The Two Networks of The Brain

You stare at a blank screen for what seems like hours, waiting for your brain to come up with a brilliant idea, and it never comes. There has to be a better way to brainstorm, right?

The biggest misconception about breakthroughs is that they’re accidental or that they’re spontaneous. But in reality that aha! moment is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the single conscious moment you have at the end of a very long, complex, unconscious process.

To understand how to prime the human brain for creative breakthroughs, one must first understand what parts of the brain help power them. The brain has two networks: the executive network, which is the “goal-oriented” part of your brain that you access to complete an action; and the default network, the part of your brain that’s home to the “genius lounge,” or the place where creative insights lie. But, to access the genius lounge, your brain needs to tune out the executive network.

If you find small, physical acts to do that are easy muscle memory –like doing the laundry, doing the dishes or taking a shower– that activates your executive network, it gives it a goal. And by occupying it, you’re able to turn on the default network. And the default network is the one that’s going to have the breakthrough.

The default network is the source of all our creativity, all our invention, all our genius. If the executive network gives us the ability to focus and accomplish a task, the default network gives us the ability to look through the complexity of the world to see the patterns underneath.

Summing-up: Your executive network alone can’t create breakthroughs. It needs help from the meandering network, the one that creates shower moments. This is our creative network, the default network.


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