Opinion: Making thinking the new sport

The author makes a compelling case for engaging in sports to enhance creativity

Mar 05, 2019 11:32:00 AM | Article | Vinay Kanchan Share - Share to Facebook

The 21st century is widely regarded as the age of innovation. Yet little in our current education system prepares us to think creatively-a process which is the starting point and fuel for all innovation. Despite that, many employees are expected to be creative on the jobs they perform.
Their bosses keep demanding they think ‘out of the box’, constantly and irritatingly at that. For entrepreneurs the need is probably even more urgent, ideas being the one resource which helps overcome a shortfall in many others.
The new creative age demands we need to open the doors of our mind and bring our cerebral activity out in the open-let it flex, stretch, breathe, frolic and prosper. Thinking has to be infused with much needed oxygen and vitality. It needs to be incorporated with a spirit of play.
Perhaps this is where sport can step in.
The benefits of actually engaging in sport, even when it comes to thinking, are well documented. From developing a strategic perspective, an appreciation of the team ethic and increasing bodily intelligence; sport has also been known to lead to the secretion of mood enhancing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. This means if you take a break from work and play a sport, when you return to the table the quality of your ideation is very likely to improve. 
However we are all born slackers. It is the state of equilibrium we crave to always return to. So how do we spark this much needed creative revolution, given people are inherently lazy?
Even if many people don’t engage in sport beyond a certain age, they nevertheless consume loads of it on television and smartphones. The average Indian sporting fan is a couch pumpkin (potato has been left far behind), who whilst being rendered breathless amidst the mere act of tying his shoelaces, will have a strong opinion of where Virat Kohli should stroke the next ball. Sport allows us to voyeuristically live out the athletic lives we never could. 
My submission is it can also help us become more creative, in the most entertaining manner possible, even if we are only viewing it.
We need to develop the mindset of digging a little deeper into a sporting episode we have just observed. What possibilities does it open up? How does it correlate with the problem we are grappling with? Are there underlying concepts that might inspire us in a broader arena?
This is all about leveraging our sport viewing habit to truly excite and ignite creative thinking. It is about infusing a sense of play in the upcoming creative revolution, and making the whole process of embracing creativity and generating ideas, a whole lot more fun.
As an example, think of Lionel Messi dribbling past scores of defenders. If one thing stands out during his mazy runs, it’s how little he uses his right foot. But that does not mean the problem he poses the opposing team is any less. This does inform when it comes to wholeheartedly backing your prized asset, especially if it is that potent. It also tells us about the value of sticking to a brand’s core strength and proposition, no matter what happens, despite surveys reporting ‘you might want to push other attributes too’. Sport just helps enliven and internalize that concept a whole lot better. 
It is time sport was roped in, to help us cope with the challenges of a new creative age. It might just help us win at the innovation game.
(Vinay Kanchan is the author of ‘Sportivity’. He is a brand storyteller and innovation catalyst.) 


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