No quick fixes: A 2010 evaluation of purported ways to maintain or improve cognitive function, conducted for the National Institutes of Health, shows that claims for cognitive enhancers such as vitamins, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, a large social network, statins, estrogen, NSAIDs, or improving blood flow to the brain, are sketchy at best.
It's the same way in the business world. Like diets, business and management fads come and go. Make sure what you're doing serves your customer and your business in the long run. Don't let a one-size-fits-all management fad be a substitute for in-depth management development specific to your business and your market.
Use it or lose it: Practice makes perfect, and conversely, if you don't keep on top of important skills they soon get flabby. Training your memory, reasoning, or speed of processing improves that skill.
The article cites as an example a study finding that London's cab drivers who memorize the city's confusing streets (25,000 of them) have a larger posterior hippocampus, the region that files spatial memories. Conversely, other studies have found that if we rely too heavily on in-vehicle GPS navigation systems, it could be contributing to atrophy of the hippocampus.
The same goes for business. Don't take basic skills for granted. Computers can be a great tool to help counterpeople, sales reps and technicians, but don't let them become a crutch. Training and education are vital.
Attention: One of the strongest findings in neuroscience is that attention is "almost magical" in its ability to physically alter the brain. If you pay attention to something, especially repeatedly, it enlarges the relevant brain region. But skills we're already good at don't make us much smarter, notes the article; we don't pay much attention to them. In contrast, taking up a new, cognitively demanding activity is more likely to boost processing speed and strengthen synapses.
So how does that apply to your business? Take a look this year at tackling something new.
Maybe it's creating or revamping your website, as we report on in this issue.
Maybe it's looking at adding or expanding service capabilities to serve customers challenged by the Department of Transportation's new CSA enforcement regime.
Maybe it's embracing a new way of selling that reverses the flow of information, as we explored in our October/November issue.
Or maybe you want to learn more about politics and how government works so you can effectively help your elected representatives understand how various proposals affect your business and others like it.
While you're contemplating ways you can increase your business smarts in 2011, you can do a few other things that research has shown help improve your brain: meditation; complex videogames that put intense demands on attention skills; and exercise.
Sounds like the basis of a New Year's Resolution to me.
You can e-mail Deborah Lockridge at [email protected] Find her online on Linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/deborahlockridge.
From the January/February 2011 issue of HDAJ.