Fred Housego is London’s most famous taxi driver. He became a TV and radio personality after winning the BBC television quiz Mastermind in 1980.
Fred only had one qualification when he left school, but in doing ‘The Knowledge’ (the process of learning London’s complex road structure) he trained his brain to a high level of cognitive health and developed the healthy neuronal pathways that enabled him to achieve his life goals.
Fred’s story shows that the brain does not just get to a certain stage and then decline. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
With MRI and other scans allowing us to see the brain perform (and to measure its growth and development), we are learning that the brain is like any other organ in the body: it can repair, regrow and regenerate.
This revelation – known as neuroplasticity – has huge implications for managers and organisations.
Increasingly, businesses believe that mental fitness is as important as physical fitness. They want employees in tip-top condition because they know they’ll be more content and resilient to work challenges and will perform to the best of their capabilities.
Equally, professionals are looking for ways to extend their quality and quantity of life. We are living longer and want to maximise our cognitive fitness for as long as we can.
A fully functioning brain is the single most important aspect in this overall health picture.
Improved cognitive health allows you to operate to the highest capacity and reach optimum performance; to become sharp, accurate, confident, precise, attentive, a source of wisdom and a bundle of energy.
It improves leadership and managerial skills.
And, as we’re learning, cognitive health is not fixed. It can improve and decline, like physical health. Regardless of genetic and environmental factors, you can acquire good habits to improve cognition, whatever your age, gender, class or status.
Like brushing your teeth, these habits will become a part of a daily, cognition-improving ritual.
Two recent academic papers* showed that memory was improved among psychiatric patients by playing cognitive improvement games.
People confuse cognition with IQ, but IQ is to cognition what physical strength is to physical health – a small part of a bigger picture.
In essence, cognition is the summation of five key cognitive health domains:
- Executive function (planning and organising, creativity and inhibiting impropriety)
- Working memory (making decisions and problem-solving)
- Episodic memory (recalling events, people, places)
- Attention (focusing on a task)
- Processing speed (responding with speed and accuracy)
These days we can score these five domains, giving us an overall cognition score as well as individual scores for each domain.
What Might This Mean for Management?
Imagine updating your LinkedIn profile and including a cognition rating (we call it ‘MyCQ’ for ‘Cognition Quotient’) nestled between your qualifications and major career achievements.
It would send out a message to employers and partners that you’re not only clued up enough to know your cognition quotient, you even promote it as a defining feature – a measure of your mental acuity.
In a brutally competitive business environment, this could be your point of differentiation.
* The European College of Neuropsychopharmacology’s 28th annual congress published two MyCognition abstracts on cognitive health.
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