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Using cognitive tricks to become a better leader

In Happiness, Inspiration, Leadership - 3 years ago - 3 min

Using cognitive tricks to become a better leader

Using science for better leadership

Turning to science to become better in business may not be as crazy as it first sounds. Learning how your brain responds in stressful situations or how cognitive tricks can overcome a problem will help you improve how you work.

Stress has a big impact in the workplace

Stress is a major factor affecting businesses. In 2013, it cost UK businesses £6.5 billion and 49% of entrepreneurs reported at least one mental health issue. Chronic stress has been found to cause long-term changes to the brain, which can lead to anxiety or mood disorders.

Stress makes you act less rationally, ethically and friendly. Stress hormones are located in areas of the brain connected to goal-orientated behaviour making it harder to achieve the results you want when stressed. You will also become more forgetful, emotional and overestimate positives outcomes of any decision. All of these behaviours are dangerous for business leaders.

Furthermore, when stressed “You go into survival mode – you literally go into tunnel vision and so you stop being able to see possibilities, you stop being able to see possible solutions,” says Corinne Canter, Sydney University of Technology.

So science shows us stress is bad for us – but can science help us become better at business?

Do you want to get that aha! moment faster? Or think more creatively? 

For more creative thinking use the unconscious mind

The unconscious mind does most of your problem solving work. After focusing on solving a problem, you should engage the unconscious by distracting your conscious mind with a different activity. In Canter’s and Dr Stratford’s experiment based on this model of problem solving, 80% of people improved their performance in creative thinking and 63% produced more solutions to their problems. So next time you’re stuck on something, go for a walk, change tasks, get out the office, or do a hobby – the answer will arrive.

more people opt for surgery if they're told there's a 90% survival rate than if they're told there's a 10% mortality rate

Research also shows that if you reframe a problem you will solve it faster- the way in which a question is framed affects the decision we make. Daniel Kahneman cites a study that sets out to illustrate this in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. The research shows that more people opt for surgery if they’re told there’s a 90% survival rate than if they’re told there’s a 10% mortality rate. In order to trick our brain out of its limiting structure we need to reframe a problem- here are three ways to get your brain thinking more creatively.

Rethink the question

Ask different questions about the problem. You will alternate sets of solutions as you rethink the question and frame the problem in a different way.

Challenge the way you see the world

If you challenge the way you see the world, you can think in new ways. Make a list of the ‘facts’ of your problem and dispute them or make them into opposites. If you challenge the assumed, you’ll find creative alternatives.

Brainstorm bad ideas

The pressure to come up with great ideas can hinder creativity. Open up thinking by brainstorming bad ideas. This will get your brain switched on and creativity flowing.

Interested in the rest of our findings? Read the infographic below.

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