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Using brain science to better manage people and organizations

Emotional Contagion and Beyond

Toxic bosses. Debbie Downers. Our language reflects the idea that some people have a real emotional effect on their fellow workers. Now, interesting research not only confirms this idea but adds to it in several important ways:
– It’s not just a few people who infect others with their moods; everyone has a measurable impact on those around them, for better or worse.
– This effect is consistent over time.
– This effect is different than “emotional contagion,” a short term effect caused by a temporary mood. […]

By |November 2nd, 2010|

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)

The imperfection of our human brains has been a frequent topic of books lately, most notably Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. Mistakes were made goes into considerable depth on one key failing, cognitive dissonance. The authors call cognitive dissonance the “engine of self-justification” and attribute many examples of irrational behavior to our attempts to resolve it.

By |August 19th, 2010|

Zilch

Zero does have a seemingly magical impact on our brains (see The Power of Free), though zero isn't always a good thing. Zero resources, for example, are generally not good for business! That's exactly what many non-profit organizations start with, though. In Zilch: The Power of Zero in Business, author Nancy Lublin translates her years of experience in under-resourced non-profits into strategies that can be applied by any business.

By |July 14th, 2010|

Luxury, Left Brain, Right Brain

Popular psychology simplifies the different functions of our brain hemispheres by using “left brain” to indicate analytical thinking and “right brain” to mean creativity and emotion. That may be a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s a useful shorthand. In The Luxury Strategy, authors J. N. Kapferer and V. Bastien emphasize the need for a management team that has both characteristics. […]

By |April 21st, 2010|

Neuromanagement: The Rule of Three?

Trivia question: Why were local phone numbers originally seven digits long? The answer is that in the early days of local phone service, researchers found that seven digit numbers were about as long as most people could remember without forgetting or making errors. (One oft-quoted study on the “seven” topic is The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information by George A. Miller.)

If it’s hard to remember more than seven digits, how many complex concepts can we process and/or keep track of? I don’t think that research has been conducted, but a New York Times interview with Cristóbal Conde, president and C.E.O. of SunGard, suggests one solution: […]

By |January 26th, 2010|

Some Learn From Mistakes, Others Don’t

In Managing by Mistakes, I wrote about the power of learning from mistakes. Some of the most successful individuals in different fields credit relentless focus on even small mistakes with their high achievement. Researchers at Columbia University divided student subjects into two groups, “grade hungry” and “knowledge hungry” based on a short survey, reports Newsweek’s NurtureShock column, and then tested them with general knowledge questions. The researchers immediately provided feedback as to whether the subject was right or wrong, and showed the correct answer. The brain activity of the subjects was monitored using EEG caps. The differences in the way the subjects handled the feedback was striking: […]

By |December 21st, 2009|

Better Branding: Hire Passionate People

I’ve been reading Passion Brands: Why Some Brands Are Just Gotta Have, Drive All Night For, and Tell All Your Friends About by Kate Newlin, and am enjoying her analysis of what makes a “passion brand.” Passion brands are those with which consumers form an emotional attachment, and which they recommend enthusiastically to their friends. Indeed, passionate brands inspire evangelism, and their loyalists are disappointed if friends fail to follow their advice.

For me, the piece of advice that most resonated was that to build a passion brand, you must hire “passionistas.” Those employees bring their own passion for the category and the brand, and the people they interact with will see their genuine enthusiasm and become infected themselves. Newlin writes, […]

By |December 2nd, 2009|

Hire Articulate Salespeople

Few would argue that one of the most important skills a salesperson can have is to understand what the customer is thinking, but that’s a skill that’s difficult to measure. Instead, hiring managers rely on evidence of past sales success (a good predictor of future performance) and the interview (a reasonable simulation of an in-person sales call).

Perhaps those managers hiring salespeople should consider checking the candidate’s SAT Verbal score, too. An interesting new study from Wellesley College researchers suggests that advanced language skills correlate with the ability to predict what another person is thinking: […]

By |November 24th, 2009|

Reward Success, Don’t Punish Failure

It’s a management maxim that bosses should dole out praise liberally when deserved, although many business environments seem more focused on punishing failure. It turns out there’s solid neuroscience behind the idea of recognizing success, according to research led by neuroscientist Earl Miller of MIT and published in Neuron. […]

By |November 23rd, 2009|

The Outsider Effect

Trying to juice up your next ad campaign? Develop a clever new product strategy? Research shows that adding an outsider to the mix can improve the thinking of your team and produce better results. According to a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, […]

By |November 16th, 2009|