Extend your mind this Christmas

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our clients, partners and friends!! 

The festive period is magical. Full of family, friends, fun and frivolity. It’s also the only time of year when your work-mind has a chance to free itself from the people and challenges that occupy it at every other time of the year. Before the magic begins, here’s one last thought provoking piece from the Incite team. 

Humans are not machines! That may sound obvious, but how often have you unwittingly compared yourself to one? When we say something like ‘Let me think about that,’ it reduces our inner lives to inputs and outputs: the brain as a computer. This reveals a fundamental – and misguided – assumption that there is no more to the human mind than our brains. We explore what The Extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul means for market research; how our bodies, environments and social relationships are intrinsically linked to our ways of thinking.

Building on a theory first developed in philosophy, The Extended Mind calls on learnings from neuroscience to detail how we are more effective, creative and attentive when we engage the resources beyond our brain. Or, to put a keener point on it, thinking solely in your head on abstract ideas for long periods can hamper productivity and detach us from the means to truly thrive.

We can adopt an extended mindset in our own lives:

  • Engage your body: moving while taking on information, acting things out, or gesturing while communicating all help us to gain deeper understanding, show greater empathy and be more persuasive
  • Use physical tools: like a mathematician might use a pad to work through a problem, tools help us to externalise and engage with abstract concepts, while spatially orienting information through visualisations or physical space helps us to better navigate complex ideas
  • Take it outdoors: even just looking out of a window helps us gain diffused attention (wondering thoughts), and being among nature creates a sense of awe that breaks up our routines, reducing the strain of cognitive tasks and encouraging new thinking
  • Loop in others: collaborating on ideas amongst peers or experts means we go well beyond what can be achieved alone, making best use of the memories and capabilities of others to develop and hone our own thinking

The Extended Mind: aside from tips for the individual, this way of thinking about thinking has implications for our industry.

Mindful participants

We could engage our survey participants better by including visual cues that reduce the detachment they may experience when completing a questionnaire or talking in the abstract about decisions and attitudes. Prompts to take breaks, look out the window or stretch might also help them maintain attention in lengthy interviews.

Mindful stakeholders

We could engage our stakeholders in a way that drives better outcomes.

  • Physically embodying consumer behaviours, such as store navigation or product usage, in workshops or innovation sessions would help stakeholders build empathy and understanding of the consumer mindset
  • Visually representing abstract concepts when sharing our findings, such as use of physical objects and mapping, would help with communicating complex ideas
  • While taking meetings outdoors might prove challenging, instilling some awe could help cleanse the palate of those running from back-to-back meetings, and help bring renewed focus and vigour
  • Encouraging our audience to sound out and engage in looping discussion would drive better outcomes because different perspectives and experiences are incorporated

At its heart, this view of the extended mind underscores the importance of what and who we choose to have around us. So over this holiday season, while you’re tucking into that second mince pie, take care to notice where your mind extends to and when, and how you can bring your best thinking to 2023. Don’t forget to loop it with us here at Incite.