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Play and Innovation

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In my previous blog post, I mentioned meeting Professor Joseph Tobin at a conference in Shanghai, where I gave a presentation on the topic of "the innovative mind." As I prepared to explain innovation from the perspectives of child development and neuroscience, I looked up research that had been done on the abilities necessary for innovation. I found two particularly interesting studies and introduced them in my presentation.

The first is a study conducted by a friend of mine, Dr. Kazuhisa Niki of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. He conducts wide-ranging research with brain imaging, and one study concerns the parts of the brain that become active when something new comes to our mind. When we think of something new, or find a solution to something, we get the "aha!" feeling. Dr. Niki conducted research on the brain function when one has an "aha moment." He has found that the part of the brain called the Temporo-Parietal Junction or TPJ becomes active in such moments. One interesting point is that the TPJ is the part of the brain that becomes active when we read the emotions and feelings of others. Reading the emotions of others (Theory of Mind) is the most important function of social skills. Discovering something new is considered to be a cognitive operation of the brain, but we also perceive that innovation is somehow related to sociality. This is because innovation is the discovery of something that is useful to others.

The other interesting study is found in a book by Dr. Tony Wagner of the United States. In addition to research, it features the results of his interviews with a number of innovators. According to Dr. Wagner, the necessary factors for innovation are "expertise," "creative thinking," and "motivation." "Motivation" can be divided into extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation, and it is the internal motivation that is particularly important. Another thought-provoking point is that internal motivation is determined by passion, purpose and play. I once wrote in this blog that early childhood play is a decisive factor in life, and play is now also associated with the innovative mind.

Tony Wagner, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Scribner 2012

sakakihara_2013.jpg Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, Executive Advisor of Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before working with Ochanomizu University.
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