Saturday, September 27, 2008

Making New Connections in Sydney

Asia Pacific Neuroleadership SummitThe theme for the Asia Pacific NeuroLeadership summit was ‘Making new connections’ and we certainly achieved that and a lot more.

Here’s how we know the event was a success:
•Attendance at the preconference on Neuroscience 101, over 80 people, which was very well received
• The number of senior business leaders who actually attended most sessions (a rarity nowadays)

Neuroleadership Books• The very high number of books bought per person at the store – we had arranged just the right set of books selected for the 5 tracks emerging within this discipline
• Over one third of attendees registered for 2007 Summit DVDsmembership of the Institute, giving them an opportunity to stay connected
• Sales of DVD’s from the first summit, released in Sydney

Making new connections• Strong participation in the self-organizing ‘connection sessions’.
• The fabulous comments from participants about the world class speakers

The new design of the event, based on feedback from the first summit, wasNew Summit Design more inclusive, and allowed for significant time for participants to digest the ideas, connect with each other and talk with the experts.

The format modeled how the brain likes to learn (intense bursts, then rest, with processes for integration such as informal and small group discussion time.)
Sydney, AustraliaAnd finally there was the great location (yes, the view in the picture was the view from the deck where we had every break) and the perfect weather, the first good weather of spring.

If you couldn’t make it to the Sydney Summit, you can order a digital summary of the event. This includes audio recordings of most sessions, as well as many of the slides and other resources. (This will be sent on a flash disk.) There is also a full audio summary of this event, and other audio resources here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Highlights of the Asia-Pacific Summit 2008

Preconference: Matthew Lieberman: Neuroscience 101

Matthew was brilliant for many of the neuroscience novices (and advanced students) in the audience in a pre-conference 3- hour “This is Your Brain” seminar. He took us through the essentials of what we needed to know around the brain’s structural dimensions, physiology, measurement techniques and how they work, circuits, pathways, divisions, types of memory, and an introduction to his field of social neuroscience. He was incredibly engaging for the people in the audience who could have stayed three more hours at least.

Jeffrey Schwartz - First Dinner Speaker– ‘Attention changes the brain’

Jeffrey Schwartz‘We don’t have free will, but we do have free WONT.’ Jeff explains the mechanisms involved in self-directed neuroplasticity, the key driver of change in the brain. Below he is explaining “veto power,” the time it takes for our mind to determine how we are going to respond to the consciously registered desire to move – which is about 0.3 of seconds. He is reminding us of how much choice we truly do have.

Art KleinerWe also enjoyed Art Kleiner’s great facilitation and weaving together of the ideas. That’s him presenting a gift to Jeffrey Schwartz after his session at the opening dinner.

Craig Hassad – ‘Know thyself’

Craig HassadCraig presented the neuroscience of mindfulness. He talked about the dramatic impact of mindfulness practice on stress and well being, and the impact on teaching mindfulness at a medical school, which he does for all Monash University’s medical school students, focusing on techniques for dealing with the extreme depression and stress that almost all of these students experience, particularly in their residency. Craig took us through the stress performance curve, turning it on its head, as well as the physiological stress response. He taught us about mindfulness, where you are just taught to allow your thoughts to be what they are, and contrasted this to cognitive behaviour training, where you are taught to reason about thoughts. He showed us how mindfulness leads to decreased stress, depression, a better focus, less self preoccupation, making better decision, generating empathy and protecting and enhancing our health by increasing our immunity and slowing cell loss. Most importantly, he got us all to experience a dose of mindful training in Craig’s very humble manner.

Matthew Lieberman and David Rock – ‘Cool under pressure’

Matthew Lieberman & David RockThis session involved presentations by both David Rock and Matthew Lieberman. Through a selection of video clips that David has made from all of his interviews, we heard from a founding father of emotional regulation, James Gross, a founding mother of working memory research Amy Arnsten, and a founding father of social neuroscience, Kevin Ochsner, all by pre-recorded video. Both Amy and Kevin will be presenting live in NYC.

Some of the big insights from this session included:

  • Mindful awareness being the opposite of our tendency towards autopilot – training our mind to switch between the narrative type of thinking we do and the directive type of thinking we do
  • Labeling emotions to decrease their power, however people predict the opposite
  • Why CEO’s freeze in their decision making when they are overloaded and facing uncertainty as well as the pressure to succeed
  • Reappraisal as an essential and learned skill at the heart of our ability to focus attention in the right ways. Most of us, however, tend to either express emotion or even more, we suppress emotion, which will cause memory loss and will also cause others to be uncomfortable around you despite the fact that you are not even outwardly showing the emotion.
Matthew Lieberman – ‘Getting on with others’

Mathew LiebermanMatthew’s speech over our second dinner was, as he would continue to show us, incredibly entertaining and provocative. He covered how social pain really is very similar to physical pain. He then covered areas that included how reward works for us, and the work that he and his wife have collaborated on about what happens in our mind when we feel left out. He spoke to us about moral reasoning and the power of message propagation. Mostly, he impressed us with how adept he was in “speaking English” to non-neuroscientists – making it pragmatic and instantly applicable to the business world.

Evian Gordon

Evian took us through the unconscious processes in decision making, starting first with the description of the work he has been doing for the last 20 years, collecting research from all layers of the neuroscience community in order to integrate knowledge across molecular researcEvian Gordonh, genetic research, neuron, physiology, morphology, functional neuroscience, social neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, neurotransmitter research, etc. He spoke about the significant shift we are seeing from getting caught up with spatial regions and specialized networks to the new work that is more akin to understanding the brain temporally through understanding how it adapts and affects the whole of the body by examining timing, interactions, and dynamics. The model he took us of decision making centred around linking the non-conscious processes with the conscious processes in order to self regulate. Look forward to seeing Evian present again in New York. The work he has done around integration is absolutely fantastic.

Norman Doidge

Norman DoidgeNorman took us through the basic tenets of his beautifully written book The Brain that Changes Itself, regaling us of the amazing sights he had seen in the patients he worked with, blind people who taught their brains to see again, deaf people who rewired their Norman Doidgebrains to allow hearing, etc. He elegantly took us through the proof that the brain is actually not a stagnant machine (“neurological nihilism”), which started with Socrates “I can train the organ of thought” right up to the research coming out of fMRI. We enjoyed his analogy of different networks in our brain being in constant competition for real estate, and he talked about how much there is to learn that we will be able to apply to learning disorders.

Educational panel

Education Panel
Leadership panel

In the Leadership Panel, Katharine McLennan facilitated the speakers of Evian Gordon (introduced above), Professor Bob Wood from the Accelerated Learning laboratory at University of New South Wales and Craig Hassed (introduced above). Leadership PanelThe panel talked quite a bit about what the definition of leadership was at first (with a great definition put forth as “the need to ascribe control to human events retrospectively”) and how important self-directed neuroplasticity (otherwise known as self-learning) was in leadership development. The notion of “presence” in leadership was covered as we began to talk about what is behind “charisma” and wondered if it could be explained neuroscientifically. We also talked about some of the trends in leadership development that begin to encroach upon “neuroleadership” – i.e. McKinsey’s “high performance mind training”—a fancy to say meditation for leadership. Bob also took us through his work in the working memory and the long term memory, likening them to a gate (very small) and a large paddock, respectively. One of the most important aspects of leadership and mind training was the ability to discern: the ability to determine what was important and what was not through mindfulness.

Cool under pressure panel

Cool Under Pressure Panel
This panel, facilitated by Anne Riches, included several practitioners, and pain scientist Lorimer Mosely from Oxford University.
Culture panel

Hamish McMaster facilitated the panel on the brain/mind and culture, which was sponsored by Booz & Co and had Victoria Sherwood, Art Kleiner, Dani Fraillon from Mettle, Matt Lieberman, Sophie Crawford-Jones from PwC and Matt Ayres from AMP on it. Culture PanelThe focus of this panel was about what it takes for collectives to effect behavioural change and there was much facilitated dialogue among the participants about interventions that result in long-term sustainable cultural change. Matt Lieberman’s learnings from social neuroscience certainly began to be applied here, especially around reward, inclusion, and status. It was fascinating also to hear from Matt Ayres about what AMP was doing to change culture around innovation and leadership and Sophie Crawford-Jones on how PwC was beginning to explore neuroleadership.

Coaching panel
Led by coaching researcher Linda Page from Canada, the panel included Lea Williams, who has a paper in the upcoming NeuroLeadership Journal, featuring a specific case study. Also Ruth Donde, Regional Manager for New Zealand for Results Coaching, talking about teaching leaders a brain based approach to coaching.

Coaching Panel
Nestor Braidot
Nestor presented the work he is doing to integrate neurosciences with business consulting across Argentina and Spain. He spoke to us about motivation and how it can be understood by understanding the brain through our expectation of reward, our mental fatigue, our perception of injustice, our frustration with reward omission, our status and our general tendency towards fear.

Carlos Raimundo

Carlos ran a session in his play of life' technology, which directly alters the limbic system response to situations, bypassing normal dialogue based frameworks. Interesting experiential application of the science.

More Resources:

With Thanks To:

  • Katharine McLennan
  • Keynote speakers
  • Panelists and facilitators
  • The sponsors
  • Summit team

Monday, September 01, 2008

September 08 Update

Hi everyone,

The big news right now is a fantastic article in the New Yorker Magazine, that summarizes the science emerging within one of my favourite areas of study, insight. Written by Jonah Lehrer, with interviews with Mark Jung-Beeman, the article is a must-read for anyone interested in the brain and leadership, innovation, coaching and change. To me insight is at the heart of change, and real change has an insight at the core. Download the article here.

I also recently interviewed Jonah about his current book, and he is speaking in NYC at the NeuroLeadership Summit. He will be running a session with Mark Jung-Beeman, along with one of the founders of the Blueman Group, all about the science of insight. You can listen to the 30 minute interview here.

One of the most fun parts of what I do is getting to spend time with some incredibly smart people, and Jonah is one of these for sure. Jonah also runs the best blog in the world for people interested in the latest neuroscience research. It's called the Frontal Cortex, and it's well worth diving into.

There was a great article in the Sydney Morning Herald recently about the NeuroLeadership field, a full page story with photos.

I am about to dive into the first of the two Neuroleadership summits. The programs are all finalized, you can dowload them on the neuroleadership site. Am also excited to be editing the first neuroleadership journal, which will come out around the NYC Summit at the end of October. We have over a dozen papers rich in insights and ideas coming together. I am publishing a paper on Influencing Others, with a summary of some of the key social neuroscience research.

Between the two summits I will be visiting Oxford University to give a talk, and spending time at CIMBA in Asolo, Italy, where I am on faculty. I look forward to working with a new group of MBA students, introducing them to the key findings from neuroscience as they start their year long MBA. It's exciting to be part of the team at CIMBA building a brain-based MBA for future leaders.

On the commercial side, I am pleased to see my consulting firm Results Coaching Systems growing steadily, with operations now in Eastern Europe, and about to open in Latin America. We are thrilled to be working with some great organizations in over 10 countries now, helping to build coaching cultures using a brain-based approach to coaching. The project we ran with EDS, developing coaching skills in over 3,000 leaders, is continuing to deepen. If anyone is interested in a case study on this I will email it out on request.

One thing I know for sure is that knowing about the brain is proving to be tremendously useful for staying cool under pressure amongst the chaos that is life. The more I am learning, the easier it is to catch debilitating patterns before they take hold. As a paper I read this week said, (by Craig Hassed who is teaching mindfulness to medical students), there are lots of trains of thought your mind travels along. I believe that knowing about your brain gives you more ability to choose which train to get onto, and more importantly, which to stay off.

That's about it for now. Please feel free to email me,, with any feedback about what you find useful or meaningful in this blog.

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