How to activate the ‘seeking system’ of your brain

Play and experimentation are the keys to creativity and innovation.

  • There is a part of the brain called the ventral striatum, aka the "seeking system," that drives humans to explore and learn new things. When activated, the system releases dopamine and makes us feel good.
  • There are three main ways that leaders can stimulate the ventral striatums of their team: through experimentation, by finding ways to learn and play to individual strengths, and by making the purpose of the work personal.
  • As some major companies have learned, being playful and curious is a pathway to boosted creativity and innovation.

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  • Robert Oppenheimer wrote a telling letter of recommendation for Richard Feynman in 1943.
  • After praising Feynman's intellectual prowess, Oppenheimer used most of the ink discussing the strength of his character.
  • The letter is a stark reminder of the importance of emotional intelligence.
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How should you react to speech you disagree with?

Disagreements should not equal censorship.

  • Defending someone's right to speak does not mean that you have to agree with what they say. The correct response is not censorship, but more discussion.
  • Physician and sociologist Nicholas Christakis argues that in politics, defending the principle of a contested election is not the same as agreeing with or endorsing a candidate. "We should defend that principle even if we don't like the outcome of the vote."
  • The best way to test your ideas and beliefs is to argue them against someone with a different stance/point-of-view.


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Is social media killing intellectual humility?

"One way the internet distorts our picture of ourselves is by feeding the human tendency to overestimate our knowledge of how the world works," writes philosophy professor Michael Patrick Lynch.

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  • Social media echo chambers have made us overconfident in our knowledge and abilities.
  • Social psychologists have shown that publicly committing to an opinion makes you less willing to change your mind.
  • To avoid a descent into epistemic arrogance and tribalism, we need to use social media with deep humility.
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You can use data to boost your career. Here’s how.

Striking a better work-life balance comes down to the numbers.

  • One universal concern for employers and employees across all industries is work-life balance. Thanks to data from large tech companies, we've seen the negative impact that skewed dynamics can have on one's career.
  • Neil Irwin, senior economic correspondent at The New York Times, believes that data can turn employees into their own career coaches and ultimately help them succeed in the workplace.
  • Data is important, but "data alone isn't insight," Irwin says. The key is to learn how to interpret the numbers and use that information logically.
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