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

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

The Social Engagement System

Stephen Porges (2003) has argued, in his Polyvagal Theory, for the existence of a phylogenetic hierarchy that has, as the most recent evolutionary development, a social engagement system (ventral vagus). This system includes many of the suggested implicit processes above that enable and enhance social engagement. The other two elements of the hierarchy are the sympathetic nervous system, in response to threat, producing fight, flight, or freeze; and the parasympathetic nervous system (dorsal vagus), in response to overwhelm, producing collapse.

This helps us understand how it might be that we have lost the “normality” of social engagement, collaboration and co-operative creativity, which underscore the emergence of innovation in groups. Turning off the social engagement system occurs when the sympathetic nervous system is aroused in response to threat or perceived threat, danger or perceived danger. Our question now turns to what might be triggering feelings of fear or fearfulness to the degree that people are less inclined to connect, engage and be co-operative: what inclines us toward self-concern and self-defence?

What Turns It Off

Chronic Stress and External Evaluation

There are those things that are clear and present dangers – specific threats, dangers, and violence. These are immediate threats that trigger fight or flight and are often short term and resolvable. What is more difficult to resolve are those threats that are persistent and unresolvable, that lead to a chronic state of fearfulness. This triggers a chronic and usually low level of sympathetic nervous system activity which is not something humans have evolved to manage.


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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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