let go of the rules and inhibitions. Here is a short paragraph from a summary from the Johns Hopkins website:
The scientists found that a region of the brain known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a broad portion of the front of the brain that extends to the sides, showed a slowdown in activity during improvisation. This area has been linked to planned actions and self-censoring, such as carefully deciding what words you might say at a job interview. Shutting down this area could lead to lowered inhibitions, Limb suggests
Those of you who have been following my writings about rules and how they inhibit practical wisdom and creativity which are the building blocks of the current economy are already nodding in understanding of the implications of this research.
How do we expect our people to be creative and generate value when we keep surrounding them with rules and inhibitions? Now, it is not only logic and behavioral experiments supporting my claim, it is also brain science.