The Leader's Brain - Complete On-Demand Recording

We hope that you enjoy this on demand webinar. Don't miss future webinars, interviews, podcasts, and leadership tips! Sign up for our newsletter today.

Interested in applying neuroscience insights to your Leadership Development programs? Contact us now.

Share this on-demand webinar with your network:

Complete Transcript

The following is an automatically-generated Zoom transcript that is provided for your convenience.

Hello, everybody. Good morning, good afternoon. Good evening, wherever you are in the world. Welcome to our webinar today.

I'm Jonathan Kirshner the founder and CEO of AIIR consulting. I'm here in Philadelphia, only a hop, skip and a jump away from Dr. Michael Platt, we have the pleasure of having on our webinar today.

For the last two years, air has had a really wonderful partnership with theWharton Neuroscience Initiative where we've really invested in exploring the intersection between neuroscience leadership and high performance.

And during that time we've really had an amazing time getting to know the founder of the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative, Dr. Michael Platt. So Michael, I'm going to introduce you

Michael is a distinguished professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has appointments at Wharton, The School of Medicine and within the psychology department at the School of Arts and Sciences. He's also the founder of the Wharton neuroscience initiative. Many of you may have

Recognized Michael he's he's quite prolific prolific and can be found in New York Times, Washington Post Wall Street Journal NPR ABC, NBC, CBS, he list goes on. And He currently serves on the scientific advisory board of several companies, has served on the World Economic Forum Global Future counsel on brain science and is the co-founder of CogWear Technologies, which is a really cool brain science startup.

And most recently, the author of this amazing book The leaders brain, which we're going to dig into in just a moment. So I'm really excited to have you with us today. Michael and

For all of you in the audience. And if you haven't already, please share. Just your name and where you're joining us from and

With that said, I want to turn it over to you, Michael. To really immerse us in this wonderful topic of the leadership brain.

Thanks, Jonathan, I really appreciate the introduction and the opportunity to to have the forum today to talk about my new book leaders brain is just published

In October, by WordPress as Jonathan said, we've had a wonderful partnership over the last couple of years.

And, you know, for us, in what neuroscience. It gives these kinds of partnerships with companies like air gives us the opportunity to get out of the ivory tower and sort of test our ideas.

You know, and see to what degree we can extend what we what we've come to learning laboratory and see if it works in the real world. And, you know, at the same time.

Jonathan's team can tell us all ways in which will doing is wrong and we don't appreciate the challenges that are out there. So it's actually been been really been really super

Partnership in that way. And so what I'm going to do today as john said is just to kind of take you kind of threw a little bit of a tour.

Through the book kind of why why I wrote it and and what you know some what some of the indications of the

Brain Science and related and Linux to bear on business challenges and that are that are important for leadership.

And and hopefully give you some actionable insights in many ways, this is very good in almost every way is is very, very new.

Scholarship very new thought leadership and science where, again, we're taking what we have learned over the last 10 2030 years in the laboratory and in the clinic in terms of how the human brain works.

How some brains work differently than others, and how we can utilize the sort of the technologies and insights and analytics to develop a more precise.

scientific understanding of human nature and how we can use that to to be better leaders better coaches to make better decisions be more innovative and and and to be better team players. And so that's we're going to talk about today. And the first

Task in any one of these webinars is for me to figure out

How to share the screen and to make sure that I share my screen, which is, you know, I have three screens. So that can sometimes be a bit of a trick and

It looks like looks like I got it. Do I have it. Yeah. OK, cool. So. So the book is called The leaders brain. And you know, I want to begin by asking a question which is

Which is

Why are we here.

So, so why are you wonder why am I here. I don't mean this in a big cosmic sense, really, but rather, why are you here.

enjoying your lunch or dinner time your breakfast time, whatever it is. I'm sitting here with me to talk about the leaders brain. And really, you know, this is the reason why I wrote the book.

What we want to do is we want to become better than yours. Know what, in what ways can we utilize take advantage of all the science that's out there to

To develop some insights that allow us to be better leaders in our organizations or companies to be better leaders on the field. So,

If you read my book you'll find that I talked a lot about sports. I'm a sports nut in general but but sports. I found is, is a great petri dish for business and for life and so

That the, the things that we weren't can enhance performance in sports can often be very effectively translated onto other domains as well as the sea. So we want to be better leaders on the field and on the court. But I think

It's also appropriate to understand that many of the things that we'll talk about today. And then I talked about in the book will also asked to be better leaders in our communities, which is more and more important as we see

So many aspects of our

Our daily lives become so polarized and that there's a lot of friction out there in the world. So if we can become better leaders and members of our communities. I think

A lot of what we'll talk about today can be can be effectively applied in the community and in particular. I also think you can help us to what we'll talk about today can help us be better leaders.

At home, and as we're spending so much time now, especially over the last seven months. And it looks like for at least another six, seven months as well. We spend so much more time at home.

Being a better leader within our household within our families, nothing could be more important. And I'm really hopeful that you will learn some things today. It'll take some things like

That will allow you to apply some insights to to being a better leader in your home to being a better parent to be a better spouse to be a better

son, daughter family member in general. Okay, so that's the agenda today. And then the second question, I think that we need to confront

Is Weiner assigns. So why should we care about what's going on the brain. What can the science really tell us. I mean, after all, if we, you know, if we

You know, what can I tell us that goes beyond what we already know from psychology from studying human behavior from behavioral economics from

From you know from big data analytics and, I think, of course, I'm in or a scientist, I think that we can learn a lot. And I think the most important

Thing to consider here is that when we look inside your head so to speak of do so directly. But what we have here under the hood. This allows us to gain

Insight into hidden thoughts, feelings, and mental processes that we really have trouble expressing and that many times were unaware of their certainly an observable and sometimes we don't want to admit

Right. And so when we rely on just what people say or what we

tell ourselves that can sometimes be inaccurate and in many cases that can be completely wrong. And so that's why neuro science.

Can be so important because the way the brain works and the tools that we have at our disposal allow us to get an actual mechanistic understanding of what's going on and how that actually drives

Our decisions and how those processes drive our interactions with other people. And I'll begin with an example. Just an example to sort of make this

very compelling as an illustration here in this relates to a study I did with my postdoctoral fellows last couple years and we were very interested in this, this I this idea of how we relate to the brands that we love. Okay. And so there's this idea in marketing that you actually develop

Personal human relationships with brands and companies that, you know, in some sense, you know, we evolved and we developed

Hardware in our brains to relate to other people and then suddenly when their brands around this. We just deploy those those mechanisms that circuitry.

To relate to these companies and brands in the same in the same way we relate to the people that we love around us. And so he said to test this idea

By by looking at how people relate to their smartphone brands. Right. And in the US, the dominant players in the market or Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones.

And of course, actually, Apple iPhone users have extreme loyalty to their brand, whereas Samsung Galaxy is not quite so much but we we wonder, you know, basically how people would say they felt when they

Heard something good or bad about their brand like you're an apple iPhones and you've heard of Steve Jobs died, you know, some time ago, but I may feel bad about that or you know profit sword feel good about that or your accounts and customer names notification coming up and

You realize that your galaxy user, you know, maybe, like, you know, Samsung battery global player, something like that. And so you may feel bad. So we asked people

And basically they reported very strongly for their brands. So Apple iPhone users that they for good.

For good news about Apple bad for bad news, but at the same thing for Samsung for for their for their brand as well.

But we went one step further than just asking them, because basically, they all all these customers record strong it for the brand and we

Put people in an MRI machines and we scan their brains while they were actually responding to good and bad news about their brands. And what we found was that an Apple iPhone users whose brains are sharing on the left, on average, that when they heard good news about Apple

The sort of reward areas of their brain responded and when they heard bad news about Apple

The painters responded. Basically, they were showing strong empathy in the brain for Apple, the same way they would respond to good and bad news about a loved one.

But we didn't see anything like that and Samsung customers. Okay, so then they did not show any empathy in their brains for Samsung despite what they had told us.

So there was, in this case, the very strong mismatch between what at least one customer segment reported and what their brains actually told us. Now there are a lot of really interesting implications of this for

Marketing and for brand management, but I think the really most important take home point is that

By applying the tools in neuroscience, we can learn something that we couldn't learn or that we might have been mistaken.

By just asking people questions. And so this is just an example for how Anderson's can help us to to gain new insights and being your understanding.

In terms of what's guiding behavior. So I'm now going to basically take a little trip through about, I don't know the five or six core chapters of my book and and will begin with but i think is probably the most important

Factor shaping our leadership in the way we, the way we lead our teams and the people that we manage and that's what I call leading with the social brain. So one of the things that we have learned, I think, very powerfully over the last decade or so is that

Really good leaders are actually have really strong social skills. Now this is this is very

aptly demonstrated by Google's oxygen project which has been running over the past decade, and which Adam Grant here and Wharton was involved in and basically what this study found was that

The best managers were the the managers who have a strong social skills, who were the most invested

In the people who work for them. Who are the best communicators, the best coaches. Right. And as a side who had Googled in promoting manager for most of the time the best coders and so

In many cases, the skills that would make for a good manager, we're not the ones that have used to hire people into those positions but

What we know now from neuroscience is that the ability to be a good coach to connect well with others is

Is is basically managed by what we call the social brain network which is illustrated here, some parts of it green.

And the social brain network is a set of interconnected brain areas that

Is responsible for all of our interactions with other people. So it manages the way that we respond to them. It begins with

Just perceiving who's there and identifying their emotional states their mental states and beginning to make inferences about what other people need what they want.

What they're feeling at the moment, what they know and then those processes guide the decisions that we make towards those people and the way that we interact with them and we now know that

People have more numerous and deeper friendships in the world who are better connected with other people.

Their social brain networks are actually bigger and stronger and healthier and better connected. So people who literally people who have more friends, the thickness of the cortex. And each of those

Small person social brain is actually thicker than water connection between the neurons and the connections across those areas are healthier.

And we know that the bigger, stronger and healthier social brain network is the better you are actually

Reading the emotional states of other people and understanding what their needs are and being able to on the fly and guide your behavior adaptive way that leads to a better outcome, say in negotiation now.

We've learned over the last decade or so that this the health and integrity of your social brain network is

Is partially determined by your biological down. But basically what you got from your parents, but it is not determined. Okay. And it turns out that the social brain network is like a muscle, and that the more you exercise it.

The bigger it gets that healthier gets and the better it functions. And so, you know, getting out and interacting with other people going to the farmers market going to the company picnic.

Getting out of meeting people having those little day to day interactions and that might need to friendships.

Is actually going to change the structure and function of your brain. So you're exercising social brain network.

You're building it in a way, just like a muscle, and it is going to be stronger and make you better able to do your job if one of your jobs is having to manage to lead other people

Now, of course, you're all thinking right now. How do I do that. We're living in an environment that says it's

Not okay to get out and socializing real world with other people. And this is a really, really big challenge. And it's something that

We weren't neuroscience and laboratory have been working very hard on which is trying to identify ways in which what you basically, what are the implications of not being able to interact

In the real world. And one of the things that we do know is that this has led to a just a vast increase in mental health, behavioral disorders of anxiety disorders, depression are

Accelerating rapidly. This is directly tied to lack of social interactions and loneliness.


This is something that is going to be critical, you know, in terms of being ready to take the next steps as the world comes back out of lockdown.

Let's say next spring is having really well functioning social brain that works so that we can jump back

Into business and we can talk about some ways in which which we might be able to accelerate that process. So in addition to

exercising your social brain network. There are other things you can do to to make sure that its function optimally, and probably one of the most important things

That we can do in a day in our day to day lives is to pay attention to pay attention to other people. So the data that our social brain that works work.

Okay, that that our social brain that works us to help guide our behavior. It all comes in from the outside. Okay.

And so when we pay attention to people when they look at people. We are unconsciously picking up

Small movements of their facial muscles of changes in where they're looking a changes in the size of their people's posture.

You name it even tone of voice, these things that all of these sensory nonverbal cues are coming into the social brain network, which has been

Tuned Up over the course of our lives to read this data seamlessly spontaneously and very effectively. And what that means is that when we're not paying attention to other people.

We can't get the data that our social brain that holds need to function optimally. And so if you are one of those folks who at, you know, business meeting when we're in real life. And we're actually in the office.

You know, you've got your phone. Now that's the big deal now as you put it out there below the desk people you think people can

Tell what you're doing. Of course they can. But while you're sitting there, checking your texts or watching something on Tick tock during the day.

You're actually missing out on all of this information that's going on around you that that could help you to actually make better sense of the social dynamics that are in play and how that how you could navigate that situation, much more effectively. So please put away your phone.

And I think it's all becoming we talked about this all the time. You see it in the media papers.

Were facing extreme challenges now.

In terms of how we allocate our attention to other people when we are

When we're forced to do so through online interaction. So, you know, we've heard of zoom fatigue and one of the reasons behind zoom boutique is the fact that we have to now.

divide our attention. In some cases, the most you know several windows at once and then within each each of those windows. The individuals.

Are which is much harder to see. So their facial expressions can be obscured. Their eyes are often visible. So the cues that we would normally

Use seamlessly to help help our social brains guide our behavior are not so visible and so it's much harder. And it takes a lot more work to actually to to even get any data to work on in that you know that's even

You know, exacerbated when you know the bigger than meeting that you're in. So if you're one of these enormous zoom calls

And you've got to, you know, the challenge of dividing your attention, across the multiple different windows that are there, let alone.

identifying individuals emotional states are attentive states. It's a challenge that is almost impossible. And, you know, for, for these reasons, I would you know suggest that wherever possible limit.

The number of people who are on a call, or at least have potentially multiple one on one calls so that you can devote your attention, much more directly to the person

That you're interacting with and another you know kind of side note from this which we can we can take a further. It is the fact that

It's also nearly impossible to make eye contact. It is impossible to make eye contact, effectively with people.

Online because of the physical offset between the location of the camera on your laptop or your computer and where an individual that you might be looking at is, and so this creates a real

Conflict in your brain a real discord a disconnect between serve your expectations are making eye contact people that you're talking to.

And the fact that you can't. And so, you know, you can fake it by looking at the camera and I think that's an important thing to try to do

To build emotional rapport with the people that you're talking to at least they'll feel like you paying attention to them, but it's also going to feel very, very awkward as well. And so I think this is another source of zoom fatigue and something we can talk about now.

One thing that can cripple our ability to read relate to other people and understand their needs and understand their perspective is

Is hierarchy. Okay, so when we feel we're superior to someone, or when we actually are in a higher status position to somebody else. It turns out that

Tends to turn down the function of our social brains. This is something that's deeply baked in to our brains. So we see this not only people we see this as monkeys as well. We're very hierarchical in their social organization and

And and what this does is action by turning down the social networking makes it very difficult to take the perspective of another individual and to understand things through their eyes. This is very aptly demonstrated by a really

Really fun set of studies that I talked about in the book, which were done by three Schweitzer here at Wharton, and Adam Minsky at NYU and basically what they told people to do, and this has been repeated many times and we found that it's, you know, we found

Compelling you know validated evidence resides. But if I asked you to say snap your fingers five times fast and let Larry on your forehead.

Was tends to be found is that people who either are higher status and other people or who are trying to think about being higher status, they tend to write the E so that they can see it. So it's from their perspective, whereas people who are lower on the totem pole.

Or trying to think about being as low status and the moment tend to write the letter E, so that other people can see it and so

I suggest one, you know, some very important ways in which we can improve our interactions with other people and in ways that can help us to take that perspective, which is the flat in the hierarchy.

Okay, so try to imagine yourself on equal footing with all the people that you're interacting with. And this will turn all the activity in your social brain and make you a little bit better able to understand, understand the needs, wants, desires and state of knowledge of other people.

Okay, so after leading with the social brain I move on to another chapter which is directly related to the social brain network and

And depends on this function, but it looks at, at this very fascinating biological marker or biomarker of team chemistry which is synchronized.

And over the last five to eight years it's been demonstrated numerous times that when we have a good working relationship with someone when there's a high degree of trust.

When there's great communication when we're cooperating that the activity in our brains actually goes into temporal security.

So if we're working together, we would and I were measuring brain activity myself and you and we were

Working seamlessly on a project, we would see that our brain, the activity range and

Become aligned. Okay, this is synchronous his brain synchrony. And when our brains go into synchrony this percolates down to our bodies and other physiological processes.

Like our heart beats and our breathing also go into synchrony. And actually, some of our, our behavioral movements and mannerisms and so

Physiological synchrony is fascinating as a biomarker a good team chemistry. And one of the things that we're really fascinated by and we're trying to do is to leverage physiological synchrony as a biomarker that can be used to help us compose higher function teams.

And one of the first places that we've started to do that is in sports. So we've been working very closely with Penn athletics to try to use markers of physiological synchrony either a heart rates breathing rates and in brain activity to help

Compose teams and to help monitor the chemistry of those teams to to understand when it's improving and when it's declining are falling apart. And for example, we did a study with a pen rowing team.

In which we measured various physiological processes. And one of the things that we found is that

When the rowers we're training them dry land training during winter so they're not out on the water and rolling issues on Earth machines. If you have the rowers actions sit next to each other, so they can see and hear each other and smell each other.

We tend to see that their brains and their bodies go into physiological synchrony. And that was certainly with a high level of a sense of flow that they were working well together.

And in rowing parlance. This phenomenon of swaying, which is which is the sensation that you're all pulling on the same for okay now we didn't force it into synchrony. They're just going next to each other.

But that creative far greater conditions of synchrony and and presumably team chemistry than if you just allow the rowers to row wherever they want. And so one of our action with insights for the coaches was to have growers actually wrote together, even when they're doing dry land training.

We've also moved to try to translate some of these findings from sports to business and something that we've been working on. It's very exciting. During this book lab and in situ with another one of our corporate partners.

Is to basically measure physiological synchrony in committees and these are committees that are tasked with

Basically assessing job applicants and so they they get information about potential applicant for a job.

And some of the information is common to everybody in the committee and and then each person on the committee might have some unique information and in order to solve a problem to reach consensus and make the right hire

People on the committee have to to actually understand that they have something unique to share, they have to feel confident and psychologically secure enough

To actually volunteer that information. And what we find is that those teams that actually reach consensus and make a good decision have

Much higher physiological synchrony than those teams who do not. And we're now trying to unpack what actually are the underlying features of the interactions amongst those folks.

That create conditions of high physiological synchrony. And we're now investigating some exercises which I'll be happy to talk about later that can move, you move you into synchrony.

Move your brains into synchrony in a way that can improve subsequent interactions. And one of the things that

Turns out to be very powerful in terms of creating synchrony across people is this this practice of mirroring and this is the idea that and you see it happen spontaneously between people who have a good rapport. As you see here.

That when we kind of make the same movements, the same gestures, about the same postures, as someone else we tend to like each other more we tend to feel more trust.

We work better together. And that's because that when we do that this actually generates synchrony in our brains and across our bodies. And in fact,

actors in improvisational actors often engage stylized mirroring exercises and when they engage in these narrowing exercises. This engages the social brain network, which

Begins to in train or synchronize the brains of the actors, so that they develop a much greater good core and feelings of security and psychological safety so that they can perform together much better.

Another practice, which is probably the most important of all, at least in terms of what

In terms of scientific validation is making good positive I contact with someone

So we talked about eye contact, a little bit before in terms of the difficulties of making eye contact on zoom or or any other platform but

When we make good sustain I contact with someone, whether that's somebody we're working with, whether that's our spouse or a partner, or even our dog.

When we do that, this tends to get our brains in sync. Okay. And the way that we think it gets our brains insane is because we make eye contact. This releases oxytocin. Okay. Some people called Love harmony, but it's really

A hormone a chemical in the brain that is critical for turning up the activity of the social brain and building strong bonds between people are also between people and dogs and

So making good eye contact is critical for kind of reducing system, creating synchrony and building and building the right conditions.

For report trust empathy and cooperation and as a side note this especially I think very powerful now that we find ourselves at home all the time.

If you have a really important meeting where you need to be at your best as a leader in terms of relating to people and you want to get your system functioning. Hi.

There isn't anybody at around at home, he can make eye contact with. We're going to release them oxytocin, get in sync. If you have a dog.

Go ahead and stare, your dog's eyes is going to be good for you is gonna be good for the dog. I don't know whether it works with cast. Okay, I have no idea. Now,

This idea of physiological synchrony this this this biomarker of a good rapport have good chemistry. It turns out it's also really critical for communication. So,

When we are having a better conversation with someone, our brains tend to actually be in

in sync. So we tend to see higher brain synchronicity physiological synchrony between people.

When when they're communicating better when there's better give and take. And what really fascinating. And I think critical observation about

synchrony communication that is that it depends on our frame of reference. OK, so the same exact words can be heard or spoken, but depending on how you're interpreting them.

That can create very different kinds of conditions attached to synchronize brains across people and this is very elegantly demonstrated by a colleague of mine Sonic Princeton.

In a study in which he presented people with they listen to the exact same story, which is one of my short survey June sound.

Pretty mouth and green my eyes in which there are two ways to interpret the story. One is that husband is Disneyland's needlessly jealous that his wife.

was having an affair and the other way of interpreting the story is actually that she really is fair.

And people who are primed with hearing the story. One way their brains. We're all in sync. But people were crying with hearing the story. The other way we're completely done. We're not instant that first group. And so, you know, one really actionable.

Insight from this is that if you are a leader and you need, you have very important information to communicate that that you need your team.

To really understand to execute something you've got to get everybody on the same page. And so it's important to take those first steps at the beginning of our meeting to say, hey,

Here's where we're all beginning from this is how I want you to think about what you're about to hear and that will help to get everybody in the right frame of mind.

So you create optimal conditions for communication and for getting into the kind of security that will be necessary for getting the job done.

Now the next thing that I want to talk about is creativity and innovation, and we all know that.

Innovation is critical for success in business, if only more of us could be like this guy's new jobs, boy, our jobs would be a lot easier businesses would be a lot more

A lot more profitable and you know the challenges that it's not easy to be creative. I think many of us have had that experience.

And it's, it seems to be especially difficult under pressure, right, you've got a deadline and you're told, You gotta come up with a new idea and your team has to come up with a new idea and it feels like

If only I, you know, if only we knew something more about how to kind of unleash our, our, our innovative brains. Then, then we could do this much more effectively and do so in a way that was a lot less painful and

You know, remarkably, and

And I think very importantly, over the last decade and a half in neuroscience, we kind of collectively have come to a really deep understanding

Of the brain mechanisms that actually underlie creativity, innovation, thinking outside the box. This is a lot of work that we've actually done in my lab. And it turns out that

The brain networks that underlie creativity, innovation are completely separate from the brain networks that underlie focus and getting the job done. Now you might be thinking to yourself that this is sort of a left brain, right brain thing.

That is wrong in terms of the actual location of these these networks, but the metaphor is apt in the sense that

When one of these is turned up like the focus engine is turned up, then your innovation engine is turned down and vice versa. So, and these slides. What you're seeing here to

The areas that are highlighted in yellow and red are turned way up when you are trying to execute tasks that you know how to do it just takes a lot of attention and hard work. So, you know, like

crunching numbers in Excel or answering email or something like that. So when you're doing that these yellow and red areas are turned way up.

But when you're doing that these blue and green areas which are the brains innovation network are turned way down.

Okay. And those blue and green areas only get to turn on when we, when we kind of

disengage from routine tasks. Okay. And so this is actually, I think the really critical observation, which is that if you need to be creative, you need to be innovative.

You actually have to step away from the work that you're doing to get up from your desk step away from your email.

Stop crunching numbers and get up and go for a walk. It actually turns out there's very

I like to connect a lot of circumstantial dots, but there's very good data showing that I'm actually getting up and walking around kind of releases.

The the the brains innovation network. And when you do, so you actually come back to the challenge.

In a much more creative state. And while you're out walking around ideas are very likely to bubble up and those ideas would not have done so while you were straining to answer emails or to fill out spreadsheets or whether this is something I built into my own routine every day.

I like to get up about every 20 minutes or so. So city. Yes. They're sitting here to these webinars is perhaps turning down my innovation that would like to get up every 20 minutes or half hour.

And also walking back and forth to work every day is is the time where I find that my, my greatest ideas and most innovative ideas come to me.

Now there's a real another really important insight from neuroscience in terms of innovation and focus and that's

Not all brains are tuned the same way. I'm sure we all had the impression that some of us for some of us, it feels quite natural to be to think outside the box and be creative and for some of us, it's a lot harder to do.

And that's most kind of obviously manifest kind of the extremes in the distribution and people, for example, have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

These are folks who often succeed and creative professions like the arts or as entrepreneurs, of course, that makes it you know having kind of having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Also, when you're a kid, makes it very difficult to sit still, to focus

In class because your mind's racing all over the place. And, you know, for that reason, often these kids with ADHD are medicated to kind of

To help them to focus in school and that focus is important but you know I've talked to lots of folks in the business world who are entrepreneurs who are CEOs who

Of course later in life in the 30s, 40s, 50s were discovered would diagnose to have ADHD and were put on medication to help them focus and of course this work and help them focus, they

Remember their keys in order to pick up milk on the way home, they don't get distracted, but they also kind of lose their creative juices and many of them.

Decide to actually go off medication because it's too much of a trade off. Well, what's really kind of remarkable we now understand that.

Kind of where you are on the continuum from really highly focused to really, really creative as partially determined again by the biology that were born with you that you're endowed with by by your parents and there

There are several genes that we know quite a bit about now that are involved in kind of regulating the balance.

Of activity between the kind of innovation network in your brain and the focus network.

And that are associated with in the United States in the West with the condition that has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and what some what one of the things that is so really that I love about these stories and it shows us how

How, what you know kind of our, our, our intrinsic talents and motivations can help if we understand those better that can help us to be a better fit to the jobs that we do and the story I'm going to tell you about as

Beautiful People here in the area tried from Africa. These are folks who make their living

As nomadic herders so they heard goats they they hunt and gather and they're always on the move right there, their constant. They're never in one place.

They their livelihood depends on on moving about and discovering new territories discovering new resources, etc. And what's really remarkable is that

One of the genes that we know in the West is associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder occurs at about four or five times the rate in this time as it does here in the US and it suggests the very real possibility that

That these folks are actually very well adapted to the lifestyle to the job that they do. And there's a really nice kind of natural experiment that tested this idea a couple of decades ago in which

By have to try and move to cities and villages to adopt and more predictable yes sedentary lifestyle and of course

That's a lifestyle that demanded staying in one place and more or less perform the same job.

Day in, day out over and over again. And this allowed scientists to compare the success of folks who had this ADHD length mutation or either continue to be nomads, or who are now.

Kind of adopting a sort of stay in one place and do the same thing every day. And of course, what was found is that the folks who had the ADHD like mutation.

Were much more successful nomads, but they were really unsuccessful kind of working in a village.

You know, knocking out widgets all day long. And so I think this is a really important lesson for us, which is that

We shouldn't be trying to necessarily, although we all can turn up or turn down or created dial a little bit everybody's dial is set in different places. Some people come into the world. They're done instead of five or seven and nine.

You might be able to move that dial one or two notches. But we shouldn't be trying to force square pegs into round hole, so to speak. And so rather what we should be doing is

building our corporate structure around intrinsic talents and motivations and trying to measure those much more precisely, and Google did just that.

Some years ago when they created the parent company alphabet within wish there were a number of different court.

Kind of companies within Google. So some, like, you know, Google, you know, search apps maps Gmail for basically tasked with continuing to keep

You know, basically getting the job done to keep these these these absence functions.

running smoothly running optimally right and it's clearly seems to be the case that folks who might be really good at that would might be different.

Than folks who who might be working at Google X which is sort of blue sky of the box, you know, kind of

moonshot kind of projects. And so I think it's very, very helpful to think about the possibility that rather than trying to make everybody

Equally creative or everybody equally focused that we capitalize on folks intrinsic you know their their their own native talents and motivations and align their jobs with us house and motivations and you know basically business will be better and people will be happier as well.

Now the next thing I'd like to turn to his decision making cuts, one of the most critical things that any leader needs to do.

And it's one of the most challenging things that we have to do, and many of the challenges that we have in decision making actually are result of

Limitations on the way that our brains actually process information and we've heard a lot about

So called psychological rationalities of choice over the last few decades from people in behavioral economics like data economy to failure like Danny really

These observations that people often do very strange things when making decisions. So, you know, one of them is, you know, as this, this idea that we are we're afraid of losses losses and mortar games where that

Too many options make it difficult to actually make a good decision, the so called tyranny of choice or option paralysis and

For a long time, psychologists and behavior alcoholics, say, Hey, well, economists have argued that these are just irrationalities psychology. So how emerges culture or

The way that we grow up and what we're now learning is that, in fact, these are not. There's nothing irrational about these these decisions tendencies, but rather it reflects real powerful constraints on the way that our brains function and these constraints come from the fact that

Our brains are not computers so that are made. They're made of meat and fat. They're not made.

microchips, okay, well then we have 80 billion neurons in our brains that make about 100 billion connections with each other.

Or surprisingly limited in what they can do. And most of those limitations.

Arise from need to save energy. So every time a neuron, which is the fundamental computing unit and our brains and becoming neuron sends a message for another year on

This takes energy. Okay. And that's because of their own little battery that's reset every time send messages.

And that that needed to expend energy. That energy expenditure actually house for about 20% 25% of the calories that we everyday.

Their brains are hugely expensive organ and because of that our brains have evolved and developed to be very, very efficient.

Okay. And the way that our brains are efficient is by is that they save energy by only responding to things that are different from the background.

Okay, so our brains don't signal absolutes. They don't signal the absolute magnitude things the absolute amount of money on the table. They just said no differences from kind of what we've experienced in the past.

Or in the immediate surroundings. And so I'll make this very clear to you from the area or this this process of

Normalization to the background was first discovery and that's in visual perception. So if you don't look at these two to gray boxes.

And asked me which one is brighter than one of the electrical one on the right now, you know,

Some of you may have taken psychology or, you know, I'm trying to pull a fast one on you, but if you're actually honest, you would say that the one on the left appears brighter than the one on the right.

And of course, they're exactly the same brightness. They are the same luminance

And the reason that they look different is because of the backgrounds in which they are presented. So the one on the left is on a darker background.

And this process of normalization are averaging out to the bathroom really signaling the difference makes

The grey square on the left look much brighter than the one on the right. Well, the same principle actually holds when we consider other kinds of decisions not about whether a square is bright or

dark or light or dark. But let's imagine when you go into a convenience store grocery store and you're looking for something to drink.

And you're confronted with a scene like this, which is very, very common for us. And you, you realize it's very, very difficult to make decisions very difficult to make a choice. And one of the reasons why is that

Because a neuron signaling any one of those beverages anyone on those soft drinks.

Its activities being inhibited by all the neurons around it that are responding to other options in the environment. That's how the brain basically kind of averages.

To to the background. Okay, and that's why it is so much more difficult to make a decision when there are too many options around

Okay. And not only is it more difficult and it takes us longer we often feel worse about it, this is, this is not some kind of psychological rationality, but it just reflects

The fact that our brains trying to save energy and sort of range, we're only seeing the difference from the background.

Now, one way we can do. These are the rules are raised live by. We can't change them, but we can try to get around them at least learn how to live with them. And one way we could do that in terms of decision making is to simplify

So if you limit your options limit the number of possibilities are only focused on the things that really matter.

You're going to make it easier to make it seem so for example if you are trying to buy a house and you're trying to optimize across multiple different dimensions, such as pricing square footage

And neighborhood and distance to school and distance to work, etc. That's going to make it very, very challenging. But if you only decided to focus on price.

And, you know, quality of schools, it's going to make that decision, much easier. So one thing we can do is to to make better decisions to simplify and to limit.

The options that we have in front of us. Now another way that our brains. Try to be efficient or have evolved and belt to be deficient.

Is to only process the information at the center. It is very deeply and the rest of the visual world.

Much less so. So it turns out that we can only see very clearly about the width of our thumb at arm's length.

And everything else around us is a bit of a blur. And we don't really see it very well. And so for that reason we move our eyes around a sample things in the world.

To to guide our behavior. Actually, we're moving our eyes were blind. We can't see while our eyes are in place.

But our brains stitch this all together into one unified percent where we tend to feel and think that every, you know, we're kind of seeing everything very clearly. But we're not

We see what's at the center of us much we process information, much more deeply. It gets into the decision making process in a preferential way.

And one of the things that we found is that this can account for some other psychological rationalities as well. So instead we publish

Very recently where we measured people's gaze where they're looking while they were deciding whether to accept a gambler, not the gamble presented 5050 odds of winning and losing some money and people tend to reject the gamble unless they're offered a lot more possible wins and losses.

Most people tend to look a lot longer at the possible loss than the game and the more time you spend looking at negative information, the less likely we are to take a chance on something and

What's kind of fun about that is that of course we can manipulate the visual world to make. For example, the positives bigger or brighter. So in those Gamble's. For example, if we make the possible money you could win.

Just physically bigger in terms of font size or brighter this draws your attention to the games you spend more time processing it

And that is preferentially processed in your decision making system in your brain that makes you much more likely to take the game so we can actually erase loss aversion.

Just by changing the physical display. And this, I think, leads to another very important point, which is that overall in our decision making.

When we focus on positive outcomes, whether with where we're looking, we're just in general kind of attending to those things that's preferential process and will lead us to be much more likely to approach something to take something to take that particular decision. Which leads me to

This sort of penultimate chapter of the book, which is related to

Performance and learning and it's all about Saul surprises small surprises are what really drives our behavior. So the word I'm talking about here is not really what we're doing right now, which is

A transfer of semantic knowledge for me to you. That's one kind of learning. But this is a much more basic and fundamental kind of learning that is operating in the background.

All the time continuously even when you think you're not learning. Okay, I don't think I have anything to learn. Well, doesn't matter.

This part of your brain, the system in your brain is running continuously as you move about through your daily lives. And this this sort of fundamental learning mechanism, which is called reinforcement learning temporal difference learning

It's the foundation for machine learning that has become so powerful with big data and computers and those kinds of algorithms.

It is operating in all of our brains and the way that the system works is by making a forecast of how the immediate world will change given an action that we take

Okay, so our brains. Our prediction devices they're predicting what's going to happen next and then predicting whether what we did, will lead to things getting a little bit better for us or a little bit worse. And the really key.

Kind of computation here is determining the difference the delta or the the the error between what we predicted what actually happened.

Okay, so this is often called a reward prediction error and when things turn out a little bit better than we thought we tend to repeat our vehicle.

When things turn a little bit worse than we bought them tend to not repeat that. Okay.

So this is so fundamental that not only does this account for changes subtle changes not behavior over time how we learned value, the things that we do. It turns out we now know that this

underlies our moment to moment happiness. So there's not an actual equation for happiness which is right here and the scientists have written it out.

And what you're basically your moment to moment happiness is a function of what the state of the world that you predicted, which is all this mumbo jumbo here.

That's outside the red circle and then the key component is what's inside the red circle, which is the delta. It's the reward prediction error. So how much better is the world.

Now than you thought it was going to be okay. This is a very subtle computation. But it turns out that

This is correlated with moment to moment happiness across 10s of thousands of people who are basically registering this on smartphones across the UK and across the US.

Okay, so think about that. This is a system in our brains that evolved to help us to learn to to to learn behaviors that make the world a little bit better for us.

Okay it. Now it turns out this is guiding our moment to moment subjected happiness or mood and that mood influences our behavior in ways that were totally unconscious of. So it turns out that in a couple of really beautiful. Studies have shown that, for example, in New York City.

People are across the city by

Thousands more lottery tickets. Okay. On any given day, if that day is slightly sunnier than it had been in the recent past.

So it's a little bit better. The world's a little better, a little bit better mood. I'm more likely to buy a lottery ticket or if the New York sports teams overall had one slightly more in the past couple of days that over the past week. So we're not aware of this stuff.

And yet it is shaping our behavior. Okay. And we know that even you know that the weather affects the stock market. For example, and this is the reason why. And, you know, we can actually tie these tie a couple of these.

Things that I've talked about together in terms of prediction errors and or small surprises, making it stick and the social brain. And when we think about ways in which we can help people to

Perform better and to be more productive. So we've learned over the last decade or so that social rewards such as praise for a job well done.

Can be as effective or sometimes even more effective than monitor for increasing productivity and improving job satisfaction.

Given what I've just told you, it should be clear that that praise will be much more effective when it's not expecting so

You know that this that is small surprises really make it stick. So don't deliver your praise necessarily in, you know, a monthly performance review where people know that's when they're likely to give this

To get reinforced socially for for a job well done, but deliver this when they least expect it, and it's going to be most effective and much more powerful. If you do this in a surprising way.

So I'm I don't know how our time is but I'm just going to turn out to the very last section so that we can wrap up, we're probably very close to being done in the last part of the book is really talking about the future of brain science.

And business. So that's very speculative, but I think there are going to be a couple of things that are really key. One of which is going to be the increasing

Deployment and accessibility of brain monitoring technologies in our daily lives. This is the nearly by Ilan musk. This is an implantable brain re recording

And writing chip that he intends for you to be able to access the internet, while you're just

In your daily life. That seems pretty far fetched. And I don't think that I wanted. Although a lot of my MBA students and undergraduate students say, Yes, I wanted it to help me get an A on the test.

But there are other devices and, you know, Jonathan mentioned our term neuro technology company that are about non invasive ways of monitoring on brain activity that are going to be, I think,

Increasingly available and and and provide actual insights for people in their daily lives and at work. And the second thing that I want to talk about is just that.

One of the keys to the future as well as going to be diversity. We talked a lot about diversity as we come to understand that.

key features of our the way our brains work these dials brain styles for innovation dollars for social interaction for Dallas for decision making.

That they're kind of set differently in different people. And as we face a global talent crunch. If we can develop much more precise scientifically.

You know evidence based ways of measuring these capabilities and talents. We're going to understand we're going to, we're going to find that there's a vast

Population of folks out there who don't fit the traditional mold right who may have

capabilities that are that are that are really off the charts for performing certain kinds of jobs. I think very most probably about people with autism, for example.

On the one hand, have some difficulties in social interactions, but in, you know, in a lot of work that we've done, we found that that can be a real

Benefit, for example, if you're a stock trader, then you're much less likely to get into a bubble by following the herd and you can make much better decisions.

As a trader and an analyst and finally to sum up, I just want to say that we can kind of tie all these threads together.

Some really beautiful work that I you know that that my friend and we fall here at Penn has been doing that we are collaborating on

This is how we can get people to change their behavior. This is really critical things, whether it's you know moderating a behavior in response to pandemic or working together across

The country and across the globe to come back, global warming. It's not easy to do. But one of the things that she's found is if you can get people to think outside themselves.

Think about somebody else think about the world think about spirituality. This turns parts of your brain on

That are really necessary for hearing that information and motivating behavior. And this can lead to subsequent changes in behavior like

Getting up and being more active that last four months. So really I think this is a grand messenger like to leave you with, which is that, you know, the path forward is really about getting back to basics.

Simplifying, slow down, focus on the positive and connecting with others and think about something bigger than yourself. So really, it's all about

Focusing on what matters not. What's the matter, and I think we'll all be better off. So with that, thanks for your time. Great, great talking with you.

Thank you so much, Michael and I mean I. It's not often that one can reduce an entire book into 60 minutes, but I feel like we got that immersive experience you and while we weren't able to give you your 20 minute

You know, incremental walks, I can heap. Some praise on to you. So on behalf of myself and of course the entire Arab community and everybody on this call, who had some incredible questions which we will note and try to find a way to

To get some some insights back over to you. We will certainly have a recording of this call sent out within the next

24 hours and just really appreciate it. Michael this partnership has been fantastic. It's been so fruitful. We're learning so much at air and bringing it into our own services.

Be an executive coaching, our team effectiveness services and our leadership development practice. So it's been such a fruitful exchange and just want to thank you very much.

Thanks john yeah sorry when the too long to take questions. But you know, I got I got very excited, giving you a little bit more to Apple

Was awesome alright well until next time, thanks so much everybody for your engagement and attention and Michael again. Thank you so much.

Thank you. Great to see you all. And feel free to follow up with you.

Excellent. By the way, this, this book is of course available on Amazon com i highly recommend it.

Thanks a lot. Thanks for the plug.

News & Insights

[Webinar] How a Single Day Can Make or Break Your Team’s Year

[Webinar] How a Single Day Can Make or Break Your Team’s Year

In this highly interactive webinar, Carole Streicher, U.S. Deal Advisory and Strategy Leader at KPMG, and Dave Gloss, Head of Team Effectiveness at AIIR, will discuss how bringing teams together to reinforce connection, culture, and new ways of working will help them rebound from the pandemic and navigate an uncertain economic 2023. Join us Wednesday, June 1, at 11:30 AM ET.

read more
The Worst Ways to Choose a Leader

The Worst Ways to Choose a Leader

Leaders and their organizations face challenges that are exponentially more complicated than anything they have before. And, many are showing cracks. That’s because although identifying the right leaders is incredibly important, we tend to hire bad leaders with...

read more
AIIR Consulting

AIIR Consulting is a global leadership development consultancy dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and performance of leaders and their organizations. Through the strategic integration of coaching and technology, AIIR Consulting brings agile leadership development to today’s connected leader.

Get In Touch

Let’s Discover What We Can Do For Your Organization

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Don’t Miss Leadership Tips, Emerging Trends, News, and Interviews with Experts

© 2020 AIIR CONSULTING, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use