Neuroscience in Business: What we can't do while 'multi-tasking'

The brain does not multi-task.   This simple biological fact has huge implications for business. 

What if your corporate culture accepts - even demands - multi-tasking?  You're as sharp as a drunk driver. You will miss - and misinterpret - as much of what is going on around you as someone who could be arrested for DUI.

Not only will you miss important information, you certainly will not generate new questions or solutions.  Responsive to market changes?  Forget it.  Figuring out new ways to deploy resources?  Not a chance.

Imagine that you're an auto manufacturer...Or an SEC official....Better yet, imagine that you find yourself in the midst of an economic downturn. Markets are jittery; customers and employees are fearful.  Your enterprise will thrive - or not - based on your ability to:

  • Notice what's going on - Be curious about what might be valuable in this new reality
  • Generate new solutions for new concerns
  • Provoke Customers' curiousity about new solutions.

Multi-tasking may be the most dangerous habit we've ever allowed.

Navigating the Downturn: Resilient Enterprises are Vulnerability-Centric


Nervous about the current economic climate?  Being nervous does not put the brain in shape to generate solutions.  On the contrary, worry and fear shut down the fresh thinking needed.  
On the other hand, the habit of seeking to address vulnerability is a time-honored leaders’ practice [here’s a lovely example].  Not only is it good commercial process; it’s an excellent antidote to fear.  Brain  juices flow when peoples see opportunities to help others.  By leading employees to focus on shifting Customer vulnerabilities, leaders can both stimulate ingenuity and be rewarded with new solutions and improved morale.   
No matter the size of your business,  doing what you've been doing is not likely to work. Build resilience by focusing on new vulnerabilities -  your own and others'.  Sound counter-intuitive?  Navigating this new economic reality requires creating new kinds of exchanges.  The richest exchanges address both parties' concerns.   Those concerns are centered on vulnerability. 
How are your most valued trading partners - key segments - viewing the vulnerabilities they face?  Stay close to their thinking.  Ask questions about how they see their world and what they're anticipating.  And treat them like partners by asking for advice about how your business might serve others like them - you may be surprised at how good their advice is and how much they like giving it.
Replace your nervousness with curiosity about how to serve. And stimulate others' curiosity; opening new questions breeds the Neuroplasticity that will   enable you, employees and customers to respond well to market shifts.   And it will strengthen relationships all around, setting the context for more value to be generated. 
By listening deeply and often to how key segments are thinking and re-thinking their vulnerabilities, it’s easy to move to:    

  • How might you add fresh value? 
  • What might you invent to make their prospects brighter?     

High-performing business cultures are based on this practice.  Knowing that they cannot control peoples’ interpretations and choices, leaders ensure that employees, customers and vendors step into inquiry.  It makes everyone smarter. 
Already doing that?  Please share.
Not nimble enough to do that?   Want a  manual?  C.K. Prahalad's book, The New Age of Innovation is excellent.

Neuroscience in Business: Being Smarter in the Downturn

Last night I heard a neuroscientist make a remark that has huge implications for 21st century businesses, ”For all the ways we know to use a tool, like a needle or a hammer, for example, we use the Wernicke’s area of the brain,” pointing to the area just above and behind his left ear. “But if you want to think of new ways to use a needle, you use the other side,” pointing above and behind his right ear.

Every business is challenged to rethink the way it uses tools, processes and other assets, to be sure. That’s challenging enough, you think?

Take a look at a few of the factors required in order for your brain – for customers’ and employees’ brains – to perform this all-important task.

The right and left sides of our brain are connected by the corpus collosum - a structure that is highly affected by a number of types of stress.

If your employee or customer is worried, frightened, tired, not getting enough exercise, hyped up on caffeine, or has any concerns for his/her status [rank on the social or corporate hierarchy], s/he won’t be able to take on a new question.

Because of the way the brain works, many types of stress decrease ingenuity when we need it most.

Already at work on that? Please share…

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