HBR: A Social Brain is a Smarter Brain

InsightaaS: Harvard Business Review (HBR) is recognized worldwide as a leading source of management insight and innovation. In this post, Andy Zynga, CEO of innovation services provider NineSigma, reviews the results of research from the University of Michigan indicating that social interactions build cognitive strength – that being social makes us smarter, or at least, more aware. He uses this as a departure point for a discussion of open innovation, suggesting that the interactions involved in forming new relationships to address problems don’t just bring additional resources to bear on the issue, but also build capability within each individual.  It’s a stretch that isn’t necessarily supported by the data cited, but there is at least scope for wondering whether, while “greater emotional intelligence and better memory [allows] the individual’s social network to expand…perhaps the causality also goes the other way, and interacting widely with others — as companies do when they use open innovation — grows the capacity of brains.”

It is well established that brain games and puzzles act as calisthenics for our brains, expanding their capacity and improving their overall health. More surprising are the findings of a study led by researchers at the University of Michigan. It shows that just as effective in building cognitive strength are social interactions.

The design of the study was simple — the researchers took one group of participants, randomly paired people up, and instructed them to get to know each other by asking probing questions. After ten minutes of such interaction, the participants were given a battery of cognitive tests. In parallel, participants in a second group were given challenging brain-game activities to perform, also for ten minutes, and followed by the same cognitive tests. A third group served as the control and took the tests with no prelude. The result? The social interaction group outperformed the control group on the cognitive tests, and did not differ from the brain games group. For the researchers, this suggests that the active perspective-taking one does in conversation involves mental gymnastics as demanding as any brain-teaser.

I find it fascinating that a good way to keep your brain “oiled” is simply to spend time talking with people. I’m also happy to note that this makes the case for open innovation even stronger…

Read the entire post: http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/05/a-social-brain-is-a-smarter-brain/


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