Vuja de – the spark of innovation

It’s a weird feeling isn’t it, déjà vu. I vividly remember, at the age of about nine, visiting my Nan’s new house for the first time and having an overwhelming sense that I had been there before. Whilst a number of studies are trying to unravel the psychological and neurological mechanism of déjà vu, there is also growing interest in the exact opposite concept.

Stanford University’s Robert Sutton and others refer to ‘vuja de’ as a key to unlocking innovation and creativity. When we engage vuja de, we are able to walk into a very familiar situation and ‘see’ it for the first time. Because we are experiencing an old situation anew, vuja de decouples us from the status quo and therefore wills us to ask, ‘why is it done this way?’.

And this question of ‘why?’ matters because innovation and creativity begin with curiosity. When we idly accept the status quo, we have no desire to challenge established norms, approaches, and behaviours. But when we seek understanding through ‘fresh eyes’, we have no alternative but to be curious.

School systems, social systems, communities, teams, families all have ways of doing things. It’s when we bring an optimistic, hopeful curiosity – a sense of vuja de– that we foster the preconditions necessary to spark innovation. And then, who knows, we may just find a better way of doing things.

Published by

David Bott

Hi, I'm David Bott, Associate Director of the Institute of Positive Education in Australia.

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