Maximizing cognitive potential

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First, go and read this article by Andrea Kuszewski (quite long, but well worth it – I'll wait):
You can increase your intelligence: 5 ways to maximize your cognitive potential

Great article, huh? For those who didn't have time to go and read it, here's the condensed version:

1. Fluid intelligence is trainable.
2. The more you train, the more you gain.
3. Anyone can increase their cognitive ability, no matter what your starting point is.
4. The effect can be gained by training on tasks that don’t resemble the test questions.

We can do this by applying five principles:

1. Seek Novelty
2. Challenge Yourself
3. Think Creatively
4. Do Things The Hard Way
5. Network

These principles aren't just a random guru's thought bubble, but scientifically validated through experimentation. Now the concept that really struck home with me in this article was the idea of crystallized and fluid intelligence.

These are psychological terms about the individual that resonate strongly with our theoretical constructs of knowledge in organisations in KM. From the Wikipedia article:

Fluid intelligence ... is the capacity to think logically and solve problems in novel situations, independent of acquired knowledge ... Crystallized intelligence is the ability to use skills, knowledge, and experience. It should not be equated with memory or knowledge, but it does rely on accessing information from long-term memory ... The terms are somewhat misleading because one is not a "crystallized" form of the other. Rather, they are believed to be separate neural and mental systems. (my emphasis)

Lastly, let me quote Kuszewski again on an experiment carried out by Richard Haier:

... after training for several weeks on the game Tetris, the subjects experienced an increase in cortical thickness, [an] increase in cortical activity, [and an] increase in how much glucose was used in that area of the brain ... which means more neural connections, or new learned expertise ...

Here’s the thing: After that initial explosion of cognitive growth, they noticed a decline in both cortical thickness, as well as the amount of glucose used during that task. However, they remained just as good at Tetris; their skill did not decrease ... Why the drop? ... Once their brain figured out how to play Tetris ... it got lazy.

So, the takeaway for me is that fluid intelligence – in organisational terms our resilience – relies on constantly learning new things.

This adds urgency to the need to innovate: no innovation means no resilience, which means that as soon as your environment changes, you are toast. Empirically we see this happening over and over again to top companies in an industry.

It also places a new twist on what it means to be the market leader of a segment: any organisation is expected to fail when in the #1 position unless they can artificially drive themselves into novel and creative situations.

Did you know...

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