Embodied Cognition

Embodied cognition is the belief that many features of human cognition are shaped by aspects of the body beyond the brain. The features of cognition include high level mental constructs (such asconcepts and categories) and human performance on various cognitive tasks (such as reasoning or judgment). The aspects of the body include the motor system, the perceptual system, the body’s interactions with the environment (situatedness) and the ontological assumptions about the world that are built into the body and the brain.

The embodied mind thesis challenges other theories, such as cognitivism, computationalism, andCartesian dualism.[1][2] It is closely related to the extended mind thesis, situated cognition andenactivism. The modern version depends on insights drawn from recent research in psychology,linguistics, cognitive science, dynamical systems, artificial intelligence,robotics and neurobiology.

In philosophy, embodied cognition holds that an agent’s cognition is strongly influenced by aspects of an agent’s body beyond the brain itself.[1] In their proposal for an enactive approach to cognition Varela et al. defined “embodied”:[3]

“By using the term embodied we mean to highlight two points: first that cognition depends upon the kinds of experience that come from having a body with various sensorimotor capacities, and second, that these individual sensorimotor capacities are themselves embedded in a more encompassing biological, psychological and cultural context.”

— Eleanor Rosch, Evan Thompson, Francisco J. Varela: The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience pages 172–173

Reference: Wikipedia

Talent management for the digital future

The race for attracting and retaining talented digital experts, is on. One of the elements that stand in the way of change and retaining high demand skills, are that current traditional talent practices that are widely used, were build for a previous age, IT platforms and organizational dynamics.  The modern era demands pragmatic, evidence informed yet light touch and some resourceful co-creation and learning while experimenting with new models, such as distributed leadership.

What this means right now for talent and people development strategies in the digital world

To attract, recruit, onbo041712.Tina.Seelig.Color.Innovation.Engineard, retain and grow digital futures talent you need to differentiate your business from others by providing a work experience aligned to the values and expectations of your community, your talent market, investors and customers. This includes thinking about and planning for people strategies that will enable rapid business scaling and change using contemporary models and practices.

Research from the Centre of Positive Organizations indicates that positive leadership and organizations create extraordinary performance through positive climate, positive relationships, positive meaning and positive communications. This does not mean a business where the negative does not get addressed – in fact positive organizations enables organizations to deal more effectively with challenges. Gallup studies shows that positive leadership creates

  • a more positive mood
  • enhanced job satisfaction
  • greater engagement
  • improved performance

Applying 21st Century Talent and People Strategies are less costly, more flexible and generate better results

Creating a scaleable, human-centered workplace will generate attractive work experiences and create a strong and committed leadership cohort and brand. Examples of new practices include:

  • Letting go of old-school job descriptions and instead targeting individuals through matching their strengths with your organization’s strength profile and values. This will ensure better, socially diverse and targeted candidates are attracted and you achieve a higher retention rate. It also creates a better brand and competitive differentiation.
  • Recruitment using strengths-based interviews while assessing core traits and experiences from a person’s past, capability – the abilities and technical skills that a person can do and capacity – the strengths, appetite and values that determine what a person would love to do (based on the high potential model from the Centre of Applied Positive Psychology).
  • Designing and developing lean, smart and better ways of assessing people by letting go of personality tests that do not predict success. For example, developing a deep understanding on how to assess for motivation and identifying genuine potential for success  through machine learning tools will give you the edge.
  • Applying strengths-based, realistic and high potential interviews, and combining it with an assessment of the past, the present and looking to the future, will help you to truly begin to understand a person and your teams’ potential (and areas for unique and customized growth).
  • Creative on-boarding for you and your new team member to ensure a smooth integration and clear easy first 90 day including a customized guidance plan and action steps for team members as well as critical stakeholders, such as clients or investors. This will make a new person feel welcome and productive while you set them up for success.
  • Designing your culture with neurosciences in mind to ensure your people are motivated and flourish. Using a behavioral science approach also increases individual, team and organizational awareness and improve decision making.
  • Developing team member’s unique strengths to enable them to achieve their full potential, and embedding a strengths-development and solutions focused mindset for competitive advantages in not only talent retention, but your growth and profitability.
  • Designing management practices, compensation and reward approaches aligned with unique talent segments in mind will help you retain the values and purpose your business is found upon. This means fair payment and a commitment to helping them grow their financial wellbeing so that they focus on the task at hand while being empowered to make a positive impact in the world.
  • New team onboarding, alignment and development plans, including team leadership development while working on projects and building your talent pipeline. This means truly valuing teams and cross-functional team work.
  • Creating positive exit experiences when people leave the organization. This will promote your reputation and generate a network of loyal alumni.

“In the beginner’s  mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Shunryo Zuzuki

We need new ways of thinking to create a new future

“The best way to predict the future is to create it”

— Peter Drucker

There is a global consensus amongst leaders and experts that we need new ways of thinking to go beyond the very approaches that got us where we are today.

There are simple questions on change leaders’ minds:

  • We know that to enable us to innovate we need to change the way we think. But how do we actually change our thinking and have evidence that it changed?
  • Why is it that, even when we attend special creativity and innovation programs, or learn new knowledge, we still gravitate to our fixed thinking when under pressure?
  • Why is it that, despite our best intentions, our leadership cultures continue to fall back to the very approaches that we are trying to change?”

Why achieving breakthrough thinking is difficult

“Current leadership  development practice relies heavily on the use of models and theories, and the development of self‐awareness. Findings from neurosciences suggest that use of models and theories do not impact the regions of the brain required for behavioural change. They also suggest that self‐awareness, while an essential starting point, may not be enough. ” (Peter  Hamill: Embodied leadership: towards a new way of developing leaders”, Strategic HR Review, Vol. 10 Iss: 5, pp.5 – 10)

Changing our minds is not easy.  Even the great Steve Jobs had some fixed ideas that resulted in failures.

Canadian neuroscientist Donald  Hebb, the father of neuropsychology, famously explained the dilemma with what is now known as the Hebbian theory:

“Neurons (cells) that fire together wire together.”   In layman’s terms this means that when brain cells are simultaneously activated, it results in increases in the synaptic strength between those cells. This creates a strong connection between these cells which eventually become neuro-pathways.  As a consequence, this results in loss of connection between other cells.

This ability to create neuropaths is important as it helps us make sense of the more than 4 billion bits of information that we have to filter every second so that we only pay attention to what is important to us.

The downside of this however, is that, over time, this becomes what we would call a “mindset”, resulting in unconsciously ignoring information that does not fit into our neuropaths or in other words, our paradigms.

How do you overcome the “fixed thinking” dilemma so that you can achieve new thinking?

It is actually possible to develop new neuropaths. The brain is “plastic”. That means when you start paying attention to new ideas and things and act on them, you will eventually develop new neuro-pathways, and therefore new ways of thinking.

A simple example will describe how this works.

Most of us have gone through the process of buying a car or helping someone else buy a car. Say you are thinking of buying a red all-wheel drive car that is big enough for your family.  Have you noticed that you suddenly start spotting lot more red all-wheel drive cars wherever you travel?

The reason for this is very simple.  It is not as if there was a sudden and dramatic increase in sales for red all-wheel vehicles.  They have always been there, but because you are now starting to think about it and do research about it, you see more of them.  In other words, you are now paying more attention and also with more quality of attention due to the new focus and information you are gathering.  In this way you started creating a new neuropath.

Similarly, you need to start seeing new possibilities by shifting your attention away from what you currently preoccupied with towards new unknown ideas and objects. This does not require too much time or effort.

Simple actions to achieve breakthrough thinking

Connect with different communities outside your normal networks

The best source of new information and ideas come from people who think completely differently to you.  By connecting with these communities you will be exposed to new paradigms and thinking while you make new friends and business partners.

An example is  Social Innovation. Here new business models and economic values are developed by a community of passionate inventors and innovators who are unafraid to challenge the status quo.

Stop reading mainstream literature on business and leadership

Give your mind a rest from the business and leadership literature. Start reading up on digital futures, fuzzy logic, neurosciences, philosophy or anthropology.  Have conversations with experts in these fields and attend lectures. Participate actively in learning about new topics you find interesting, such as music or surfing.

If you continue such neuro-changing intention activities for a period of about six months, you will realize how you are building a new paradigm for yourself. And from this new emerging paradigm, your thinking will change. You will see more possibilities, generate more choices, and develop improved solutions.

(Note, this article was originally published by Presidents of Enterprising Organizations during 2012 as part of an insight series for executes which was authored by MaRi Eagar.)

Neurosciences – the new frontier in leadership

Leadership is evolving to a new frontier.

As leaders continuously face new challenges and opportunities, they often search through the latest scientific research to understand new knowledge and build new skills to continuously gain advantage for themselves and their enterprises.

Research proves that by rewiring thinking patterns and controlling human response to different social or business circumstance, leaders can relearn how to be more effective in driving personal and enterprise success. Here’s why.

Introducing the science of brain-based leadership

The most important new leadership information available to leader innovation is the emerging field of brain-based leadership. Two important areas are of interest to leadership growth; first, leaders look for opportunities to significantly improve personal performance; and secondly, these leaders strive to improve social relationships and customer experiences.

Neuroplasticity — the potential to shape the brain structure and its function

Neuro-scientific research validates what leaders always knew; that experience actually changes the brain and that there is no limit to brain development. Neuroplasticity is a concept that means that the brain structure and function change all the time. External events impact on the human brain, but human beings also are able to induce self-directed changes.

The human brain is a network of approximately one hundred billion neurons. Different experiences create different neural connections which bring about different emotions. Depending on which neurons get stimulated, certain connections become stronger and more efficient while others may become weaker.

Someone who trains to be an engineer will create stronger neural connections which, in turn, generate “neuropaths” in engineering. The price that is paid, however, is that other connections become weaker if attention is not paid to these. For example, such a person might neglect to focus on empathy and, therefore, reduce their ability to feel compassion and kindness towards others and themselves.

Qualities and skills can be trained or created. Whatever an individual is doing at any time, they are physically modifying their brain to become better at it.

Important leadership qualities, such as visioning and strategic thinking all work the same way. These are neural connections that can be strengthened. Leaders can conduct research and find out, scientifically, how to create and strengthen neural connections to improve their performance.

(Note, this article was originally published by Presidents of Enterprising Organizations as part of an insight series for executes which was authored by MaRi Eagar.)