Neuroscience has become quite the talking point lately, generating great interest among leaders and managers because it shows that leadership can be learned.
In essence, neuroscience is the study of the development, structures and functions of the nervous system which includes the brain. It is beginning to shed some light on how the brain works and what processes might underlie some behaviours, beliefs and attitudes. For the first time, there is evidence that challenges, confirms or questions some of the experiential and common sense knowledge we have about human learning and behaviour generally – but more specifically it provides insights into the brains of managers and leaders.
A key finding is the extent to which the adult brain can change throughout life, connections can be changed by learning and practice. A vivid example is the brain of London black cab drivers, which has a much larger hippocampus than that of ordinary drivers, as a result of studying and then applying, ‘The Knowledge’. Interestingly, that same part of the brain starts to decrease in size in cab drivers about three months into retirement.
In one sense, any learning changes the brain: your brain will have already changed since you started reading this article. The question that really matters especially to HR and training professionals is what enables the brain to change sustainably, so that new, desired behaviours become the default.