GUEST COMMENT: A job specification based on the ideal brain for a person working in investment banking

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How banks subtly work on your brain

The following hypothetical person spec is based on research from neuroscience about decision-making, attention, memory and learning – all being key components of performance.

  • A committed single-tasker who is able to focus his/her brain on only one task at a time, being aware that divided attention impacts quality of work through dual-task interference which reduces cognitive capacity to that of an eight-year-old.
  • A person who deals with emails only at scheduled times to ensure undivided focus on other energy-intensive tasks.
  • A person with a strong right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (the brain’s “braking system”) who is able to say no to distractions.
  • An individual who spaces out and revisits work instead of cramming for optimal long-term learning.
  • Someone who prioritises the day strategically rather than responding to ad hoc demands.
  • A person who can appropriate information, putting their own stamp on it, in order to ensure maximum recall through activation of the hippocampus during encoding.
  • An individual who can take ownership of company objectives, introducing an element of “generation” to goals set by others in order to ensure maximum by-in and effectiveness.
  • Somebody who takes a conscious lunch break outside the office and conserves his/her limited energy for higher cognitive functions by taking regular breaks from thinking.
  • A person mindful of his/her limited capacity for decision-making who conserves this resource whenever not consciously working on it.
  • An individual with a positive outlook who is aware that positive affect enables performance as emotion facilitates memory through the rich connectivity between the two brain regions for emotions (amygdala) and memory (hippocampus).

Some of the attributes and behaviours listed above fly in the face of current practice in banking as they challenge common misconceptions about our brain. In reality, our capacity for planning and decision-making is a limited resource that depletes with use, multi-tasking is a myth that backfires and high performance can only be achieved a fraction of the time that bankers actually spend in the office. The current crisis is a perfect opportunity to reconsider how banks do business. Dr Clara E Seeger is a NeuroLeadership expert with a background in Investment Banking. She helps finance professionals create more meaning in their work, thus increasing performance. Her methodology is brain-based, building on research from neuroscience to facilitate positive change.