Practice is the way to mastery–of anything, including innovation.
Aikido, the embodied practices for peace and harmony, is useful for innovators. Bert Bennett’s seven immutable facts are informative of how our our bodies are part of the physical world. Reconnecting our cognition and emotions to the physical world and to others through our body can be learned. Embodied presence is the way of authenticity and connection.
Adoption of innovation has occured when a community has embodied the innovation, when their daily practices include the innovation.
The innovator has to manage and maintain coherence among the three dimensions of every practice: language, body, and moods-emotions. This coherence must be achieved, not only for the community, but in the innovator’s own practice. All language comes from a body with emotion. The three are effective when they are coherent, aligned, and therefore authentic and trustworthy. The domain of integration is called somatics. We have our work cut out for us, because our Western culture has attempted to seperate mind and body for several hundred years. We must develop practices which help us put them back together in order to innovate.
Somatics is concerned with the unity of mind, body, and emotions. This field has developed these principles:
- The mind and body are not separate, but form and act as a unity.
- The brain is influenced by experiences of signals carried by the nervous system from all parts of the body.
- Emotions and moods predispose how we think and act.
- The history of our experience and practices conditions our perceptions ofthe world and shapes our capabilities.
- Communication is not just the transfer of information – it is the interaction of people that produces interpretations, emotions and moods, and body reactions.
- Practice is the foundation for learning and mastery.
Our senses, our movements, our presence is what people look to in order to judge our words. We carry the day when we speak with our bodies about what we care deeply about. How does this work? What can we do to show up more authentically?
Our inventions must fit the moods and bodies of the community of interest if they are to be adopted as a new normal.
We often do not see that most innovation breakdowns originate in the body in three ways:
- Lack of awareness: We are unaware of signals from our listeners that reveal their real concerns, or of how our own behaviors are affecting them, and so we do not connect.
- Conditioned tendencies: Some of our automatic behaviors, called “conditioned tendencies” by Strozzi-Heckler (1984), disconnect us from our listeners or push them away.
- Lack of blending: We lack automatic behaviors and skills that enable us to join with others in a smooth and graceful flow in harmony with their responses.
Because embodiment means that the electro-chemical pathways of the brain and nervous system are modified, Strozzi-Heckler likes to say that “body is the shape of our experience”. And because new behaviors can be learned and replace less productive behavior, he says that “body is a domain of action.” So we can create new futures through new practices.
Blending is the central somatic skill of innovators.We will develop practices for blending which incorporate three basic principles:
- Awareness creates choice. Every practice is based on distinctions that give you choices. Initially, the distinctions may be unfamiliar; you will have to practice until you notice them and make the choices effortlessly.
- Energy follows attention. Focus your practice on what you want to accomplish, not what you want to avoid. If you focus too much on what you want to avoid, you will have trouble avoiding it.
- Your body is always practicing something. It is easy to develop unproductive habits if you do not deliberately focus on the outcome that you want from the practice. You cannot cut corners or put up with unwanted outcomes, for then the sloppiness and tolerance will become part of your habit.
Our paramount interest in innovation is listening to, and connecting with, cares and concerns of others. This is the platform for us to move in alignment with them and redirect them in a more productive direction.