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The cognitive revolution

Author  |  Ethan Glessich
3 mins

Utilising Cutting-Edge Cognitive Science to Transform Business Performance

Our cognitive capabilities are what separate humans from all other species on the planet. Our ability to think, to plan, to problem solve, to imagine a better future and to strive for it. It’s these capabilities that have enabled humans to become the dominant species on the planet. Yet at the same time, our advanced cognitive brain has some monumental limitations.

We bump into these limitations constantly throughout the day. We forget to take the chicken out of the freezer, or forget to send that email or loved one’s birthday. We struggle to focus, or get distracted by the noises around us, or the thoughts in our head. We make uncanny decisions that, at a later date, we ourselves often struggle to understand why or how we made them.

While we don’t place much significance on these events at the time, these limitations sit in the shadows, wreaking havoc in our lives and businesses. They see us build brilliant strategies only to watch them fail or stall in execution. They see us create perfect to-do lists, only to finish the day with the same items still incomplete. They see us strive for happy, fulfilled lives, yet struggle to stay connected to the present moment, to the people around us, to our inner calm.

For the first time in human history, we have the knowledge at our fingertips to overcome these challenges. Cognitive scientists, neuropsychologists, behavioural researchers and a plethora of other experts are starting to decode the operating procedures which govern our every thought, emotion, decision and action. And while this research is still in its infancy, it is already delivering transformational results.

Yet, for whatever reason, most of this knowledge remains locked in scientific journals and clinical environments. It doesn’t filter through to the business world and everyday living.

At Kognitive, it’s our mission to change that.

Our team of cognitive scientists, neuropsychologists and management consultants work tirelessly together to convert these scientific discoveries into practical insights and pragmatic tools which have transformative effects on businesses and lives. While most of our tools have originated from brain research, they have been fine-tuned over many years of field experience—working side-by-side with companies, teams and individuals to build a better future.

This book shares with you three of the most significant execution challenges we see arise in our clients, and reveals how cognitive science can help you get to the root cause of these challenges. In addition, it provides practical tools and pragmatic strategies to help you make measurable improvements in your businesses performance to accelerate your path to success.

While these strategies are primarily focused on improving business productivity, many of the tools can also be applied at the personal level as well.

As you journey into these discoveries, I’d like you to keep a number in the back of your mind. That number is 948. Why 948? Well, 948 is the number of months the average person will live. It’s an interesting perspective on life and time, isn’t it? 

We hope that the insights and tools in this book help you get the most from however many months you’ve been gifted on this planet. We hope it helps you build a better future for your business, your community, your family, and most importantly, for you.

Now... let’s go make it count.

Ethan Glessich

Founder and Managing Director of Kognitive

F
requency
Corresponding words: 
blue.

As you undoubtedly noticed, the word blue appeared three times. Repetition is one of the oldest known ways of encoding information to memory. It is the foundational memory tool used in traditional education (times tables flashbacks anyone?). Repetition has been studied extensively by scientists, and while the frequency and duration can impact recall, as a rule of thumb, the more frequently something is repeated, the more likely we are to remember it.

Practical takeaway: Communicating the new strategy to staff at the town hall once is not enough. It must be communicated repeatedly over an extended period of time (much more than we intuitively think) in order for it to be encoded into the memory of staff.

E
motion
Corresponding words: 
sex, holiday, covid, any other words which align with your passions or fears, wants or worries.

Emotion supercharges the encoding of memory. Any event that you are easily able to recall will most likely have been emotionally charged. Think... first kiss, wedding day, birth of a child, first time you jumped out of a plane. But the emotion does not have to be positive. For example, can you recall where you were when you heard that someone famous or someone you cared about passed away or where you were when you learned of a tragic event such as September 11? Negative emotion is more precarious, however, and recent studies have shown that too much of some negative emotions, such as stress, can also impair memory function.

Practical takeaway: Strategies and strategy decks are often very dry, emotionless documents. The more emotion you can inject into your strategy and the communication which surrounds it, the better chance it has of being remembered. One of the most influential ways of doing this which has emerged in recent years is creating a ‘meaningful’ organisational purpose.

A
ssociation
Corresponding words: 
mountain & goat, chicken & egg, sex & hot, kognitive.

Association has been connected to the roots of memory function for over 130 years. Association is one of the main techniques often used in memory hacks, such as memorising names, among other things. While much of our brain’s association memory function is unintentional, intentional associations can be utilised to significantly improve the retention of information.

Practical takeaway: Use intentional associations within the communication of your strategy where possible. Acronyms such as FEARS can also be an effective way of creating a pseudo-association and encoding strategic information such as values, key initiatives, goals, etc.

R
ecency
Corresponding words: 
smile, shoe.

Psychologists have identified a cognitive tendency for the items, ideas or arguments that come last in a sequence to be remembered more clearly than those that came before them. This effect is closely related to primacy, the tendency to have better recall for the items at the beginning of a list or experience.

Practical takeaway: The way your strategy is structured, organised and presented makes a difference to how it will be remembered. Pay special attention to the start and end of your strategic documents and presentations.

S
tories
Corresponding words: 
NA

While it may not have been directly highlighted by the word memory activity, the S in our FEARS model is certainly related to words—in fact it’s made of them: stories. Stories are deeply ingrained in human history and are fundamentally intertwined with human memory. “Researchers have found that information presented in story form is considerably more likely to be recalled than comparable material presented using expository methods”.

Practical takeaway: Converting your strategy into an emotive story can dramatically increase its retention.

Emotional alignment

If intellectual alignment is about the brain, then emotional alignment is about the heart: it’s about buy-in. It’s about employees taking action not because they have to, but because they are inspired to.

When staff have bought into the organisation’s vision, when they are emotionally invested in the organisation’s success, not only are they more likely to remember the strategy, but they are much more likely to act upon it. And motivation, discretionary effort, and engagement increase.

But how do we go about building more emotional and intellectual alignment in our organisations? While this is a complex task that Kognitive’s accelerators and consulting address, here are five strategies to help get you started.

6 5 4 3 2 7 1 CULTURE PROCESSES TOOLS
  • 1.
    Direction
  • 2.
    Alignment
  • 3.
    Accountability
  • 4.
    Speed & Agility
  • 5.
    Focus
  • 6.
    Collaboration
  • 7.
    Leadership

Want to transform your relationship with focus

Book a discovery call and evaluate for yourself what might be possible for you personally or your organisation.

All good things.

Success, in every business boils down to two key things: having a great strategy and having first rate execution. 

Whether you’re analysing your execution with the Performance Pyramid—aligning staff to your vision with insights from Jack and Jills infamous demise—or learning from Borris and Norris, our friendly Neanderthals, on how to tap into the full potential of focus at your organisation—investing in improving your execution will pay big dividends.

It’s been a pleasure sharing some of Kognitive’s insights with you to assist you on your journey to building a better future. May they serve you well in getting the most out of your 968 months.

Now... time to make it count.

Ethan Glessich

Founder and Managing Director of Kognitive

Looking to learn more about how cognitive science can help transform business performance?

Check out our free video series


Next up... the neuroscience of freeing your focus