For the past few years we’ve heard a lot about what businesses need to do to survive through the recession and survive in the new economic environment we’ve entered.
No question, these strategies have been helpful and important. But it’s equally important to remember that, although operating in survival mode can keep heads above water, it’s only a short-term solution. And this short-term mentality impacts companies even when it’s not related to tough economic conditions.
Businesses focused on making the leap to the next stage of growth often find themselves in a similar situation. The very mentality that helped them get where they are may be keeping them from getting where they want to go.
Brain research has shown that the kind of thinking that’s essential for short-term survival actually hinders long-term growth and development. In an unpublished chapter originally written for The Whole Brain® Business Book, Ned Herrmann, founder of Herrmann International, addressed this topic as it relates specifically to the dilemma that many businesses face as they attempt to move from infancy to maturity.
In “Short-Term/Long-Term Leadership: Survival of the Fittest,” he notes that, in terms of the Whole Brain® Model, companies often start with an emphasis on D-quadrant thinking about the future and possibilities. But pressing business realities quickly intervene, and cash flow becomes the immediate concern. Leaders discover they must shift to left-mode, A- and B-quadrant thinking to deliver products and services and generate cash quickly.
In short, they suppress entrepreneurial thinking in favor of operational action.
While this approach makes sense for a business in its infancy, it often perpetuates itself long after because left-mode thinking becomes part of the management culture.
The same thinking that kept the business alive up to this point now threatens to kill it.
For the business to thrive, Ned explains, leaders have to become more agile in their thinking and to be able to apply situational Whole Brain® leadership thinking.
You can download the full chapter here: Short-Term/Long-Term Leadership: Survival of the Fittest
For more learning and insights on thinking, mindsets and brain science, check out my full video report from the 2011 Neuroleadership Summit.
In our presentation on the Neurobiology of Leadership Assessments at the Neuroleadership Summit last week, Mark Schar from Stanford and I concluded that in this early stage of this field of research, there are four points we have to pay attention to.
We need to define leadership: The clarity of the research on this is cloudy at best. It seems obvious that if we want to assess leadership, we need to have some clear definition of what it is and what we are trying to measure.
Two differing perspectives can be found in the business and academic worlds. Business tends to look at leadership as a vital key to organization success, often citing guru CEOs like Jack Welch: “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
Academia however, is much more skeptical, perceiving leadership as poorly defined, difficult to measure and situational, better represented by a Casey Stengel quote: “The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.”
Defining what it is and what we intend to measure is critical the evaluation of a leadership assessment. In a pilot study we conducted for the session, it was clear the assessments known and most used by business were not the same as those known and used by the academic community. Their reasons for using assessments are also different: Business uses them to make better decisions; academia is typically looking to make a discovery.
We learn about leadership from assessments: Be clear on what YOU want to learn. The hundreds of thousands of assessments processed each year would seem to indicate that we are learning something. Our pilot study showed that those in business had a range of application arenas, as shown below.
Whatever the application, one helpful way to differentiate between assessments is to look at the construct each instrument is based on. The 16 assessments in our pilot study were equally divided between these four construct clusters:
Personality: Individual, intrinsic motivation
Behavioral: Individual behaviors as perceived by others
Talent/Interest: Individual skills and interests
Cognitive: Individual preferences in processing and problem solving
We focused on the cognitive construct to address our next question.
Neuroscience might measure leadership: What do your learners need to know and why? Did I mention this was a huge topic? Assuming we can all agree on the definition of what we are measuring as leadership, our initial scan of the research uncovered two assessments where there is a neurological research connection.
The research on the Neo Five Factor showed a relationship between brain volume and several of the factors. The research on the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument’s (HBDI®) revealed neurological data that related to each of the four factors of the Whole Brain® Model. The real question then emerges: What does this tell us? How do we decide what constitutes “validity?”
We asked the audience to select what was most important for them in the selection of an assessment:
A. Statistical validity, research basis and pedigree.
B. Reliability, administration, practicality, longitudinal studies and references.
C. User’s perceived value and experience, ease of applicability and face validity.
D. Observed insights, visual appeal, discovery/aha’s and conceptual framework validity.
Our audience then split into four groups based on their answer to the above question and discussed what was most important to measure—and how that differed for business and academia. Members of each group* vehemently defended their point of view.
What is yours? How about your learners? What do they need to know and why? How does that impact your selection process?
Academia and business should converge to advance research on the neurobiology of leadership assessments. There is a great opportunity to further pursue research in this domain. We need more research! If the worlds (you might even call them tribes) of business and academia came together we could take this research to the next level.
A special interest group emerged at the conference on this topic. Let me know if you are interested in the conversation or if would to learn more about our findings. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and post your thoughts in the comments below.
*discreetly sorted based on the four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model
How closely are our biology and our behavior linked?
As we learn more about the brain’s role in decision making, advances in neuroscience are leading some to question the foundations of our criminal justice system.
Neuroscientist David Eagleman examines the topic in a thought-provoking article in Atlantic Magazine, “The Brain on Trial.”
According to Eagleman, “a forward-thinking legal system informed by scientific insights into the brain will enable us to stop treating prison as a one-size-fits-all solution.”
Eagleman’s article is generating a lively discussion on the Atlantic’s website. What’s your take on the subject? Will the legal system have to change “as we become more skilled at specifying how behavior results from the microscopic details of the brain”?
This year marks the 15th anniversary of Brain Awareness Week (BAW), the global campaign to increase public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research.
Every March BAW, founded and coordinated by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and European Dana Alliance for the Brain, unites the efforts of universities, hospitals, patient groups, government agencies, schools, service organizations, and professional associations worldwide in a weeklong celebration of the brain.
Remember, your brain needs exercise to stay sharp. Here’s a brain quiz to help you keep “fit!”
How will you use this week to sharpen your Whole Brain® Thinking skills and get more from the collective brainpower in your organization?