Mr. Travaglini oversees sessions about innovation and leadership across the world and has taught at Harvard Business School as well universities in Paris and Barcelona. The PAUDS Ideas_Lab will explore the challenges and opportunities in the Arab region when it comes to urban planning. At a later session Mr. Travaglini will present the results of the Lab, which will bring together thought leaders from around the region. The results and a ranking of the most important priorities for the future of sustainable Arab cities will inform the agenda at next year’s World Urban Forum, which will be held in Abu Dhabi, the first time it has ever been held in the region.
“I’m invited to teach because I have an unusual perspective on the link between innovation and the brain,” Mr. Travaglini said. “An idea is the first time neurons come together in a new way. It is a phenomenon we sometimes witness, but when a new idea pops in, it is magical.”
There are two preconditions to forming ideas. First of all there must be a network that is large enough. The brain features 100 billion neurons and an average of 1,000 connectors, which means there are a trillion connections to be made. “It is the most complex and most dense network on Earth,” he said. “The Hyperloop is complex, but this is more complex.”
The second precondition is that there must be plasticity so we do not always follow the same patterns. This plasticity depends on our exposure to and ability to access different sources, experiences, and people. In the last 10 years, scientists have discovered that the brain remains plastic throughout our lifetime.
“We do many things to avoid thinking the same thing over and over and lose plasticity,” he said. “We visit countries to be plastic, to change our behavior. It is why we go back to school and why we read.”
To make humans more innovative, we must plan in an environment that is similar to what happens to the brain when it is learning. The Ideas_Lab, for example, will feature a lot of books, a lot of whiteboards, and music that facilitates creative thinking. Most importantly, however, is exposing the mind to other people.
“I know many of you are competitive people, so we need you to compete to be the most intense and connected person in a social process that requires different phases,” Mr. Travaglini said. “Expose your brain to different perspectives. Three hours of connecting is wonderful if you are learning. It is a messy process, but very rewarding.”