| How to Improve Cognitive Flexibility? |

“The most important lessons lay not in what I needed to learn, but in what I first needed to unlearn.”- Jim Collins

Life-long learners exist within a constant cycle of learning, unlearning, and re-learning. And in doing so, they develop an Innovator’s Mindset. So, what does it mean to have an Innovator’s Mindset? In short, people with this type of mindset not only come up with ideas regularly, but they also implement them and develop them further. It is having the belief that anyone can be innovators, not only scientists, inventors, or entrepreneurs.

At Toru Institute of Inclusive Innovation we have identified five necessary skills that every innovator should have, and one of them is Cognitive Flexibility. In order to truly embrace knowledge, harness one’s abilities, exercise intelligence, and hone talent, one has to be open-minded enough to unlearn and then, re-relearn. Without unlearning learned things and re-learning new ones, we will be trapped in a vicious cycle of pseudo-knowledge.

Here are some pointers about how can we improve this skill:

Don’t be Afraid to Reinvent Yourself

Learning is easier to us, because we have been trained to take in information. But unlearning can be difficult. We have to get rid of ideas that we have held dear to us to make room for new ones. Old is familiar and gives us a sense of security and comfort. But innovators know that when we unlearn an old concept, we are reinventing; we are taking the path less trodden and embracing new form of knowledge. This excites them.

Don’t Grow Old?

This advice sounds strange. How does one stagnate aging and freeze in one specific point in life? Biologically it is impossible as we can’t prevent our physical aging, but what we can do is keep our minds young. That is the very essence of learning new things, to have a childlike curiosity for learning new things. Always keep your mind active and open to new ideas, and thus never let your thoughts grow stale.

What if Everything You Thought You Knew Was a Lie?

No, I am not spouting a line from a sci-fi thriller, I am only talking about being able to accept new knowledge. Our perception can be part our reality, but it is not always the truth. Try to look at what you already know with as many different perspectives as you can. By being open to new ideas, you not only get to re-invent yourself, but you also get to learn things in a different way. Only then, can you re-learn a new concept and explore your own creativity.

Play ‘Brain Games’

Besides Chess and Sudoku, there are multiple board games and online brain training games available these days that you can play to increase your cognitive flexibility. How do they work? These games are built to challenge our thinking models so we have to be creative to win, and this process helps us build new neural pathways. Like physical exercise helps us stay physically fit, such brain exercise has been seen to delay cognitive decline.

Mind & Body Are Not So Separate- Physical Exercise Also Helps in Improving Cognitive Flexibility

Yes, the age old saying ‘A sound mind is in a sound body’ is also true in the case of developing cognitive flexibility. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that older adults who regularly engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity tend to have better brain function and greater white matter integrity than their less-fit peers. These people also have increased cognitive flexibility (Source here). So take benefit of this finding and include some form of exercise, like jogging, running, playing a sports, weightlifting, etc. to have a higher cognitive flexibility than others.

Learn a foreign Language to Reduce Risk of Reduced Cognitive Flexibility

The listening and hearing involved in learning a new language has been found to stimulate the brain (source here). Besides, it has been found in a study that having a rich vocabulary can decrease the risk for cognitive decline (source here).

Cognitive flexibility is an important skill that sets apart the good from the great. Without it, people remain average and can’t reach the tipping point needed to truly excel in their crafts. With the 4th Industrial Revolution taking place, employees will have to be in the habit of continuous learning and cognitive flexibility will play a big part in that. So if you want to be an innovator, start applying these tips in your life starting fro

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