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The Brain Behind Business:

How the New Neuroscience Is Changing Leadership

A Soundview Special Report

by Chris Lauer Soundview Senior Editor

A Soundview Special Report

ver the past few years, many managers and executives have discovered that the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience the study of the anatomy and physiology of the brain offer them an abundance of new ideas and techniques for leading their organizations to greater success. Combined with recent discoveries in cognitive science and technology, neuroscience advances can help leaders in every industry gain a competitive advantage by providing them with a better perspective on their work and their staff.

The Neuroscience of Leadership

In 2006, Strategy+Business magazine published a groundbreaking article titled The Neuroscience of Leadership by David Rock, CEO of Results Coaching Systems, and Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz. Rock is a management coach and the author of Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work, Personal Best and Your Brain at Work, which will be published in October 2009. Schwartz is a research psychiatrist at the School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose books include The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force and Brain Lock: FreeYourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior. In the story for Strategy+Business, Rock and Schwartz explain how many companies, such as Toyota and Springfield Remanufacturing Corp., have been able to create successful business models by tapping into corporate practices that resonate deeply with the innate predispositions of the human brain. Rock and Schwartz point out that 20 years of neuroscience research have given scientists and psychologists a better perspective on the ways people consciously and subconsciously act and respond to their environments. They write:Imaging technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), along with brain wave analysis technologies such as quantitative electroencephalography (QEEG) have revealed hitherto unseen neural connections in the living human brain. With the help of the latest breakthroughs in computer analysis, researchers have been able to link their theoretical work with the brain and the ways it thinks, feels, responds and perceives. According to Rock and Schwartz, here are six things the latest research by neuroscientists can teach managers and executives about the art and craft of leadership: 1. Change can be painful because it can trigger physiological discomfort. 2. Behaviorism, based on typical incentives and threats (the carrot and the stick), doesnt work for very long. 3. Constructive performance feedback, which

means, Politely tell people what they are doing wrong, doesnt engage people. 4. Paying attention creates chemical and physical reactions in the brain. 5. Our expectations and preconceptions shape our reality. 6. Repeated, purposeful and focused attention can lead to long-lasting personal evolution.

The Social Nature of the Brain

Since the publication of The Neuroscience of Leadership, Rock continues to explore and write about what leaders can learn from new brain research. He has been fascinated by the latest discoveries in the social nature of the brain. In an exclusive interview with Soundview, Rock says that a major shift has taken place in the way neuroscientists understand how attention changes the brain. He explains, What we are seeing now is that attention is so much a function of the social environment. The brain is attuned to avoid social threats, like a drop in status; and to achieve social rewards, like a sense of connectedness with people. The big surprise has been that the brain networks for social pain and pleasure use very similar networks for physical threats and rewards. This means that Maslow was kind of wrong to the brain, the social is as important as the physical.

Charles S. Jacobs
Rock is not alone in his conviction that leaders can learn a great deal from the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience. Author and consultant Charles S. Jacobs also believes that neuroscience has much to teach leaders at every level. This is the topic of his new book, Management Rewired. While researching his book, Jacobs tells Soundview that he learned three things that all leaders should understand about the brain: 1. We really dont know the exterior world. All we know are our ideas about it, Jacobs explains.When we watch information on an MRI moving through the brain, what we find is that we dont have this direct knowledge of the physical world.All we have knowledge of are our ideas of the world,

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and those ideas really are a function of everything else going on in the mind. They are influenced by our emotions, by our desires, by our goals. This means that we dont live in the physical world.We live in the mental world, and mental worlds operate very differently than physical worlds. They dont operate according to Newtons Three Laws of Motion. They operate according to ideas. 2. Using your emotions improves decision making. Jacobs explains that his research brought him to a study by neuroscientists Antonio Damasio, Hanna Damasio and Antoine Bechara, who today continue to study the brain and decision making at the University of Southern California. From their comparative studies of the gambling behavior of people with normal brains and people with damage to the emotional centers in the frontal lobes of their brains, the researchers discovered that emotions are integral to good decision making.Antonio Damasio used this research and other experiments to develop his Somatic Marker Hypothesis, which concludes that each potential choice we make is tagged with a feeling (a somatic marker) that makes the choice either more or less desirable.When we are conscious of that marker, we have a gut feeling.This is the same gut feeling that author Malcolm Gladwell writes about in his best-selling book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. In an article in USCTrojan Family Magazine titled Emotional Rescue, Carl Marziali quotes Antonio Damasio on the subject of his groundbreaking theory that describes how essential emotions are to better decision making. Damasio explains,Were not saying that emotion is always good. But were certainly not saying that emotion is always bad. In fact, if one would have to choose, its probably more often good than bad. What does Antonio Damasios work mean for managers? Jacobs says,It means the more that we try to make decisions objectively and logically, which is prized in the business world, the more were losing the ability to access our past experience and to forecast the future. So, our thinking inevitably becomes short-term. In other words, leaders who are more in touch with their emotions including all of the experience linked to those emotions tend to make better decisions than those who ignore or suppress their emotions at work. 3. Ideas change the way the mind operates. Jacobs explains that neuroscience shows us that ideas change the mind physically and psychologically.This gives ideas a huge amount of power that theyre never really accorded in the business world, Jacobs explains.For the most part, we believe in focusing on behavior and actions and things that we can measure, he adds. Instead, leaders need to do one thing: Focus on ideas. To help managers put this third principle into action, Jacobs reminds them that ideas are best communicated in a vehicle that the mind takes automatically and instinctually, and thats a story.

Leaders who are more in touch with their emotions including all of the experience linked to those emotions tend to make better decisions than those who ignore or suppress their emotions at work.
New studies in both neuroscience and cognitive science which includes fields such as linguistics, evolutionary biology and psychology show that stories are integral to how the human brain thinks and learns. Jacobs says,Most cognitive scientists now believe the mind works through stories. So, were going to be far more successful in influencing the way people think and then behave if we use stories as opposed to reason. He adds that this is a crucial shift that needs to take place in the minds of all leaders.

Why Performance Feedback Doesnt Work

With the help of the latest discoveries in neuroscience, Jacobs turns many conventional management practices on their head in Management Rewired. For example, he writes that performance feedback doesnt work. He explains,Its not that we dont need the feedback. It really has much more to do with the fact that when we receive feedback from the boss, because our mind is processing things in terms of what we believe, we dont see the feedback as constructive.We see it as punitive. So, the manager sees it as one way; the employee sees it as another way. The employee reacts defensively when the manager would like the employee to react constructively. The latest neuroscience demonstrates that the Socratic method asking questions to stimulate thinking that the Greek philosopher Plato wrote about more than 2,000 years ago still works wonders for helping people improve themselves. Jacobs says,What you find is that Plato really anticipated so many of the discoveries that were going to come along with neuroscience. The method of asking questions was a way of getting past that defensiveness and getting people to say things so that theyd have more of an orientation to making them work. Instead of managing peoples actions through feedback and measurements, Jacobs says, leaders must manage mindsets. He adds,This isnt about managing by the numbers. If you have numbers, theyve got to be seen in the context of the mindset. Takeaway: If feedback doesnt work to motivate

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employees, what should a manager do instead? Jacobs says, Stop giving people feedback. Instead, ask them questions so that they give feedback to themselves.When they give feedback to themselves, the psychological dynamic changes. Its now in their best interest to make whatever kind of feedback actually work, and to correct the behavior thats under consideration. be far more effective creating a story about my business, about my organization, what we are going to accomplish, and communicating that to my employees so that becomes their mindset thats then going to drive the behavior that I want them to engage in.A story with which an employee can connect is going to be a far more effective management tool than rational commands, Jacobs explains.

Mirror Neurons
The latest neuroscience also shows that leaders who act like leaders help their people develop leadership behaviors. This is due to the presence of mirror neurons in our brains. Brain researchers first discovered mirror neurons in the 1980s. Jacobs says,Mirror neurons were first discovered accidentally in monkeys. [Neuroscientists] had several monkeys hooked up to MRIs and they were watching the activity, and they found that when they were engaged in an activity, there were neurons in the pre-motor cortex that fired. But they also noticed, by accident, that one of the monkeys watching another monkey perform an action had the same pattern of firing in his pre-motor cortex. In other words, they didnt have to be engaged in the activity.All they had to do was watch the activity. Through similar studies with people, neuroscientists have recently found that the human brain also contains mirror neurons. Jacobs says that human beings not only have mirror neurons in their brains that mimic the activities of other individuals, but our mirror neurons also mimic the intentions behind those activities.Our mirror neurons are mimicking the mindset of other people that we observe, Jacobs says.What this means is that we are hard-wired to empathize with people. Takeaway: To develop employees, set the example. Behaving and acting in positive ways will activate the mirror neurons in those around you, thereby encouraging like behavior.

Figure Out the Story

He adds,The mirror neurons come into play because, when we observe somebody acting like a leader, we not only mimic the actions, we mimic the mindset, so we pick up on the story. Leaders must figure out the story that motivates their people. Then they must tell that story with everything they do and say.If its more attractive to people than the story theyre currently telling themselves, Jacobs says,they pick up on it and they go with it. People will connect with a story if the leader really believes in the story and conveys the story with energy, enthusiasm and optimism. Once employees have connected to the leaders story, Jacobs explains, the job of the leader simply becomes living the way that you believe you need to live and the way that you want your people to live. Takeaway: Decide upon a motivational story both personal and organizational and commit to it. By communicating it to employees, it will be in turn become their story, thereby establishing a like mindset, a shared set of values and common goals toward which all can work in accordance.

Leaders must figure out the story that motivates their people.Then they must tell that story with everything they do and say.
Neale Martin
Author and consumer behavior expert Neale Martin also describes how new neuroscience can help leaders gain competitive advantage in his book Habit:The 95 Percent of Behavior Marketers Ignore. One way new brain research helps leaders succeed is by showing them how their customers minds work. In Habit, Martin describes how new neuroscience technology allows researchers to see inside the brain and analyze how various stimuli affect different regions of the brain. Martin explains,Although researchers have studied the

The discovery of mirror neurons offers all leaders valuable insight. Jacobs says,When we try to figure out how to motivate people or how to give them feedback or whatever, we have the ability to stand in their shoes. Its hardwired into our brains. So, we can really empathize, really understand where people are coming from.What we want to understand is, whats the story that theyre telling themselves? The key here is, as much as possible, understand the story people are telling, and then hook into that story. Telling stories is key to the ability to empathize, Jacobs continues.And telling stories is also key to the ability to change the way that people think.As a manager, Im going to

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brain for centuries, only in the last 20 years have they had access to its inner workings. Their findings provide clear indications where marketing theory has misguided us. Using advances in noninvasive brain-imaging technology, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positronic-emission topography (PET), it is possible to see the brain in action.

Two Minds
We have at least two minds at work when performing any task, Martin writes. One is the executive brain that quickly grasps rules and procedures. The other mind is the primitive brain, which is in charge of coordinating our bodys different parts to create the many muscle and joint movements that allow us to unconsciously and smoothly perform physical tasks, such as walking or riding a bicycle. Martin explains that if you want to make a product more accessible and easy to use for consumers, business leaders and marketers must take into account the role of this part of the brain.Although our brains are equipped with more executive functions elsewhere, the cerebellum, or primitive part of the brain, is vital when we are trying to learn something that we will need in order to navigate our way through the world. If a product is too complex, we will have trouble adapting to it, which will make us look elsewhere for an easier-to-use model. If you want to make a product that creates habitual users, keep the primitive cerebellum in mind. Martin explains that the complicated minds of engineers should not be allowed to confuse consumers. He writes, Arguably, the primary culprit in the creation of overly complicated products is the organizational structure of the firm. The executive brain approaches problems logically and systematically, and the executive organizing a company can be counted on to create a logical division of labor that looks good on a chart. But again, the logic of the executive mind is not the way the habitual mind works.

InsideYour Head
To describe what scientists have found inside the brain, Martin first puts our heads into perspective. He writes,Inside the 1,500-cc cranial capacity of the skull sits 3 pounds of gray and white matter. This unassuming mass is arguably the most complex object in the cosmos. The human brain has roughly 100 billion neurons, each making an average 10,000 connections with other neurons. This represents a staggering quadrillion connections, a number greater than all of the known celestial bodies in the galaxy. Getting the layout of the physical structure of the brain can help anyone get a better grip on what goes on inside our heads that influences how we act and react. Martin describes the parts of the brain so we can understand where our ideas develop and move around. He explains: Although we identify humanness strongly with the most recent addition, the cerebrum, this region rests squarely on its predecessor, the limbic system, which houses the emotional parts of the brain, the amygdala, as well as the central switchboards of the hippocampus and the basal ganglia. The cerebrum and the limbic system rest on the hindbrain, the brains basement that contains the cerebellum and the brain stem.

The Primitive Brain

Because company leaders often forget to design for the primitive brain, which developed as far back in evolution as the dinosaur, and design products for the executive brain, they cause users of their products frustration, which drives them away. Martin writes,The logic of the executive mind is exceptionally powerful in designing systems and solutions.You cannot hope to manage hundreds or thousands of employees without crafting something that resembles an organization chart delineating responsibilities and lines of authority. The problem comes when this defines how you design for and interact with customers. Takeaway: Web sites, product features and software interfaces must appeal to the primitive part of the mind that develops habits. If they are too complicated, consumers will reject them. Martin explains,Simply put, you must design the physical product to work with the habitual mind so that the executive mind is free to focus on the task.

Getting the layout of the physical structure of the brain can help anyone get a better grip on what goes on inside our heads that influences how we act and react.
One part of the brain that is critical to how we interact with products is the cerebellum, which learns from experience and plays a vital role in how we move through our world. Martin writes,This region of the brain constantly monitors what you mean to do and what you are really doing as you interact with the environment, attempting to harmonize intention and action. Learning to use a new cell phone or game system largely involves training the cerebellum.

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The Power of Impossible Thinking

In their book, The Power of Impossible Thinking, Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of PennsylvaniaYoram Wind and senior fellow of the Wharton School Colin Crook also describe ways that our emerging understanding of neuroscience helps us to make better sense of the world and provides the basis for changing our thinking and actions. One of the main concepts the authors illuminate throughout their book is the importance of mental models and the ways we frame what we see. In The Power of Impossible Thinking, the authors write that a mental model represents all the complex neuronal activities that we use in making sense of something and then deciding what action to take. The real world in which we exist requires much interpretation, and this can mean that our mental models are very subjective. On the subject of reality, Francis Crick, the neuroscientist who helped discover the structure of the DNA molecule in 1953, once said,What you see is not really there; it is what your brain believes is there. Seeing is an active construction process.Your brain makes the best interpretation it can according to its previous experience and the limited and ambiguous information provided by your eye.

part of a training program or directed toward customers as part of an advertising campaign.Whatever the message or idea, knowing more about the nature of curiosity can help any leader connect with others. In their book, Made to Stick: How Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, co-authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath discuss the work of George Loewenstein, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University, to describe the link between curiosity and connecting to a message. Lowenstein says that we feel curiosity when we feel a gap between what we know and what we dont know.

Made to Stick: How Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Fill the Knowledge Gap

The Heaths write,Loewenstein argues that gaps cause pain. To take away the pain, we need to fill the knowledge gap. They explain that we can convince people and lead them better when we first open the knowledge gap before we close it. This applies directly to the Socratic method of asking questions to create better understanding. The Heaths write, The trick to convincing people that they need our message, according to Loewenstein, is to first highlight some specific knowledge that theyre missing.We can pose a question or puzzle that confronts people with a gap in their knowledge. We can point out that someone else knows something they dont.We can present them with situations that have unknown resolutions, such as elections, sports events or mysteries.We can challenge them to predict an outcome (which creates two knowledge gaps What will happen? and Was I right?). By teasing people with what they dont know, the Heaths write, they are suddenly more interested in finding out what you have to teach them. The authors explain that Loewensteins studies indicate that as we get more information,we are more and more likely to focus on what we dont know.

Mental Models
As leaders form their mental models, they must take into account the subjective nature of reality as well as the stored patterns that their past experiences have created in their minds. Wind and Crook write,This complex neural activity in our brains constitutes our reality. In most cases, this is an accurate and efficient process. Problems arise when our experience and stored patterns do not effectively relate to our current environment. The authors add,The sheer overwhelming complexity of our environment has shaped the evolution of our brain so that it can handle this complexity with both efficiency and effectiveness. To this end, we look at a scene and are remarkably successful at making sense of it. Takeaway: By recognizing our own shortcomings and the limitations of what we know, what we have experienced in the past and the patterns that shape us, we can make better sense of the reality in which our organizations work and compete.

A Big Red X
Leaders get people interested in a topic by pointing out a gap in what they know, write the Heaths. If the gap in your peoples knowledge is so large that it looks more like an abyss, then it is your job as a leader to fill in enough knowledge to make the abyss into a gap. To fill in that deep chasm of knowledge, smart leaders do more than simply dump a stack of information on a person. Instead, they sequence information by dropping a clue, then another clue, then another.The

Our brains innate sense of curiosity plays a vital role in helping us make sense of our reality. Curiosity also serves as an important tool that leaders can use to connect people to their messages, whether those messages are aimed at employees as

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Heaths write,This method of communication resembles flirting more than lecturing. Unexpected ideas, by opening a knowledge gap, tease and flirt. They mark a big red X on something that needs to be discovered [like on a treasure map] but dont necessarily tell you how to get there, the authors explain. They add that a red X of spectacular size can end up driving the actions of thousands of people for many years. Takeaway: To get the most out of your people, ignite and feed their sense of curiosity. brain needs more than information to grow and learn. He writes,Your brain and mine thrive on stimulation, challenge, change, appreciation, harmonious social interaction, genuine repose and autonomous inquiry. It turns out that our brains are biologically designed for lifelong learning and problem solving. Research in gerontology, cognitive psychology and behavioral medicine shows lifestyle habits of lifelong learning and mental activity not only promote optimal brain function, but also promote happiness and personal fulfillment. Working with leaders, Geyer reminds them that their behaviors shape the ways their brains work as well as how their brains influence their behaviors. He explains,I like to think of myself as a teacher of healthy brain behaviors that promote learning, curiosity, creativity, meaning-making, wellbeing and wisdom-building. These behaviors include yoga, exercise, meditation, eating healthy foods, daily exercise, a meditative practice, positive social relationships and other mental challenges that are fully engaging and meaningful, such as playing an instrument, playing chess or bridge, solving math problems, learning a foreign language or learning a new dance step. Geyer writes that humans have a much greater degree of autonomy and influence over how well we feed and care for our brains than most of us realize. If we can learn how to strengthen and nourish the integrity of our central nervous systems (of which our brain is the primary structure), then we are better equipped to fulfill our dreams and our duties.

Neural Plasticity
While developing a knowledge gap is one way to stimulate learning, another way to develop brain-compatible teaching practices is optimizing brain health. One company that has focused on helping leaders in a variety of fields maximize their brain functioning is the education and health-care consulting firm Brainergy Inc. As co-founder and president of the company, Gessner Geyer teaches workshops in which he shows students how brain function affects human behavior and how human behavior affects the brain. Geyer believes that gaining information is a start, but for information to become transformative, it needs to be consciously applied. He writes:Years ago when I first started my consulting company, Brainergy Inc., I was captivated by the biological fact of neural plasticity. Neural plasticity is a term used by brain researchers and neuroscientists to describe the phenomenon that brain cells, or neurons, can change shape, size, chemistry or even function as a result of metabolic processes or use.

Meditation and Attention

One important aspect of leadership is the ability to stay attentive while also holding the attention of others, and Geyer is not alone in his belief that meditation can have many positive effects on a leaders attention span and leadership skills. In her book Distracted, author Maggie Jackson describes an event that took place during a recent gathering of neuroscientists at an annual five-day meeting in NewYorks Hudson RiverValley organized by the Mind and Life Institute. During the meeting, neuroscientist Amishi Jha related her landmark findings on the effects of meditation on a study groups ability to concentrate and learn. In the study, Jackson explains,Jha compared 17 novices taking an eight-week introductory course in meditation with 17 experienced meditators studying at a one-month retreat. Before and after the courses, she gave them (neuroscience researcher Michael I.) Posners Attention Network Test, a simple 20-minute computer exam that measures a persons efficiency in each of three networks. The veterans demonstrated better executive attention than newcomers at the start, then showed greater improvement in the alerting network after the retreat. The novices, in turn, made robust

Research in gerontology, cognitive psychology and behavioral medicine shows lifestyle habits of lifelong learning and mental activity not only promote optimal brain function, but also promote happiness and personal fulfillment.
Neurons are the biological units of thought and learning, Geyer explains.The fact that the human brain grows and changes in response to new learning and experience throughout the human life span is the basis of all my work.

A Healthy Brain
Geyer, who is a graduate of Columbia University and holds two Masters degrees from Harvard University, explains that the

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gains in orienting, suggesting to Jha that meditation may sharpen focus first and then a wider wakeful alertness. Positive effects on training were one result of the meditation, but Jha was surprised by another finding of her study:The effects of meditation carried over to other areas of learning. Jackson writes that meditation boosted peoples prowess on laboratory tasks that were wholly distinct from the specific practice of mindful breathing. In Distracted, Jackson reports that Jha, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said,It would be as if learning to ride a bike helped you be a better tightrope walker. Theres something about keeping steady that is related, but mostly they are quite different activities. The results of Jais study showed that two months of meditation training increased a persons scores on tests that measure orientation and spatial skills. In other words, bringing your attention back to your breathing helps you focus your attention in other areas. Jai explained, The whole point is generalizability in training. If you spend 30 minutes a day and it makes a difference in the quality of your attention, that is powerful. Takeaway: Practices that train the brain and contribute to its overall health, such as mental challenges, meditation and exercise, will improve business performance.

Better Decisions
Predictably Irrational author Dan Ariely agrees with Rock, Schwartz, Jacobs,Wind, Crook and Crick when he writes that our brains create their own reality. In his book,Ariely reminds us that our visual and decision environments are filtered to us courtesy of our eyes, our ears, our senses of smell and touch, and the master of it all, our brain. By the time we comprehend and digest information, it is not necessarily a true reflection of reality. Instead, it is our representation of reality, and this is the input we base our decisions on. In essence, we are limited to the tools nature has given us, and the natural way in which we make decisions is limited by the quality and accuracy of these tools.

... By exercising new parts of our brain, we can learn new skills, improve what we already know and take our leadership capabilities to a higher level.
One of the main points of Predictably Irrational is that we are not necessarily helpless because of irrationality, no matter how common irrationality is in our lives.Ariely writes,Once we understand when and where we may make erroneous decisions, we can try to be more vigilant, force ourselves to think differently about those decisions or use technology to overcome our inherent shortcomings. He concludes that this is where business leaders and policy makers can revise their thinking and consider how to design their policies and products so that they can make better decisions.

Rewiring the Brain

Like Geyer, Jackson is also excited by the latest lessons scientists have learned about the brains extraordinary neuroplasticity. She explains that studies have given many people new hope for learning things that were once thought impossible, such as rewiring the brain of a person with dyslexia or deep depression. In Distracted, Jackson quotes science writer Sharon Begley, who has studied the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience that are helping people overcome broad cognitive defects that were once ignored:The adult brain, in short, retains much of the plasticity of the developing brain, including the power to repair damaged regions, to grow new neurons, to rezone regions that performed one task and have them assume a new task. In other words, by exercising new parts of our brain, we can learn new skills, improve what we already know and take our leadership capabilities to a higher level. In his book, The Owners Manual for The Brain, Dr. Pierce J. Howard writes that, although our reaction times slow down as we get older,the ratio of synapses to neurons increases for those who continue to use their brains and decreases for those who stop using their brains. Takeaway: According to Howard, Learning means new synapses, and new synapses mean higher density, which counterbalances the normal brain weight loss. In other words, if you dont use it, you lose it.

The concept of insight can also improve decision making. Rock tells Soundview that managers and executives can improve how they make decisions and how well they perform as leaders by taking into account some of the latest neuroscience research into insight. He explains,Were seeing in the lab that more than 60 percent of problems get solved by the insight experience, when an idea comes to you, rather than by logical, linear problem solving. The research shows that you increase insight by increasing your ability to notice subtle signals. Much of what leaders do actually inhibits this whether its deadlines, coffee or open offices, many things make it hard to pay attention to internal delicate stimuli. Takeaway: Individuals and organizations that have quieter thinking time will have more good ideas emerge, especially in difficult times.

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Decisions, Decisions
Author Jonah Lehrers book How We Decide describes many of the mental processes involved with decision making that he explored while working in the lab of the Nobel Prizewinning neuroscientist Eric Kandel. Lehrer writes that all of the information we learn about the brain cannot help us make better decisions until we look more closely at the context in which the brain is operating. He explains this by invoking an idea first described by Herbert Simon, the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, who compared the human mind to a pair of scissors: One blade of the scissors is the brain, Simon said, and the other blade is the specific environment in which the brain operates. Lehrer explains,If you want to understand the function of the scissors, then you have to look at both blades simultaneously.

One Difference Between the Male Brain and the Female Brain
In their book, Leadership and the Sexes, co-authors Michael Gurian and Barbara Annis point to a distinct difference between the brains of women and the brains of men to explain why men tend to get more physically expressive when they get angry. They explain,The Leadership and the Sexes amygdala is one possible reason. by Michael Gurian and The brains of men and women, while Barbara Annis similar in many ways, are also quite different. For example, a mans amygdala is larger than a womans amygdala. Gurian and Annis write that because this structure stimulates more activity downward in the male brain toward the brain stem (and thus more quickly into the physical body), and more often upward in the female brain toward talking centers, men and women tend to differ in their angry behavior.At the very moment mens bodies are feeling their anger and trying to expel it physically (and the male brain is specifically not producing words to deal with the anger), the female brain is becoming very verbally stimulated.

The Black Box

In HowWe Decide, Lehrer writes,The first step to making better decisions is to see ourselves as we really are, to look inside the black box of the human brain.We need to honestly assess our flaws and talents, our strengths and shortcomings. Lehrer explains that new innovative technology, in the form of intuitive computers, software and machines, has helped us make better assessments of what we know and dont know, and what we can and cannot do. He adds,We finally have tools that can pierce the mystery of the mind, revealing the intricate machinery that shapes our behavior. Now we need to put this knowledge to work.

Fight or Flight
A womans brain is often better able to verbalize her anger because her cingulated gyrus and her hippocampus are kicking into high gear. Meanwhile, a man will have trouble hearing anything because his anger is stuck in his more primitive amygdala, where he is not thinking in words. Instead, hes thinking only in terms of fight or flight. Geyer calls this response an amygdala hijacking, since a mans primitive, fight-or-flight impulse takes control of his brain before he has had a chance to process the anger with the more rational OFC. Takeaway: According to Geyer, by remaining aware of this phenomenon, a man can avoid an amygdala hijacking by simply taking more time to think and process a strong emotion before he acts on his first impulse to become physically expressive. Counting slowly to 10 before saying what he thinks can be a very simple way for a man to avoid an impulsively bad decision that is made before his higher reasoning kicks in.

The first step to making better decisions is to see ourselves as we really are...

In How We Decide, Lehrer points out that we are not simply rational creatures.We are also emotional, with emotional areas of our brain always providing their input when our rational brains are at work. But we also have a part of our brain that integrates our visceral emotions into our decision-making processes: the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Lehrer writes that the OFC connects the feelings generated by the primitive brain areas like the brain stem and the amygdala, which is in the limbic system to the stream of conscious thought. Takeaway: Our feelings are part of our rational decisions, and constructively tapping into our emotions helps us make better decisions.

Highly Flexible Brain Cells

While anger can lead to fight-or-flight thinking in men and more verbal responses in women, our emotions are incredibly important to good decision making. Lehrer writes that new studies of emotions and the activity of our dopamine neurons demonstrate that our emotions arent just reflections of hard8

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wired animal instincts. Instead, he writes,human emotions are rooted in the predictions of highly flexible brain cells, which are constantly adjusting their connections to reflect reality. Every time you make a mistake or encounter something new, your brain cells are busy changing themselves. Lehrer points out that when our dopamine neurons are firing properly, they serve as an important source of wisdom. He writes,The emotional brain effortlessly figures out whats going on and how to exploit the situation for maximum gain. Every time you experience a feeling of joy or disappointment, fear or happiness, your neurons are busy rewiring themselves, constructing a theory of what sensory cues preceded the emotions. The lesson is then committed to memory, so the next time you make a decision, your brain cells are ready. They have learned how to predict what will happen next. Takeaway: The phenomena called instinct or gut feeling is really a brain signal based on your past experiences. Listen to it carefully, and ascertain the connection between your present situation and similar past ones in order to make the best possible decision. group fail to ask for input from team members, the authors write. Research shows that the best leader operating by him- or herself will be beaten to a correct solution by a cooperative team of people who include each others ideas in their decision making. The authors explain,First, lone decision-makers cant match the diversity of knowledge and perspectives of a multiperson unit that includes them. The input from others can stimulate thinking processes that wouldnt have been developed when working alone. Second, the solution seeker who goes it alone loses another significant advantage the power of parallel processing.Whereas a cooperating unit can distribute many subtasks of a problem to its members, a lone operator must perform each task sequentially.

Emotional Response
In their book, Sway, co-authors Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman explore other hidden psychological influences that can derail a leaders decision making. While describing what leaders can do when their actions are being evaluated based on how fair other people perceive them to be, they point to research conducted at Duke University by researcher Jack Greenberg, who studied Sway how employees from different sectors of by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman business perceived their performance evaluations. Greenberg found that it was incredibly important for employees to feel that they were active participants in the evaluation process. The Brafmans write,The employees were more likely to feel that the process was fair when supervisors solicited their input prior to an evaluation and used it during the process; when there was two-way communication during the evaluation interview; and when the employees had the chance to challenge or rebut an evaluation. Takeaway: According to the Brafmans, if employees are involved in their evaluation, they tend to feel it is fairer. The same tends to be true of employees perceptions of pay raise decisions.

As neuroscientists show us that our emotions help our brains make better decisions, behavioral scientists demonstrate that collaboration also improves decision making. In their book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin and Robert B. Cialdini write:Leaders in organizations who are dealing with a specific issue or problem should ensure that they collaborate with team members toward its resolution, even if they are the best-informed, most-experienced or mostskilled person in the group.

As neuroscientists show us that our emotions help our brains make better decisions, behavioral scientists demonstrate that collaboration also improves decision making.
The authors explain that behavioral scientist Patrick Laughlin and his research associates have proven through their studies that groups of people who cooperate to find solutions to problems have better approaches and outcomes than both the average member of the group working alone and the groups best problem solver working alone.Far too often, leaders who by virtue of greater experience, skill and wisdom, deem themselves the ablest problem solver in the

Financial Rewards
In Sway, the Brafmans also describe work being done by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to figure out why many people work better for non-monetary rewards than for cash. Through an NIH study, scientists discovered the neurophysiology behind the idea that financial rewards can sometimes backfire.

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Researchers at the NIH placed participants in an MRI machine modified with a computer monitor and a videogame joystick.While playing a videogame, participants were monitored by scientists, who charted their brain activity while they zapped targets on a computer screen, some for monetary rewards and others for no rewards.As they played, they could see a running tab of their earnings and losses. The Brafmans write:The scientists noticed that every time a circle or a square appeared that is, every time there was money to be gained or lost a certain part of the brain lit up. This region, which remained dormant [when no money was on the line], is called the nucleus accumbens. This primitive region of the brain is a part of the brain that is usually active when a person is experiencing intense excitement.Scientists call this region the pleasure center because it is associated with the high that results from drugs, sex and gambling, the authors explain. This part of the brain is also responsible for driving an addiction.A drug like cocaine, for example, triggers the nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which creates a feeling of contentment and ecstasy. The reason cocaine is so addictive is that the pleasure center goes into overdrive and the threshold for excitement climbs higher and higher. The MRI study surprised the researchers because it revealed that the pleasure center is also where we react to financial compensation. In other words, the human brain responds to monetary rewards in the same way that it responds to addictive habits like cocaine and gambling. interactions how we perceive others, how we relate and how we form bonds. Neuroscientists have found that our pleasure center and our altruism center cannot both function at the same time: Either one or the other is in control, the authors write.We can either choose to approach a task altruistically or from a perspective of self-interest. There is no middle ground. Studies of the brain have also found that the altruism center takes much less fuel to fire up than the pleasure center. Takeaway: A leader should consider the effects of monetary rewards when trying to motivate his or her people. Research shows that, for most people, action based on altruism comes easier than action based on monetary rewards.

The Center for Neuroeconomics Studies (CNS) is another lab that uses modern research methods from neuroscience to learn how people make decisions. Researchers at the CNS have been looking into the causes of selfish and selfless behavior. In 2004, Dr. Paul J. Zak, the founding director of the CNS and professor of economics at Claremont Graduate University, and the scientists at CNS made a groundbreaking discovery about oxytocin. They found that this ancient chemical that is found in our brains helps us determine who to trust. Today, the CNS is researching clues for understanding how modern civilizations and economies have developed, how a better understanding of oxytocin can help us improve negotiations and how it can be used to treat patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders. In June 2008, Zak wrote an article in Scientific American that describes how our brains create trust. In that article, he describes how oxytocin, a simple molecule, plays a major role in our development of trust. Tests showed that those who received oxytocin were more trusting and generous than the volunteers who did not receive a dose of oxytocin. Scientists have found that when we are in a nurturing environment where we feel safe, secure and loved, our brains release more oxytocin. This extra oxytocin helps us become more trusting. On the other end of the spectrum, stressful environments, high levels of uncertainty and isolation within the workplace depress our oxytocin levels, making us less trusting. Takeaway: Creating a safer, more social and more nurturing workplace builds more trust among people than creating a stressful workplace where people feel isolated and disengaged. Since trust is crucial for creating positive personal and professional relationships and organizations, leaders can improve their workplaces by creating more social and nurturing work environments for their people.

A few years later, in 2006, researchers at Duke University did a study of the brains neurological reaction to altruistic behavior with a similar game. But this time, the Brafmans write,the participants were told that the better their score, the more money would be donated to charity. This time, the MRI images that researchers watched while

We can either choose to approach a task altruistically or from a perspective of self-interest.There is no middle ground.
participants played the game showed that the nucleus accumbens remained quiet during the game. Instead, a different region of the brain, called the posterior superior temporal sulcus, lit up during the game. The authors write,This is the same part of the brain responsible for social


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While new neuroscience shows that a nurturing workplace can help to motivate people, it also reveals other techniques leaders can use to improve their work. According to Robert B. Cialdini, the author of the bestselling book Influence,People seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value. He calls this idea the scarcity principle, which is based on the theory that opportunities seem more valuable to us when they are less available. He points out that studies of college students show that they experience much stronger emotional responses when they are asked to imagine losses in their romantic relationships or their grade point averages than they experience when they are asked to imagine gains. Cialdini writes,Especially under conditions of risk and uncertainty, the threat of potential loss plays a powerful role in human decision making. People are more influenced when an issue is stated in terms of what stands to be lost rather than what can be gained. Cialdini explains,In the world of business, research has found that managers weigh potential losses more heavily than potential gains. Even our brains seem to have evolved to protect us against loss in that it is more difficult to disrupt good decision-making regarding loss than gain. Takeaway: Try not to let a list of (fear-based) potential losses totally eclipse the possibility of potential gains when making decisions. However, do remember the effectiveness of loss-scenarios when communicating with and trying to persuade others.

best got their attention. The results: none of them. The researchers found that all the visual saturation resulted only in glazed eyes, not higher sales. Since sight is often not as powerful as marketers and advertisers once assumed, what else can they do to capture a potential customers attention? Lindstom believes they should approach potential customers with a different strategy. He Buyology by Martin Lindstrom writes that the latest studies of the brain show that smell and sound are substantially more potent than anyone had ever dreamed of. In fact, in a wide range of categories (not just the obvious, like food), sound and smell can be even stronger than sight.

Dr. Ann Graybiel

Dr.Ann Graybiel is the Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Neuroscience at MIT and is also the director of the Graybiel Lab at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences McGovern Institute for Brain Research. In 2001, Graybiel was recognized with the National Medal of Science, the highest award for scientists in the United States. Her work at MIT has helped her uncover many of the most fascinating discoveries in habits and brain science in recent history. Her work in neuroscience for more than 30 years has focused on the basal ganglia in the brain. By connecting mice to electrodes and running them through mazes, she has been able to track the firing of neurons in the brains of mice. One of her studies involved the identification of specific neurons in the basal ganglia of a mouse. These are the neurons that fired when the mouse figured out how to get through a maze in Dr. Graybiels lab. In his book, Habit, Dr. Neale Martin explains,When the mouse was first put into the maze, the neurons fired constantly, as if everything in the maze might be important.After a few repetitions, the mouse learned to associate a left turn when a tone was sounded.When this task was mastered, the firing patterns of those same neurons changed. Instead of firing throughout the maze, they fired only at the beginning and the end of the task.When the mouse was covering the ground it knew, not only were the basal ganglia neurons quiet, but so were surrounding neurons that normally contributed noise to the system.

Selling With Sound and Smell

In his book, Buyology, marketing guru Martin Lindstrom also explores the topic of decision making while describing how leaders can benefit from new neuroscience research. Lindstrom points out that new studies have disproved many of the things that we once thought we knew about consumers buying habits. For one thing, display advertising is far less influential than marketers previously thought. Martin explains that visual over-stimulation often sabotages the efforts of marketers to reach their target audiences. Because we are stimulated by a constant influx of visual messages today more than ever before, it is becoming harder and harder for marketers to capture a customers waning attention. Lindstrom writes:A brain-scanning company called Neuroco has carried out a study for 20th Century Fox that measured subjects electrical brain activity and eye movement in response to commercials placed inside a video game. During a virtual stroll through Paris, volunteers viewed ads on billboards, bus stop shelters and the sides of buses to see which

Creating Habits
How can this research be applied to the ways leaders do their work? Basically, they can use it when they are marketing their products or services to their customers. Since the firing patterns of a mouses brain are similar to the ways people think

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about things and create habits, there is much to be learned from Graybiels studies. Martin writes,When we repeat a behavior, even one that involves many independent steps, it is etched into the basal ganglia, ready to be activated whenever a cue is encountered. In other words, we go on autopilot once we have learned something.Why work so hard consciously when your subconscious mind can take over and do the job for you? Graybiels term for subconscious behavior, such as buckling your seatbelt or tying your shoes, is chunking. Our brains particularly our basal ganglia simply chunk together routine activities when they receive certain cues from our environment.The cue can be something external in the environment or can arise from an internal state, such as hunger. interpersonal side of leadership. He says,Theres certainly a link between leadership interpersonal skills and neuroscience.

Avoiding Neuro-Hype
Batista points out that it is important to sift through what we really know about the links between neuroscience and leadership and what he calls neuro-hype. He explains, Theres a lot of it out there and I think theres a real challenge to ensure that youre not just jumping on the neuroscience bandwagon and viewing it in this very over-broad, abstract way and making these unwarranted conclusions and generalizations. I think that is definitely something to be concerned about. Batista says that, while he is not a neuroscientist nor an expert on neuroscience, he sees himself as an educated layperson who, as an executive coach, is looking for some clues from neuroscience about how he can better coach individuals, teams and organizations.After reviewing many of the latest studies and finding some sources of information that he feels hit the target, Batista says there are many things that we can learn from the latest brain science. He explains,What were finding is that a lot of what we know empirically about how coaching works and about how interpersonal skill development works has some basis in neuroscience.

... we go on autopilot once we have learned something.Why work so hard consciously when your subconscious mind can take over and do the job for you?
The placement of impulse purchase items near the checkout counters of many stores demonstrates the power of cues to trigger behavior. If youre hungry, its hard to resist those candy bars by the cash register, Martin writes.This habitual system is working underneath your executive mind, responding to cues that the executive mind does not even know about. This is what makes habits so hard to break; they often occur before our conscious mind can intervene. Takeaway: When leaders work with their people to create positive experiences that build positive habits, they help their people unlock the power of their subconscious mind to develop better behaviors that will help them in their own careers and help the organization succeed.

Putting Feelings Into Words

One recent paper that Batista says has helped him in his work is Putting Feelings Into Words, which was written by psychology professor Matthew D. Lieberman, Ph.D., and other researchers from UCLA. Batista says,What they learned from their research is that when people discuss difficult or challenging feelings that theyre having, if youre angry and you talk about that emotion, or youre upset and you talk about that emotion, then brain activity in the amygdala, the portion of the brain thats associated with those negative or difficult emotions, decreases. Batista says that this research applies directly to many of the things he teaches in his classes:A lot of what we do in interpersonal skills classes is encourage people to talk about their feelings.What weve known empirically is that, in the process of talking about your feelings, youre better able to manage them.And its more than simply coming to some kind of cognitive understanding of those feelings. Theres a deeper process at work.What Liebermans research points to is the possibility that simply by talking about your feelings, you decrease the brain activity associated with those feelings. Thats one of the reasons why they may be better able to manage. To me, Batista continues,the larger connection with leadership is how important it is as a leader to be able to marshal and make use of your emotions.

Ed Batista
Helping people develop good leadership habits and interpersonal skills is what Ed Batista and his co-workers do at Stanford University. Batista is an executive coach and change management consultant who is one of seven leadership coaches at Stanfords Graduate School of Business. He and his fellow leadership coaches work with organizational behavior faculty as members of Stanfords Center for Leadership Development and Research (CLDR). In a recent interview with Soundview, Batista explains that business leadership training at the CLDR and elsewhere is now including some of what neuroscience has been teaching us over the last few years. This includes an added focus on the

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Batista says that this type of research connects his work more directly to psychologist Daniel Golemans studies and groundbreaking book Emotional Intelligence, as well as his more recent book, Social Intelligence. experiencing as a result of successes or difficulties that you carry at work. Theres certainly a degree of courage that it takes because, oftentimes, were not rewarded for this effort.

Brain Plasticity

Batista says that the latest neuroscience In an article in the September 2008 confirms his belief in the idea that people issue of the Harvard Business Review, can learn to transform themselves into In my work, Batista says, Social Intelligence and the better leaders. Im seeing this emerging web of Biology of Leadership, Daniel Batista says that the idea of brain Goleman and Richard Boyatzis plasticity and the science that connections that relates to the ability of a write that there are specific supports it give him great hope leader to understand his or her own questions that leaders can ask when he teaches his students emotions, the emotions of the people around themselves to identify their how to improve their leadership own social strengths and skills, such as ease at public them, acknowledge and make use of them, weaknesses. For example, to speaking, the ability to command establish stronger connections and be more attention and the ability to be determine if you have the social intelligence skill of empathy, you interpersonally influential.While some interpersonally influential. should ask yourself,Do I understand people already have these skills, others do what motivates other people, even those not. But even if we dont come by these from different types of backgrounds than my own? abilities naturally, we can learn to improve our skills in Other social intelligence skills the authors identify include those areas. Batista says,Youre not stuck.Youre not locked into attunement to other peoples feelings and moods, place.You dont have the public-speaking gene, or lack the organizational awareness of other peoples cultures and social public-speaking gene. Those are all learnable, teachable skills. networks, influence to get support from key people, Communication skills can be improved through developing others with compassion, inspiring others with a interpersonal interaction, Batista points out.Those are all compelling vision, and fostering teamwork and cooperation. things we can practice and get better at, especially when we In my work, Batista says,Im seeing this emerging web of acknowledge the emotional side of that. That seems to me to connections that relates to the ability of a leader to understand kind of dovetail with neuroscience research. Much of what his or her own emotions, the emotions of the people around we know empirically about coaching, about working with them, acknowledge and make use of them, establish stronger people and helping them to develop their interpersonal skills, connections and be more interpersonally influential. seems to be reinforced by some of the neuroscience research. Takeaway: Leaders must be able to do more than simply It feels to me, in a larger sense, this idea that leaders can be harness their emotions and the emotions of their people. They made, that we can all develop and enhance our leadership must also be able to verbalize their positive and negative skills, also seems to be reinforced by the general sense of the emotions, and those of the team, and successfully transmit plasticity of the brain. them to others. Takeaway: The new neuroscience especially its ideas of brain plasticityand rewiring the brain holds infinite The Hard Soft Skills possibitites for both individuals and businesses.As Bastita sums up, Given what it seems like neuroscience is telling us Batista points out that what were once called soft skills are about the plasticity of the brain, the ways in which the brain now being recognized by experts as some of the hardest skills remakes itself on the basis of experiences, to me it reinforces for any person to master, since they require great courage on the idea that leaders are made and not born. the part of the leader to tackle them, harness them and turn those difficult emotions into organizational alignment. Emotionomics Batista recognizes that this process can be difficult for leaders, but it is not impossible.It is extremely hard, and its Neuroplasticity and change also play an important role in work that you get better at by practicing. In a sense, it doesnt the pursuit of personal happiness. In his book, Emotionomics, require a lot of esoteric knowledge. It requires a setting within Dan Hill connects these issues when he describes the Positive which youre encouraged to really talk about emotions youre Psychology movement. Since its inception in 2002 by Dr. 13

Social Intelligence

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Martin Seligman, this movement is based on Seligmans formula for happiness: H = S + C +V (Happiness equals our genetic Set point, plus our Circumstances plus what we Voluntarily change). In other words, as Hill writes,By changing external stimuli or by learning to perceive them differently, were able to alter the left side of the equation. Hill explains that the concept of Positive Psychology ties in nicely with neurogenesis, which is a term scientists use to refer to the fact that our brains continue to create new neurons throughout our lifetimes. Hill explains that this means that we have the ability to change, as people and as leaders. He writes, We have the means to achieve mental flexibility and thereby enhance our lives. Emotion plays a direct role here. Thats because the natural brain chemistry that gets those neurons to fire and wire together is a function of emotional responses that resound more loudly in our brain than do our rational responses. In effect, we get new mental building blocks to utilize throughout life and its up to us to make the most of that opportunity to refresh ourselves. Hill explains that neurogenesis, mirror neurons, Positive Psychology and emotional intelligence work in concert to help us improve our performance. He writes,The new neural networks that neurogenesis enables can be more constructive, more beneficial, by virtue of using mirror neurons. Meanwhile, emotional intelligence [allows us] to pick up on improvements we want to incorporate. Positive Psychology, provides the impetus by encouraging us in the belief that greater happiness is possible.

Success is All in the Mind

The study of neuroscience in a business context continues to evolve. The ramifications of this evolution will have varied impact depending on a leaders given responsibilities. Marketers will be challenged to refine their efforts to trigger the buying impulse of a customer base that gets its information in smaller and smaller digital doses. Meanwhile, product developers will be tasked with tapping into the primitive brains functions to create products that are simplistic, yet functional. However, its the leader who manages a number of employees who has the most to gain from understanding neuroscience.Whether attempting to motivate a team to achieve new heights or improving the feedback procedure for his or her department, executives continue to have questions about the best way to affect positive change. Its important to remember that the solution is hiding just beneath the surface in the realm where the mind rules over matter. G

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