Zurich : IHRC Annual Symposium

26 May 2011

Neuroscience for Leadership


Hosted by:
ABB, Asea Brown Boveri Ltd

Paul Collin, Group Head – Learning and Development, ABB, welcomed some 80 participants to ABB’s facility in Zurich-Oerlikon. He referenced some key initiatives taking place at ABB and framed-up the session for the group.

Leadership in Two Minds

Hanneke Frese, Freseconsulting

Hanneke Frese opened her presentation with a personal story and linked it to an explanation of the difference between neuroscience and neuroplasticity. She pointed out that the brain is able to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections through life, allowing the neurons or nerve cells in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or changes in their environment. To illustrate how sustainable change is accomplished, she then stepped the audience through an example of one executive’s journey to achieve lasting change – a technical expert re-wired as a manager/leader.

Leading 100 Billion Neurons

Andy Habermacher, Managing Director, NeuroBusiness Group

Andy Habermacher helped the audience to understand the brain and how it functions. He explained how almost everything is processed unconsciously and 85% is irrational or emotional processing. When emotion collides with reason, emotion wins. Mr. Habermacher told the audience fear is a primary emotion in the brain and described how change and uncertainty stimulates fear or mistrust in a business context. He used the acronym CLEAR to describe some possible ways leaders could begin to design interventions to address neuralscience dynamics in their organization.

C – Communication/Clarity/Choice
L – Listen/Let out/Limit
E – Emotions/Empathy/Enemies
A – Align interests/Action/Appreciation
R – Rituals/Reward/Reframe

Applied Neuroscience

John O’Brien, Executive Coach, Founder and Managing Director,
Hanover Executive Ltd

John O’Brien continued the theme by explaining how working below the surface, unconscious processing, applies to individuals, groups and organizations. He told the audience quiet and calm in the midst of chaos drives change. Applying some key principles from analytical psychology, he explained in detail how neuroscience is related to an understanding of organizational behavior and leadership challenges. Predictability allows for managing risks and conflicts can often be solved by understanding differences.

Predictable Catastrophes

Jeffrey Satinover, Managing Director, Quintium Analytics, LLC

Jeffrey Satinover’s presentation focused on neuroscience and behavior. He told the audience that decisions are often made based on inadequate information and risk assessment is not a picture of reality. Leadership and decision making are affected by multiple non-rational biases such as overconfidence or the illusion of control – we more readily fantasize the specifics of success than those of failure. Good decision making takes account of these biases, understands anxiety and its effective management.

Panel Discussion

Led by Gary Steel, Executive Committee Member Responsible for Human Resources, ABB

A panel discussion, led by Gary Steele, provided an opportunity to hear the speakers viewpoints on questions raised by the audience. In response to a question about practical experience with integrating neuroscience into a leadership program, Mr. Steele talked about ABB’s initiative to dig deeper into the talent pool. He told the audience that organizations have much more talent that they use. Capturing brain power and getting it to work for the benefit of the company produces results. When asked about the future influence and impact of neuroscience on leadership, the panel commented that diagnosing potential is an emerging area.

Speaker Profiles
Text by Mary Bronson/IHRC Support Team
Photos by Julie Collins Photographie
, http://www.juliecollins.net/