Brain Implants for our Future Leadership?

Are we seriously suggesting a brain implant for our future leaders to help them get ahead?

Prominent business leaders like Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM and Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon agree artificial intelligence will impact decision making within the next 20 years.

But, they do not suggest it is the sole leadership quality to create a thriving organization.

Yet Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, implies CEOs and senior leaders will have to be super-Einsteins to cope in the age of artificial intelligence. Last month, he suggested we will need a ‘neural lace’ implant to keep up with the data processing of sophisticated computers.

The reality is that neuroprosthetics are currently being used, but for different purposes. For example, they are used to restore connections in the brain that have been severed by trauma.

So, why would healthy individuals need an implant?

Musk’s suggestion implies:

  • Processing speed in the brain is fixed

  • A hardware/software distinction can be made with respect to the brain

  • Success is determined by the speed of data assimilation

Undoubtedly, CEOs have to rapidly assimilate data. But, as The River Group’s CEO Study Exchanges 16 emphasizes, an appetite and aptitude for learning and resilience are more important.

The seventy-five CEOs interviewed for that study agreed that cognitive intelligence, formal learning, and experience had enabled them to secure the role. But the real test was the capacity to learn on the job.

They were prepared to accept that mistakes are made and saw this as an opportunity for reassessment not blame. In short—human qualities.

In future, what will set high potentials apart from others is a catalytic learning capability not a ‘chip’ in the head.

Individuals who have the capacity to scan for new ideas, the cognitive capability to absorb them, and the common sense to translate that new learning into productive action for customers will continue to make the difference.

The emphasis on cognitive intelligence and academic excellence is a convenient yardstick for graduate recruitment but it does not necessarily identify potential as this requires a different mindset.

Cognitive neuroscience models show that beliefs can influence learning success. Leaders who believe intelligence is a ‘hard-wired’ and fixed entity emphasize ‘performance goals’, which leaves individuals vulnerable to negative feedback and likely to disengage from challenging learning opportunities.

Whereas leaders who believe intelligence is malleable tend to emphasize ‘learning goals’ which enable individuals to rebound better and faster from occasional failures.

The challenge for organizations is to determine how best to nurture these beliefs.


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