Have you heard of “brain porn” yet?
I first saw the provocative term in a 2013 Harvard Business Review article to describe the mainstream media hype on neuroscience. The article stated that scientists are concerned that the reporting of neuroscience vastly oversimplifies the research and is creating a “burgeoning industry of neuroconsultants who suggest that they can unlock the secrets of leadership and marketing from the brain.”
Similar to this explosion in media coverage of neuroscience, the title of “coach” popped up on business cards everywhere in the early 2000s when coaching became the new buzz. Regardless of training or experience, an army of consultants, speakers and trainers adopted the title to identify their interest in helping people in a nuanced way.
So here I am today, a coach with an executive masters in neuroleadership, preaching the good news of brain fitness as it relates to leadership. I read dozens of scholarly articles almost daily to discover, process and correlate the latest findings, yet I’m the first to proceed with caution when sharing information with others.
I’m all for diving in to understand what research is telling us; however, we must discern the information before buying into everything published. Reliable, validated research is incredibly difficult to conduct.Brain science today has been said to be roughly comparable to where biology was around 1825. So we can’t get too attached to what we’re learning today; our understanding of the brain will continue to evolve and change.
There is a confluence of factors positively impacting neuroscience research today: technological advances in fMRI machines, newly applied statistical techniques, and the government’s commitment to better mapping out the brain titled B.R.A.I.N. (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies.)
To balance the enthusiasm and hope with practicality, consider first what neuroscience can’t tell us yet:
- fMRI images do not show causality. Because we see activity in a brain region does not tell us the cause of the network activation.
- Up until now, much of the research and conversations in mainstream media have focused on regions of the brain; however, evidence shows us that we actually need to be focused on the complex networks of the brain involved in thinking and behavior.
- You can’t scan two CEOs’ brains and tell which person is the better leader. (Bummer!)
However, neuroscience has provided new insights into the biology of the mind which have deepened our understanding of the tools and approaches that positively impact the efforts of leaders in some very specific areas, like:
- the important role of emotion in decision-making
- factors that affect collaboration among team members
- how to enable or enhance creative thinking
- how to structure rewards that are meaningful
- the pitfalls and myths behind multitasking
In upcoming blog posts, I will share consistently-backed research in at least four network areas of neuroscience, those areas relating to managing and influencing others: default, reward, affect and control networks. (These will likely never show up on the neurobollocks blog because they are unarguably accurate.)
I’ll start with my favorite network, the default network.