Novelty is good – until it isn’t

Rene was sitting at her desk working on the last phase of a long-term project when she received a phone call. A colleague was calling to see if she would be interested in joining him on a new project that was just beginning. The subject matter was one she was passionate about. She said, “yes!” and started to think about the new project and the different ways it could be approached. She was thrilled to have something new to chew on and a topic that was so close to her heart.

Novelty activates the reward centre of the brain and gives us a good dose of dopamine which focuses our attention and gets us motivated and engaged in the new idea.

Well, that is of course, only if the novel idea or activity isn’t perceived as a threat in some way.

Brain World Magazine discusses this in more detail and states that novelty is an essential aspect of wellbeing – referencing research showing that people who seek out new experiences live longer.

So how can novelty work for you?

Find something new to engage in regularly – a new way to commute to work, rearrange your home office, invite someone new for coffee, read a new type of book, investigate something completely different.

Inject a little spice into long term projects – find ways you and your colleagues could continue the project with fresh eyes, for example get someone from outside of the project to review what you are doing and give you a different perspective. Or switch roles temporarily.    

But there is a limit

There are limits to how much novelty is good for us. If we always seek the same kind of novelty we may become addicted – for example if we always seek out the same kinds of new videos on our phones, or we are always needing to find that next big high from extreme sport or other experiences.

Dopamine itself is addictive

As with all sources of dopamine, we need to temper our cravings. We should give ourselves enough to motivate and make us feel happy but not so much that we become dependent on dopamine.

Everything in moderation, as the saying goes.

Novelty vs risk – too much or too little?

Another limit we might need to put on our novelty-seeking is a pragmatic look at how much risk we are taking on. If we are always pushing ourselves to the next level, we might go too far and take on too much risk.

On the other hand, investing in some novelty-seeking can be a great antidote to too much risk-aversion. Many of us stop ourselves from the next step of innovation because it feels TOO risky and uncertain. Being highly risk-averse can stop us from innovating which will keep us stuck offering the same product or service and it can become a bit stale. Investing in a little novelty-seeking can provide the dopamine we need to break out of our risk aversion.

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To introduce a bit of novelty into your team, consider having shooksvensen run a ‘spice it up’ team coaching session for you.