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顶尖管理者如何做决策?

更新时间:2014-5-12 11:44:25 来源:华尔街日报中文网 作者:佚名

The Inner Workings of the Executive Brain
顶尖管理者如何做决策?

Take much of what you know about how the best executives make decisions. Now, forget it.

For instance, we all 'know' that tight deadlines lead to inspiration. Except they often don't. Instead, they typically are counterproductive-making people less creative precisely when they need to be. Or most of us assume that when we try to solve problems, we're drawing on the logical parts of our brains. But, in fact, great strategists seem to draw on the emotional and intuitive parts of their brain much more.

These are some of the insights coming from the world of neuroimaging, where scientists use sophisticated machines to map what's going on inside the brain when people do jobs or ponder problems. The work is still in its early stages, but even now it offers an extraordinary opportunity that wasn't possible before.

Researchers can now see how people's brains react to a situation-a process that, obviously, the subjects themselves can't see, let alone explain. That promises to provide a much clearer view of how leaders make good choices, and how other people can learn to follow their example.

Here's a closer look at some of the discoveries researchers have made.

Want Innovation? Be Wary of Deadlines
We often think a deadline can help us shake off inertia and focus on getting a job done. But the brain research suggests precisely the opposite is true. A deadline, instead, more often limits our thinking and can lead to much worse decision making.

Richard Boyatzis -along with colleague Anthony Jack and others-has found that a tight deadline increases people's urgency and stress levels. These people show more activity in the brain's 'task positive' network, which we use for problem solving. But it's not the part of the brain that comes up with original ideas.

'The research shows us that the more stressful a deadline is, the less open you are to other ways of approaching the problem,' says Dr. Boyatzis, a professor in the departments of organizational behavior, psychology and cognitive science at Case Western Reserve University. 'The very moments when in organizations we want people to think outside the box, they can't even see the box.'

For example, an IT manager being pushed to launch a new software product quickly might rush to get all the bugs fixed. With less pressure, he or she might have taken a step back, asked why all those problems were cropping up in the first place, and come up with a completely different approach to writing the code that worked more smoothly and didn't produce the glitches.

Does that mean companies should get rid of deadlines? In most cases, that's not realistic. So Srini Pillay, an assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School and founder of the coaching firm NeuroBusiness Group, suggests that companies help employees reduce stress and access the creative parts of the brain even when they're under pressure.

One such technique is learning to let the mind wander, with exercises like meditation. In that mental state, the creative part of the brain tends to be active. 'When people hit a wall in their thinking, in general they start thinking harder,' says Dr. Pillay. 'What the neuroscience research tells us is that it's more important to think differently.'

Big Unknowns Lead to Bad Choices
The ticking clock of a deadline isn't the only kind of pressure that makes for bad decisions. So does uncertainty, such as feeling that your job or your company's future is under threat.
Dr. Pillay cites a study that discovered that feelings of uncertainty activated brain centers associated with anxiety and disgust, and that such concerns naturally lead to certain kinds of decisions. 'In times of uncertainty,' he says, 'you start acting out of that sense of doom and gloom.'

The problem, he says, is that the study also showed that 75% of people in uncertain situations erroneously predicted that bad things would happen. So the reactions and decisions that were made based on fear and anxiety could turn out to be exactly the wrong moves.

Let's say a company is having a rough time navigating the weak economy. A manager who's mired in doom-and-gloom thinking might be too pessimistic to hire new staff or invest in new equipment. But those might be exactly the moves the company needs to gain ground on competitors.

Given that uncertainty is a hallmark of many modern workplaces, the solution lies not in trying to avoid it, but in learning to accept it. 'It's important to be aware that your response is likely to be an exaggeration,' Dr. Pillay says.

Dr. Pillay recently coached executives at a large energy company on making decisions amid uncertainty, and focused on helping them understand that no decision is final-if circumstances change, you can always re-evaluate it later. That can take the pressure off, he says, and free people to act. Simply being aware of your tendency to embrace doom-and-gloom thinking in uncertain situations, and consciously countering it by reframing an issue in more positive terms, can also be effective.

Good Thinkers Look Past Facts
Everybody is aware of the classic-and revered-image of the hardheaded decision maker, who cuts through nonessentials and goes after cold facts. But researchers are finding the truth is much more complex: The best leaders seem to lean on their emotions much more than logic.

Roderick Gilkey, a professor of management and associate professor of psychiatry at Emory University, conducted a study with colleagues to look at what happens when executives are making strategic decisions. They gave a group of midcareer executives a set of management scenarios and asked for their analysis and recommendations, then scanned their brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging while they completed the tasks.

They expected to see a lot of activity in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain known for its involvement in things like planning and logical reasoning. There was activity there, but different areas of the brain were dominant-those involved in social and emotional thinking. And the more adept strategic thinkers in the group displayed much higher levels of activity in these areas.

'The potential conclusion is that people who are good at strategy are better at sensing or feeling their way through strategies, rather than relying only on logic and being rational,' says David Rock, director of the research organization NeuroLeadership Institute.

For example, the average manager tasked with improving a business's profit margins might embark on a cost-cutting program including layoffs, and would dismiss any emotional reaction as weakness. A good strategic thinker would pay attention to those emotions and think through the full, long-term impact of the cuts on things like employee morale, retention and productivity. The result might be a different way of improving profitability.

The research ties in with findings from other neuroimaging studies, showing that social and analytical thinking make use of very different areas of the brain, and that social thinking plays a more important role than previously thought. In other words, having a good capacity to look at a problem through other people's eyes is just as important as being able to analyze the facts.

An average leader, for instance, trying to execute a controversial new strategy might assume that it's enough to tell the team what needs to happen, without recognizing that they may feel their status has been attacked by being left out of the discussions. An exceptional leader would instinctively recognize the need to get everyone on board and not simply present a fiat.

'When you're making a decision in an organization, you also need to think about people and their reactions,' says Dr. Rock. 'A lot of the strategies that go wrong are because managers haven't thought through what happens when this hits people.'

The problem is that most people don't switch very effectively between the social and analytical modes of thinking. 'Our brain is certainly capable of switching back and forth, but we don't actually do it that much. When we get into a particular mind-set, it tends to be reinforcing,' says Matthew Lieberman, professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

He says that simple reminders can help. If you're in a meeting, for example, and know that you tend to get caught up in numbers and analysis, you could have prompts in your notes reminding you to take the social temperature of the room at regular intervals.

Leaders Should Stay Positive
Another area of research goes beyond decision making and looks at how good leaders inspire others-from looking at both the leaders and those they are leading. The secret seems to be the carrot rather than the stick.

Dr. Boyatzis and others have done brain scans looking at what happens when people recall their interactions with an effective leader. The patterns were very similar to those found in another study in which people were given positive coaching. Areas of the brain involved in social thinking were activated, along with areas associated with positive emotions.

The best leaders, it seems, are good at motivating people with things like encouragement, praise and rewards-thereby creating a strong emotional bond and sense of purpose among employees.

'We still have this lingering thought that you have to be negative and tough to get things done, when the data says that's just not true at a very basic human level,' Dr. Boyatzis says. 'It's not to do with gender or cultural differences or anything else. It has to do with how your brain is wired.'

Meanwhile, other researchers are investigating the inner workings of the leaders themselves. David Waldman, a management professor at Arizona State University, has worked with Pierre Balthazard and other colleagues to do brain-imaging studies on corporate executives, entrepreneurs and army officers. Their aim is to find out how electrical brain functioning differs in effective and not-so-effective leaders.

One of their findings has to do with inspirational leadership-the ability to articulate a vision that inspires people and makes them buy into your strategy. Not only can these people see the big picture, but they can put that picture into clear words and impart it to others.

Crucially, researchers have found that those abilities are closely tied to connections between certain parts of the brain. Good leaders seem to make those connections naturally, while less effective ones don't.

Now Dr. Waldman and his colleagues are trying to apply that knowledge by training people to access those regions of the brain. The process involves neurofeedback, a technique that trains the brain to learn new processes. A computer monitors people's brain patterns as they observe activity on a screen, such as a movie. Then the computer gives people positive or negative reinforcement.

If the people aren't displaying the desired brain patterns, for example, the screen they're watching may go fuzzy. When they do display the right brain patterns, it becomes sharp again. Gradually, people's brains learn to follow the patterns that are positively reinforced.

The theory is that by the end of the training, people's brains will access those visionary-leadership areas naturally-and, with any luck, make it easier for them to inspire people more easily.

'We are right on the cusp of being able to assist leaders to rewire their own brains through neurofeedback,' says Dr. Waldman. 'It's based on a lot of research, and the idea is to identify patterns of brain activity that are reflective of a better leader, then give direct computer training to help people develop those patterns for themselves.'

He says the technique is already being used in other fields, such as treating attention-deficit disorder. But neurofeedback still needs more research before researchers can be sure it will work in developing leadership ability. Even if it does, it will most likely need to be used in conjunction with more traditional techniques, such as coaching.

'We think this could be something that becomes an important part of the arsenal of techniques in leadership development,' he says.

你知道顶尖管理者是如何做决策的吗?现在,把你了解的那些东西都抛到脑后吧。

比方说,我们都“知道”,紧迫的期限能给人带来灵感。可惜事实常常并非如此。紧迫的期限往往还会产生事与愿违的后果——在最关键的时刻削弱人的创造力。另外,大多数人都以为,在解决问题时,我们依靠的是大脑中控制逻辑推理的区域。而事实上,顶尖战略家似乎会更多地依靠大脑中控制情绪和直觉的区域。

以上是神经影像学带给我们的一些洞见。从事神经影像学的科学家会运用复杂的仪器来绘制人们工作或思考问题时脑部活动的影像。该领域的研究现在虽然尚处起步阶段,但已经为我们提供了前所未有的绝佳机遇。

研究人员现在可以看到人脑如何对某些情况做出反应——这一过程研究对象本人显然无法看到,更别说进行解释了。相关研究有望让我们更好地了解领导者如何做出明智选择以及普通人怎样从中汲取经验。

下面让我们更深入地探讨研究人员的部分发现。

紧迫的期限无助于创新

我们常常以为,定一个最后期限能帮助我们克服惰性并专注地完成工作。但对大脑的研究却显示实际情况恰恰相反。紧迫的期限在更多时候会限制我们的思维,使决策质量大大下降。

凯斯西储大学(Case Western Reserve University)组织行为学、心理学和认知科学系教授理查德·博亚齐斯(Richard Boyatzis)和同事安东尼·杰克(Anthony Jack)以及其他研究者发现,紧张的期限会使人的紧迫感和心理压力加剧。在这种状态下,研究对象大脑中负责解决问题的“任务正激活”(task positive)网络会比较活跃。但这并不是大脑中产生新颍创意的区域。

博亚齐斯博士表示:“研究显示,期限越紧,你就越难想到解决问题的其他途径。在这种情况下,我们想让组织中的成员‘跳出盒子思考’,他们却连‘盒子’都看不到。”

比方说,如果一名IT经理要赶着推出新款软件产品,这名经理也许会急于修复所有漏洞。但如果压力没那么大,这位经理也许就会后退一步,问问自己究竟为什么会出现这些问题,然后采用完全不同的处理方式,去编写运行更顺畅,从源头上杜绝这些漏洞的代码。

那么,这是否意味着公司应该取消最后期限呢?在多数情况下,这是不现实的。因此,哈佛医学院(Harvard Medical School)助理临床教授、培训公司NeuroBusiness Group创始人西里尼·皮拉伊(Srini Pillay)建议公司帮助员工减压,使他们即使在重压之下仍能“访问”大脑的创意区。

其中一项技巧是通过冥想等练习,学会随意畅想。在这种精神状态下,大脑中的创造力区域往往会活跃起来。皮拉伊博士说:“人们在思考中遇到障碍时,一般会更加绞尽脑汁地思考。而神经科学研究告诉我们,换种思维方式更重要。”

不确定感会让人做出错误的选择

迫在眉睫的最后期限并不是导致决策失当的唯一一种压力。还有一种压力来自不确定性,比如感觉你的工作或你所在公司的前景面临危机。

皮拉伊博士援引了一项研究来说明这个问题。该研究发现,不确定感会激活脑部与焦虑和厌恶相关的功能中心,而这类担忧会导致人们下意识地做出某种决策。他说:“在不确定的时刻,你会在那种无望感的驱使下行动。”

他说,问题是这项研究还显示,在不确定的环境下,75%的人会错误地预测将有不幸发生。因此,这些建立在恐惧和焦虑之上的反应和决策事实上有可能是完全错误的。

我们假设有一家公司因经济形势疲软而遇到了一些困难。管理者如果陷入这种危困思维,则可能会过于悲观,不敢聘用新员工或投资新设备,而该公司也许恰恰需要通过这些行动来获得竞争优势。

鉴于不确定性是现代社会许多工作场所的共同特征,因此解决方案不在于如何规避不确定性,而在于学会去接纳。皮拉伊博士说:“应该认识到你的反应可能过激了。”

皮拉伊近期对一家大型能源公司的高管进行了培训,教他们如何在不确定的形势下制定决策,重点是帮助他们理解任何决策都不是铁板钉钉的——如果之后情况发生变化,你一直都有机会重估决策。他说,这样能减轻压力,让人们敢于放手去做。另外还有一种有效的方法,就是要认识到你往往会在不确定的情况下采取危困思维,然后有意识地转换思维,从更积极的角度看待问题。

善于决策的人不拘泥于事实

每个人心中都有一个经典而且令人肃然起敬的决策者形象,这位决策者理智务实,能穿透细枝末节,追求事实真相。但研究人员发现,实际情况其实比这复杂得多:最出色的领导者似乎更依赖感性思维,而不是逻辑。

埃默里大学(Emory University)的管理学教授兼精神病学副教授罗德里克·吉尔基(Roderick Gilkey)与同事共同展开了一项研究,考察管理者制定战略决策时的脑部活动。研究人员给一组处于职业生涯中期的高管设置了一系列管理情境,让他们进行分析并给出建议,并在他们处理这些任务时用功能性磁共振成像仪对他们的大脑进行扫描。

研究人员原以为会在参与规划和逻辑推理等活动的前额叶皮质区域观察到大量活动。前额叶皮质区确有活动,但活动主要出现在大脑的其他区域——也就是那些参与社交和感性思维的区域。受试人群中,战略思维能力较强的管理者这些区域的活跃度比其他人要高得多。

研究机构NeuroLeadership Institute的主管戴维·罗克(David Rock)表示:“潜在结论是,善于制定战略的人能够更好地通过感觉或知觉摸索出合适的战略,而不是仅仅依靠逻辑和理性。”

举例来说,普通管理者也许会通过裁员等成本削减措施来提高企业利润率,他们无视一切情绪反应,将其视为弱点。而优秀的战略思想家则会关注这些情绪,会充分考虑成本削减措施对员工士气、留存率和生产率等因素产生的全面、长期影响。因此,这些管理者也许会采用不同的方式来提高利润率。

这项研究与其他神经影像学研究的结果是一致的,它们均显示,社交思维和分析思维所运用的大脑区域是完全不同的,社交思维发挥的作用也比人们之前想象的要重要得多。换句话说,善于用他人的视角看问题与具有分析事实的能力是同等重要的。

比方说,在试图执行有争议的新战略时,普通领导者也许以为,只要告诉团队成员需要做些什么就足够了,他们未能认识到,不让团队成员参加讨论可能会让他们感觉自己的地位受到了攻击。而卓越的领导者则会本能地意识到应该把所有人召集到一起讨论,而不是下个命令就完事了。

罗克博士表示:“当你在组织中制定决策时,你还需要考虑组织里的人和他们的反应。许多战略之所以出问题,是因为管理者没有充分考虑决策会对人产生什么影响。”

问题在于,大多数人都无法在社交和分析思维模式之间高效切换。加州大学洛杉矶分校(University of California, Los Angeles)的心理学教授马修·利伯曼(Matthew Lieberman)表示:“我们的大脑当然是有能力来回切换的,但实际上我们并不常这样做。当我们陷入一种特定的思维模式,这种模式往往会不断强化。”

他说,只要能适时提醒一下自己就会有所助益。举例来说,如果你知道自己常常陷入数字和分析之中,那么开会时你可以在笔记中做些标记,提醒自己定时关注会议室里的社交氛围。

领导者应该保持积极态度

另一领域的研究超越了决策问题,着重考察优秀的领导者如何激励他人——这些研究从领导者和被领导者两方面进行考察。其中的奥秘似乎是“胡萝卜”,而不是“大棒”。

博亚齐斯博士和其他研究者进行过这样一些研究,他们让研究对象回忆自己与高效领导者的互动交流,并对他们的脑部进行扫描。这些研究对象的脑部活动模式与另一项研究中接受正向心理培训的人所呈现的模式非常类似。大脑中参与社交思维的区域以及与正面情绪相关的区域被激活。

最出色的领导者似乎善于通过鼓励、赞扬和奖励等方式来激励他人,从而与员工建立更紧密的感情纽带,让员工具有更强的目标感。

博亚齐斯博士表示:“我们仍然以为,要把事情做成,就得多否定,还要强硬一些,而数据则显示,就人类本性而言,这种认识是错误的。这无关性别和文化差异或其他因素,而是由我们与生俱来的脑部构造决定的。”

与此同时,还有一些研究者在考察领导者大脑内部的活动。亚利桑那州立大学(Arizona State University)管理学教授戴维·瓦尔德曼(David Waldman)与皮埃尔·巴尔塔扎(Pierre Balthazard)等同事共同对企业管理者、创业者和军官进行过脑部扫描研究。他们的目的是考察高效领导者与逊色一些的领导者脑电功能有何不同。

他们的一项发现与“启发性领导力”有关——“启发性领导力”是一种能清晰表达某种有启发性的愿景,并使战略获得他人认同的能力。这些领导者不仅能纵观全局,而且能把这幅图景用清晰的语言表述出来告诉别人。

研究人员的重要发现是,这些能力在很大程度上取决于大脑特定区域之间的连接。优秀的领导者似乎能自然而然地把这些区域连接起来,而逊色一些的领导者则做不到。

如今,瓦尔德曼及其同事试图运用这一知识,训练人们运用大脑中的这些区域。训练过程包括“神经反馈”(neurofeedback),这是一种训练大脑学习任务处理新过程的方法。一台电脑会在受训者观察屏幕活动(比如电影)时监测他们的脑部活动模式,然后给予正强化或负强化。

举例来说,如果受训者的大脑没有呈现出目标模式,他们观看的屏幕就会变模糊。当他们呈现出正确的脑部活动模式时,屏幕又会重新变清晰。这样一来,受训者的大脑就能逐步学会遵循受到正强化的模式。

根据理论,到训练完成时,受训者的大脑将能够自然而然地启动这些“启发性领导力”区域——研究者希望这能够帮助他们更好地启发别人。

瓦尔德曼博士称:“我们已经开始能够通过神经反馈训练帮助领导者重构他们的大脑了。这种方法建立在大量的研究之上,主要思想是识别出优秀领导者特有的脑部活动模式,然后用电脑对人们进行直接的训练,以帮助他们建立这类思维模式。”

他说,这种方法在其他领域已有应用,比如用于治疗注意力缺失症。但我们仍须对神经反馈进行更多研究,才能确定这种方法是否真的有助于培养领导能力。即便神经反馈真的有助于培养领导力,我们多半也需要将其与培训等比较传统的手段结合在一起。

他说:“我们认为,神经反馈可望成为领导力培养方法中一个重要组成部分。”

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