Marian Diamond is my new hero. But she’s hardly new. For the last 60 years, Dr. Diamond has been studying the brain at the University of California at Berkeley.
Until the 1960s, the scientific community was adamant that the capacities of any given brain are fixed. Permanently. That our genetic inheritance has “pre-set” our intellectual abilities. Today we call this “genetic pre-determinism”, and I’m happy to say that Dr. Diamond is one of the chief people responsible for helping us dispel that terrible myth.
In her groundbreaking research, Dr. Diamond and her colleagues discovered that the brain has the capacity to develop and evolve throughout life. As a result, we’re in the middle of an explosion in brain research under the exciting new term “neuroplasticity”. Neuroplasticity research has proven that the brain, under the right conditions, is incredibly flexible and versatile. And we are just beginning to discover how “plastic” the brain really is. What was considered impossible is now becoming more possible than ever.
But what are the conditions that enhance and support neuroplasticity? And let’s remember that today’s business and creative challenges demand that we become more adaptive and brilliant with our solutions. So this is a topic that should be studied closely by anyone in advertising, marketing, design or innovation. Dr. Diamond’s work clearly indicates that the following conditions are the most conducive to brain development:
- Nutrition – eating well and a wide variety of nutritious foods.
- Exercise – getting regular exercise that you enjoy taking part in
- Challenge – challenging your mind to stretch
- Newness – new environments and stimuli
- Love – the giving and receiving of affection or appreciation of different kinds
Marian’s team calls this “enriched environments”. So, it stands to reason that at a good advertising agency, a startup, or a big company that is looking to stay competitive, we should be creating enriched environments that provide the aforementioned factors to our people. Easy to say, perhaps harder to do. But so worth the thought and effort. Because in doing so, our brains will, in the words of Marian Diamond, “create ideas that will change the world around us.”
And if you want to meet the delightful Dr. Diamond, go watch the wonderful 2016 documentary about her, called “My Love Affair with the Brain”. Prepare to fall in love.