Scientists working in the US, and just down the road from us at the Oxford University, have just published the most detailed brain scans “the world has ever seen”. They’re part of the Human Connectome Project, created to understand how the brain works and how its structure influences who we are and what we do. Subjects involved in the project had their brain scanned for a total of four hours, assessing their skills and abilities. So far 68 adults have been scanned but the eventual aim is to scan 1,200 people.
The information will be made freely available to neuroscientists in their quest to unlock the secrets of the human brain to understand conditions such as dementia and addiction. But they’ll show exactly how the way our brains are wired determines our personalities and our skills. And this makes them managerial gold dust…
Identifying people’s behavioural strengths and weaknesses in the workplace has previously been the remit of objective personality tests like Belbin or Myers-Briggs. The information gathered can be used to build productive working relationships, select and develop high-performing teams, raise self-awareness and personal effectiveness and build mutual trust and understanding. They’re most frequently used in the recruitment process to ensure an individual is right for a given role or is the missing piece of a jigsaw in a team.
Getting the balance right
Like every creative business, mark-making* is challenged with striking exactly the right balance in our team of ‘great thinkers’ and ‘great do-ers’. Get the balance wrong one way and we’ll have lots of brilliant ideas that aren’t implemented properly. Swing the other way and we’ll have lots of ‘me too’ creativity very efficiently delivered. So our team is made up of a mixture of innovators and organisers, or what has traditionally been differentiated as left-brain and right-brain thinkers.
What makes these new scans so exciting is that they are essentially a wiring diagram for each individual’s brain. They show both a ‘structural map’ (how well different parts are connected by nerve fibres) and a ‘functional map’ – which parts of the brain are activated for particular tasks. The structural map has already revealed that the brain has a different connection for people who like taking risks and those who like playing it safe. They show up the differences that make each person unique.
Can you imagine having to upload images of your brain scan to your LinkedIn profile? Or attach 3D prints of your brain’s wiring when sending your CV to employers?
It appears this breakthrough will be some time before it can be used in the boardroom though… The brain scanner’s magnets need 22MW of electricity – enough to power a nuclear submarine. Then there’s the sheer complexity of the data and the ensuing processing and analysis of the information. Finally the images just released of the 68 subjects take up about two terabytes of computer memory, which is two thousand billion bytes, enough to fill several hundred DVDs.
So until brain maps are widely available to everyone we’ll continue to rely on the other tried and trusted processes when building our team, such as rigorous interviews, psychometric testing – and a degree of instinct honed over 18 years in business.
Image courtesy of the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at UCLA and Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH, Consortium of the Human Connectome Project