Neuroscience fiction

Recently in the Sydney Morning Herald careers’ section there was an article by Jim Bright titled Neuroscience fiction. Jim Bright attacks corporate speakers in particular who flash up MRI brain scans during their PowerPoint presentations. There is no arguing with an MRI because they are done by scientists who know things. And MRI scans make great slides because they have got colours. Thus you have some corporate speakers going as far as to urge us to employ particular neurons to increase our empathy, or to reach our sales targets.

I must confess I have sympathy for Bright’s position. Currently Neuroscience has become the dominant theme in Emotional Intelligence. Daniel Goleman has written a book about it The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights. Currently over 70,000 people have signed up for a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) starting on 1 May called Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence. Richard Boyatzis, professor of Organizational Behaviour at Case Western Reserve University is running the course and the first module spends an inordinate time on the neuroscience. For example he discusses how people have two networks in their brain. The Task Positive Network (TPN) enables a person to focus, solve a problem, and make a decision, but it closes a person perceptually to new ideas. The Social Network (SN) which is a part of the Default Mode Network (DMN) enables a person to be open to new ideas, people or emotions, tune into others and moral considerations, but might leave a person open to distractions. (If this sounds like a rehash of the somewhat discredited Left Brain-Right Brain theory I am with you.) According to Boyatzis The TPN and SN/DMN are, on the whole, independent networks, and if one is active it suppresses the other. Boyatzis is a good speaker and the course is interesting so far but I do think he and Golman are barking up the wrong tree.

I think a much better way of thinking about emotional intelligence is use the OSI (Open Systems Interface) Model of Networking which defines the how the Internet operates. To those unfamiliar with the model it defines seven levels of communication starting with physical level at the bottom and then gradually rising through Data Link, Network, Transport, Session, Presentation, till you reach the top level of Application. When you are a user at the top Application level sending an email for example, you don’t care about how the bits are sent at the physical level. Similarly when you trying to work out how to manage one of your top performing sales people who you think is potential corporate psychopath, you are not worried about mirror neurons and the levels of corticosterioids in his or her bloodstream.

The way to improve your emotional intelligence is to have a scientifically valid model of temperament which I define as your genetically predetermined emotional response. People drive performance, emotions drive people, and it is temperament drives emotions.


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Chris Golis - Author


"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

Christi Spring CEO Institute. - web