Using brain science to better manage people and organizations

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|

Management Lessons from Airplane Crashes

Airplane crashes don’t happen often, and when they do they are no doubt among the most-studied failures in any industry. Most bad business decisions, by contrast, are pushed into the past as quickly as possible.

That may be one lesson – studying why a business strategy proved to be a failure might prevent similar failures in the future. But the lesson I want to talk about today is more specific: how Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) strategies have direct application to business management issues. […]

By |November 9th, 2009|

Managing by Mistakes

Management gurus have often suggested that failure should be rewarded (if the individual was trying something new), or at least not punished. We all know the problems that develop when employees become fearful and conservative – creativity is stifled, and performance suffers.

It turns out that there’s more to this concept than just repressed innovation. Our brains are wired to learn from failure, both as children and adults. The way we deal with success and failure in our efforts is a big factor in determining future performance. […]

By |September 3rd, 2009|

Training Your Brain to Multitask

It’s Monday, your inbox is full of unanswered emails, you desk is piled high with paper, and you’ve got a couple of important project deadlines looming. There’s one bright spot: although past research has indicated that people’s ability to multitask, i.e., perform several tasks at once, is very limited, a new study shows one can improve multitasking ability with training. First, the bad news: […]

By |August 24th, 2009|