While still imperfect, the current generation of brain imaging technology is enabling researchers to zero in on elusive mental activities like creativity. The practical applications are boundless. In the past, businesses striving to create a company culture that would facilitiate innovation had to rely on trial and error, and industry best practices. Educators, too, often shoot in the dark when it comes to promoting student creativity, with the result that these less measurable areas of the curriculum are the first on the chopping block when budgetary times are tight.
These new and evolving technologies promise to change all that by enabling companies and school systems to evaluate their approaches more empirically, on the basis of a clearer understanding of how the human mind works and what it needs to function most effectively. A case in point is author Jonah Lehrer's evaluation of 3M's culture of innovation in light of cutting edge neuroscience and psychology.