Posted by: Katherine Raleigh
Programme Manager on Mon 27 Mar

Welcome to the latest in a series of brief interviews with guest experts from KnowledgeBrief’s Innovation Programmes, providing a window into the experts’ latest ideas and new advice for executives.

Following the Innovation Day in March, Jeanne Meinholt, Senior Researcher at KnowledgeBrief (KB), interviewed Dr. Marcello Malavasi (MM), Cognitive Neuroscientist, to discuss how to successfully interact with the complexity of human mindsets in the workplace.

KB: What’s the key business challenge that organisations need to address, that your research tackles?

MM: Cognitive neuroscience is interested in the way we think and interact with others, so the field of applications is potentially very large… I noticed a common trend among organisations from different sectors and geographies: a call for action based on mindset. The information age and the economy of knowledge are converging towards the difference we can make with our specific, individual talent and expertise. Management interventions that address a non-descript workforce are exposing all their weakness. Successful strategies, on the contrary, require a direct communication with the personal, high-level cognition of the employees. For this reason, I focus on change, innovation, and engagement. These are key strategic drivers and the only way to implement them successfully is by interacting appropriately with the complexity of human mindsets.

KB: What advice would you give to executives, based on your findings?

MM: It’s a huge investment of resources, not only financial, to engage the mindset of the employees. In comparison, treating them like cogs in a machine, like receiver of information and executor of commands is so much easier and cheaper. And the results can speak for themselves: catastrophic change implementations, completely flat creativity and innovation, total disengagement. Given this assumption, it is always worth it to tap the huge, infinite potential of human mindsets. Imagine the level of adaptation and flexibility in your change plan, the level of constant creativity and the total participation in your strategy if you could have a human brain fully committed to your strategy. Now I guess it’s pretty obvious that the investment will pay off.

KB: How does your latest research approach this? What do the results indicate?

MM: Human brains are not working in isolation. People are naturally connected and they are always looking to express their full potential. It’s only when we frame them in artificial silos, when we artificially disconnect people from their interests and their passion, that we disengage attention and creativity. Everything we try to fix at work was broken by artificial, unnecessary procedures. Best practices in neuroscience are simply restoring the natural performances of the human brain.

KB: What did you learn or take away from meeting with the executives in the KnowledgeBrief Innovation Programmes?

MM: The need for thinking. There is a clear and strong demand to explore new territories and to look for space where you can stop and ask questions, reflect, and then act. There is clearly a lot of pressure to combine performance with well-being, and efficiency with creativity.


With thanks to Dr. Marcello Malavasi, Cognitive Neuroscientist from University of Venice, and Learning Solutions Lead at KnowledgeBrief.

Next month, KnowledgeBrief will be talking to Dr. Rachel Doern, Goldsmiths University of London, on how organisations can be crisis prepared. Find out more here.

Part of a series of brief interviews with expert guests from our Innovation Programmes, we cover insights from the latest research and key advice for executives to stay ahead in management and innovation.

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