Have you ever been sitting on the train and suddenly, the world’s greatest and most amazing idea ever pops into your head? Maybe you were thinking about what to eat for dinner and then you heard someone talk about Taylor Swift’s new album and then tah-dah! All of your human resources problems are solved.
Turns out, you’re not the only one.
According to a study by postdoctoral fellow Steven Frankland and Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, Joshua Greene:
“Two adjacent brain regions allow humans to build new thoughts using a sort of conceptual algebra, mimicking the operations of silicon computers that represent variables and their changing values.”
What does this mean?
It means that your brain has the magical ability to piece together thoughts that may not make any sense in the beginning. The theory is that if the brain can identify definitions and parts of the sentence, then the idea can full form. The two researchers explain:
“Most people can understand ‘Joe Biden beat Vladimir Putin at Scrabble’ even though they’ve never thought about that situation, because, as long as you know who Putin is, who Biden is, what Scrabble is, and what it means to win, you’re able to put these concepts together to understand the meaning of the sentence. That’s a basic, but remarkable, cognitive ability.”
Fascinating, right? Now this is still a theory that’s being tested (the brain is a very complicated matter), but Frankland and Greene completed studies while monitoring the brain through a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to understand brain activity.
In the test, they scanned their subject’s brains while reading basic sentences to them. Things like, “The dog chased the man” and “The man chased the dog.” What did they find?
“What we found is there are two regions in the left superior temporal lobe, one which is situated more toward the center of the head, that carries information about the agent, the one doing an action. An immediately adjacent region, located closer to the ear, carries information about the patient, or who the action was done to.”
Basically, once our brain can complete this formula, then we begin to understand the things we hear and read. The trick is to create a library in our brains that can understand concept because then we’ll have more pull from in any given situation.
Learn, learn, learn.
Listen to podcasts, read books, have meaningful conversations, and always be on the quest for knowledge. We don’t know what we don’t know, but the more we can learn about it, the better it is for our brains to piece together ideas that we’ve never even heard of.
Think of your brain as an (almost) endless kitchen. The more ingredients, or knowledge, you can collect, the more food, or ideas, you can create.
Go on. Get out there and keep learning. Your next business idea may be just around the corner.