Alternatives to Executive Decision-Making

August 19, 2009

A number of articles from the latest What’s Emerging  newsletter from Paul at Emergent Futures piqued my interest in the combined topics of decision-making, Powerpoint and creativity.

The first article describes the views of a retired Marine Corps officer who laments the rise in the use of Powerpoint for decision-making by corporate and government leaders.  He claims that the use of powerpoint dumbs down complex topics into simple bullet points, forcing the decision-makers into perusing lots of information of dubious quality to make quick decisions.  Organisations that favour powerpoint breed a culture of having their leaders make more and more and faster decisions which often would be better made at a lower hierarchical level and  which could end up being wrong.  In the past, complex issues would be distilled into briefs that would analyse the topic and provide the decision-maker with time to consider their decision, and offer them the chance to “sleep on it”.

And sleeping on it increases the chance of successfully solving problems as research in this second article finds. Not just any problem but particularly those problems that are new and require creative problem-solving. And not just  sleep but REM sleep is required with the researchers believing that this allows the brain to form new nerve connections without the interference of other thought pathways that occur when we are awake or in non-dream-state sleep.

And so finally, the issue of creativity leads to the last article which explores creative people who Gordon Torr highlights have different biology (they think differently in a less inhibited, more dreamlike and weird manner), different motivation (ideas and expression are more important than money) and different personalities (impulsive, sensitive and ambitious). This is often a totally different character set to that of many senior managers who are often more controlling and target-oriented.

So if we are seeking creative solutions to problems by our decision-makers, many of us are using the wrong instrument.  Managers need to be more receptive to creative solutions and encourage an environment that requires them to make less decisions and focus their attention on the more important decisions.  Can you see your senior manager doing that?

So next time you are asked to prepare a Powerpoint for a decision-making meeting, suggest an alternative tack and prepare a considered two page brief, proffer creative solutions, and let the manager consider the paper well before the meeting. The major problem you are likely to face is if they can make the time to read it before the meeting!

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Neuroscience of Leadership

July 11, 2009

And continuing on this theme from my last post on brain science and leadership, I read the paper from Rock and Schwartz on the Neuroscience of Leadership.  Some great points, particularly that behaviourism and humanism are overrated management approaches and that the preferred model of leadership is to encourage people to work out the solutions on their own.  This is not just about empowerment but actively working with people’s brains to harness the energy that is created when problems are solved.  Brains are pattern making organs with an innate desire to create novel connections and can undergo significant change in response to new environmental signals.  The paper states that the key is to focus attention on desirable practices and behaviours as then, the brain changes its physiology to meet the new pattern.  Leave the problem behaviours in the past and focus on identifying and creating new behaviours. 

Overcoming resistance to change is easier when the brain goes through the moment of insight when new connections are created.  But that is not all.  Training may yield these insights but the addition of follow-up coaching helps to embed the insights that occurred in the training session into the brain. 

Many old adages came to mind while reading the article.  Practice makes perfect was one.  Be the change you want to see was another.  Definitely “food for thought!”


Leadership vs Management: that old question

January 31, 2008

I am designing a conference program at the moment around the topic of leadership.  Looking around, i noticed this little quote by Steve Denning:

Managers are expected to accept whatever the organization wants and to make that happen. By contrast, leaders often challenge what the organization says it wants and create new goals.

That’s a nice little distinction that I am sure to use time and time again.