Rewiring the brain to boost visionary thinking

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An alarming 71% of Australian business leaders lack high levels of visionary thinking – yet new research reveals that neuroscience could be the key to unlocking this potential in everyone.

Research conducted by consultancy Human Synergistics, and also relevant to New Zealand, found that increasing workplace pressure, linked with advances in new technology and insecurity around the economy, has created “narrow-minded thinking”.

The research uncovered the fact that just 7% of leaders were at the top end of the scale –what Human Synergistics consider to be ‘Total Visionaries’ – which highlighted a shortage of innovative thinking and the constructive behaviours that drive business performance.

In response to the findings, a new project has been launched with participation from some leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and thought leaders. The project’s goal is to unlock what it takes to become an ‘Extreme Thinker’.

The new project was designed to enable leaders to develop a new way of thinking that leverages the left brain’s analytical reasoning as well as the more innovative and imaginative right brain thinking, Shaun McCarthy from Human Synergistics said. “It will take leaders from a restricted style of decision making to a more visionary one that benefits both the individual and the company itself. To put it simply, we are helping leaders to teach their brain how to unlock that ‘Aha! Moment’ in a very deliberate way, more frequently.”

McCarthy recently told HRM’s sister publication, HCA, that many of the great innovations in history were not thought of in the context in which one would normally think of them. “Everyone knows Einstein thought of the theory of relativity; very few know the idea came to him while sitting on his front porch drinking a glass of red wine. It didn’t come in the laboratory with a blackboard,” he said.

Typically panic, anxiety or stress was the inhibitor to Extreme Thinking, research partner Dr Trisha Stratford, from the University of Technology Sydney, said. “When these states of mind kick in, we tend to move into what we’re calling a ‘Fragmented Mind‘ which gets us stuck in the ‘Try Harder Cycle’ – when we work longer hours, have more meetings, drink more coffee – without getting the results we need.”

Although the results of the Extreme Thinking program won’t be known until early 2013, the practice required leaders to follow a four step process that would be closely monitored over a six week period. In essence, participants would have to:

Step one: Stop trying and slow their thinking. Stop focusing on the problem and change breathing habits.

Step two: Let it go/take a break. Take a break from working on the problem and focus attention on something else.

Step three: Let it form. Be specific about the problem/question or issue, but let it float round the back of the mind.

Step four: Let it spark. The idea arrives because the brain has connected the dots and produced the best solution.


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