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Late last year, the Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article entitled ”This is Your Brain on the Job” that highlighted some innovative work being done by Pierre Balthazard at the Arizona State University. Balthazrad is using brain imaging technology to study brain activity in “visionary” leaders in the hopes of some day being able to train ordinary brains to act like those of leaders. To date what Balthazard has found is that visionary leaders use much higher levels of brain activity than non-visionaries in those areas of the brain associated with visual processing and organization of information.
It is a fascinating concept and it is important to understand that Balthazard is quick to dispel the notion that the idea is “a magic bullet” and that great leaders can simply be manufactured. Instead, he stresses that brain training will be a leadership-development tool.
As I mention in my book, Jump the Curve, brain scanning technology is just one of many fields experiencing exponential growth. What this means, of course, is that everything we know about the brain today—and what it might tell us about leadership—will likely pale in comparison to what scientiests will know in just a few short years. Check out this chart from Ray Kurzweil which shows the rapidly declining cost of brain scanning technology:
Brain imaging technology is already being used in the fields of economics, finance and marketing to uncover new insights; is it any less realistic to think that the technology might not also be used to improve individual’s leadership skills?
Years ago a study conducted by the American Management Association found that the best leaders had a very high tolerance for dealing with ambiguity. I am a firm believer that as a result of the accelerating rate of change in today’s exponential economy, leaders will need to embrace an even higher level of ambiguity tomorrow. If this true then it might very well make sense for executives interested in keeping abreast of these changes to openingly consider this idea of trying to better train the brain—in fact “brain training” could end up being a very useful tool in converting executives into “Exponential Executives.”
Jack Uldrich is a writer, futurist, public speaker and host of jumpthecurve.net. He is the author of seven books, including Jump the Curve and The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business. He is also a frequent speaker on future technology and future trends, nanotechnology, robotics, RFID, innovation, change management and executive leadership to a variety of businesses, industries and non-profit organizations and trade associations.