20 Senses For Better Innovation

Aristotle is generally credited with identifying the categories of our five "traditional" senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. But many scientists agree there may be upwards of 20 senses. Some of these are less obvious-and some more, but it begs the question of how many of your senses you use--and how many more you should be using.

Innovation for the senses

Innovating is about shifting perception. Its about looking at the same thing in a different way. Using your senses to shift your reality is a powerful innovation tool. One of these less-used senses is chronoception, or the perception of time. As we get older, our ability to accurately discern time dwindles, whereas when we are younger, we can keep time more accurately. This means that as we age, time seems to speed up. How does this time-perception shift impact your project? How does the perception of time influence how people will respond to your idea? Is there a way to tackle this issue so that perception of time remains constant among the participants, or is it advantageous to skew how time is perceived?

Equilibrioception is another powerful, but overlooked sense. It is balance. When our equilibrium is off, it is disorienting and telling up from down becomes difficult. This is also how we perceive gravity. When astronauts work in outer space, this sense is thrown into disarray since "down" is typically considered to be whatever is below us. However there is no up and down, and no gravity to help us understand what direction is what, so as a result, it is important to create powerful visual and auditory clues to ensure that astronauts are safe when working inside or outside the shuttle. How can disorientation of the equilibrium impact your project? Is it possible that up isn't really up? Can a shift in this sense change how you think about your problem?

Proprioception is the ability to tell where one body part is in relation to another one. For example, when you scratch and itch, you don't need to look to locate the itch, you simply scratch it. That is proprioception at work. Police officers use proprioception when using field sobriety tests since our proprioception is distorted by alcohol. Police officers use this sense as part of their screening process for drunk drivers and it is a powerful tool. How can this sense help you do your work better? How can you make it easier to "scratch that itch". Does depriving yourself of this sense change how you would build your idea?

Nociception is our pain sense. Our ability feel pain can be influenced by a number of factors and we all have different inherent perceptions of pain. Pain killers are designed to deal with this issue and some people are just born with higher tolerances for pain than others. But even pain killers are designed to work in different ways to deal with different needs. Think of local anesthetics vs general ones. Sometimes numbing all the pain is not a good thing. This is true of a frog in boiling water. Put one in boiling water and it will jump out. Put one in warm water and slowly heat it and the frog will boil to death. How can recognizing that people feel pain differently alter your outcome? Should your idea use a "local" anesthetic or a general? Is your rate of change too fast and too painful? How can you change it?

Taste is more than one sense. It is several. Sweet, sour, salty all play on our tongues in different ways. What about meat? Yes, you read that right. There is a meat sense. Umami receptors pick up on amino acids typically found in meat and a few artificial flavors. How can you play to someone's meat sense? Answer: just add bacon. Mmmm....bacon.

There are many "life-saving senses" that are automatic but serve important functions to keeping us alive. Thirst, hunger, tension sensors (controlling muscles), stretch receptors (controlling internal organs), pressure (different than pain) and several others. These senses are automatic and keep us going. Does your idea play with any of these senses? How can you simplify your concept to make it "automatic" like breathing?

If you consider that innovation is about shifting your perception to existing conditions, playing with just your five "traditional" senses is the same as saying you can have a car in any color--as long as its black.

Can you use these other less-used senses to shift your reality and create a better idea? Can you activate more than five of your senses and change the way you see your world? How can you use your senses to innovate better?

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