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Are you making the most of your brain to achieve the outcomes you and your organisation want?

Rewiring brain
“In this Whitepaper, I’d like to signpost a strategy for individuals and organisations to be successful (whatever success means to the individual or organisation). I will start with some big picture thinking on evolution and flexibility and then move to the more specific terrain of how we can maximise our most precious human ‘hardware’, that is to say, how we can get the most out of our brains.”

The notion of punctuated equilibrium

Punctuated equilibrium (Merriam-Webster, 2021), a term coined by scientists in the 1970s, purports that evolutionary development is marked by isolated episodes of rapid speciation development between long periods of time, where little or no change occurs. That is to say, fossil records stay the same for long periods of time and then dramatically they change, with specialisation allowing some sub-species to survive while the ‘original’ species does not. It is a refinement of Darwin’s theory of evolution (Darwin, 1859) (that evolution is a continuous and gradual process). I think Darwin is correct right up until the point that an organisation is acquired, divested, goes bust or there is a global pandemic for the first time in 101 years!

How do we leverage this?

My work, at both an organisational and individual level, suggests that we are in a period of time where rapid development in human thinking and successful application of that thinking is required in organisations. Evolution is not automatically taking us down this path – as a species, our brains are simply not adapting fast enough to help us succeed without proactivity on our part. We are, metaphorically, in a world that requires us to ‘up our game’, but this is not happening through natural selection. We need to work mindfully with our brains; invest time and effort in how we are using the way it functions to best meet our needs and aspirations (and those of the organisations we serve). This is not only desirable, but better than waiting for a punctuated equilibrium scenario.

Outdated thinking is when we find it easier to develop our knowledge of a topic, for example marketing, than we do to think about the skills/processes required to be a successful marketing executive or build a successful marketing team. The latter requires real thought and emotional intelligence, while the former relies on the ability to recall and apply facts and information. In addition to these skills/processes, it is also critical that an organisation has an environment which fosters open thinking, risk taking and is based on trust. We need to feel confident enough to take risks and develop skills – knowing that we will be supported in doing so.

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Dr Suzanne Pollack

Executive Fellow
Published 13 January 2022
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