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Jolt #25 - Let the Heart Originate Thinking, Not the Brain

This Jolt is an excerpt from a forthcoming book by Debra R. Miller and William C. Miller of Values Centered Innovation

Some years ago, a group of scientists and marketers gathered together to generate new business opportunities for a DuPont product called Nomex, which offered superior heat, fire, and electrical arc protection. After the 1st day they had over 350 ideas, but somehow the “spark” was missing.

The next day, the facilitator asked each person to stand up and name 1 issue in society that they were personally concerned about. They spoke about such things as drug addiction, hunger, violence – and formed common interest groups to brainstorm how Nomex might contribute to solving their issues. The energy and enthusiasm spiked that day, and their ideas became more bold and comprehensive.

The 1st day’s activity was brain-thinking. The 2nd day was heart-thinking, where the heart uses the brain as a tool to articulate ideas inspired and originated by deep meaning and emotional fortitude.

How is this so? Gregg Braden – a scientist, international educator, and best-selling author – often speaks about the new scientific research that shows how the heart has its own network of 40,000 brain-like neurons. These “afferent neurons” send information to other neurons and have the ability to intuitively perceive, learn, think, remember, and communicate in ways that are separate from, yet in coordination with, the brain’s central nervous system.

Here’s how Gregg describes it:

“When we’re able to harmonize the little brain in the heart with the big brain in the head… we can process information very, very quickly [because] we don’t go through the logic and the fear and all the self-esteem and all the doubt that we have in our brain, with our ego and mental functions. The heart doesn’t work that way.”

The heart rules the brain in very tangible ways. As researched and reported by the Heartmath Institute, “The magnetic field produced by the heart is more than 100 times greater in strength than the field generated by the brain.” A heart-led harmonization with the brain occurs when unitive, connective emotions like compassion, gratitude, and caring are evoked. This increases the brain’s alpha activity, supporting stress relief and creativity while improving learning and decision-making – all essential to being innovative naturally in our everyday work.

And this power is “catching”… the more we use it, the more it spreads in the culture! As we attune the energy fields of our hearts and brains, we also attune to the powerful “better selves” in each other.

That leads us back to DuPont’s story. Of the top 10 business opportunities, the first one to become a profitable business was using Nomex to protect valuable art as it was transported from museum to museum – a business championed by a lover of precious art.

As a lesson in irony… It simply makes “logical” sense to let our hearts seed our original, innovative thinking.


 Now it's your turn! Try on this Culture Jolt in your own life and work using the Conscious Innovator® process:

  • Become aware– What is 1 new awareness you have about yourself, others and your situation?
  • Identify your capability– What is 1 personal value and 1 strength you can draw from and put into practice?
  • Take versatile action– What is 1 action you can take to apply your awareness and capability in ways you have not thought of before?

Are you ready to take your design thinking to a richer, deeper level?

Explore VCI’s virtual and in-person workshops on "Conscious Human Centered Design"

About the Authors

Debra Miller and William Miller have dedicated their careers to enabling “conscious innovation”. Debra draws from her experience as an IT executive and business coach, while William completed his tenure as Head of Innovation Management at the Stanford Research Institute. Together, they balance inner transformation with mastering new competencies for bringing out the innovative best with “every person, every job, every day.”

Debra Miller and William Miller

Last updated: 17 May 2022

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