Collaborative Innovation: What Turns It Off And What Turns It On

Collaborative Innovation: What Turns It Off And What Turns It On

Gruwell tries to reach out to the students and is finally successful when she takes them to the Jewish Holocaust Museum. For the first time the student’s minds were opened to possibilities they had never contemplated. Gruwell then takes them to visit Holocaust survivors. Their curiosity about these people, who had suffered beyond their own suffering, triggered insight and change. Gruwell asked them to write their stories, which were eventually published as a book.

Gruwell shifted their mental state from one of stress, of chronic sympathetic nervous system activation, to a state of wonder and interest in something outside of themselves, that also gave their lives some meaning and especially some perspective. This allowed them to grow. They collaboratively produced the book. This collaborative and innovative way of combating the stress and trauma of their violent community, emerged out of a curiosity orientation that embraced their stress and trauma, rather than tried to avoid it, repress it or just reframe it.

The Psychobiology

Does curiosity alter the psychobiology? Whenever there is a change in mental state, there is a change in the activity of the brain. The qualities of collaboration and innovation are similar to the qualities the literature indicates for curiosity. In order to be curious, there needs to be a sense of anticipation; focus, attention and arousal; an engaged, ‘towards’ sense of exploration; a reduction in negative affect and fearfulness; and a satisfying, euphoric reward at points of resolution, insight or realisation. Although this may seem very technical, it is relevant to appreciate that there is a neurobiology of these states and it is well established:
• positive anticipation – dopaminergic activity from the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area and nucleus
accumbens (Knutson et al., 2001; Gruber et al., 2014);
• focus and attention on issues that interested them – norepinephrine from the locus coereleus (Ashton-Jones & Cohen, 2005) and acetylcholine from the nucleus basalis (Buzsaki & Gage, 1989);
• calming of stress and hypersensitivity – serotonergic activity from the raphe nuclei (Hornung, 2003).
• Pleasure, playfulness and satisfaction – endogenous rewards from the peri-aqueductal grey (Blood & Zatorre, 2001).


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About the Author

Richard HillRichard Hill, MA, MEd, MBMSc, is a practicing psychotherapist/counsellor, author, educator, and professional supervisor. He is acknowledged internationally as an expert in human dynamics, communications, the brain and the mind. He speaks on the topicss of neuroscience, psychosocial genomics, and the impact of curiosity on brain, behavior and well being. His recent book is with Ernest Rossi, PhD, The Practitioner’s Guide to Mirroring Hands, which describes a Client-Responsive Approach to therapy. He is Past-President of the Global Association of Interpersonal Neurobiology Studies (GAINS); Patron of the Australian Society of Clinical Hypnotherapists; and Managing Editor of The Science of Psychotherapy monthly magazine. He holds Masters degrees in Arts; Education; and Mind and Brain Sciences. His other books include, Choose Hope and How the ‘real world’ Is Driving Us Crazy!

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