Investing in cognitive health is about driving future business growth through the development of a brain-friendly working environment that cares about its staff and supports high-performance thinking.
How well you think is determined by your level of energy, intentional focus and mindset, and is highly influenced by the amount of fatigue, worry and cognitive load being experienced.
Cognitive load management has been identified by the Institute for the Future as one of the 10 skill sets essential to the future success of work.
Elevating cognitive health provides a number of solutions to successfully navigate the modern workplace.
Driving faster by taking a pit stop
While drinking extra coffee increases the speed of neuronal firing in the short term, it’s not an effective long-term solution for managing our need for speed in the modern workplace environment.
This is where getting sufficient downtime and sleep is critical. Mental fatigue remains a major obstacle to high-performance thinking and sleep is essential to long-term memory consolidation, effective recall and keeping the brain healthy and functioning well for the longer term.
Encouraging flexible thinking
It’s not about multitasking. Flexible thinking is how easily you can switch from one task to the next, incorporate different thinking skills and upskill your cognitive prowess in those areas you may not be so nimble in.
This is where an open mind and curiosity to explore beyond the usual realms of thought can provide greater awareness of how to operate well across different cultural settings and transdisciplinary concepts.
Focusing on where you’re going
It’s ironic, but have you noticed how by trying to avoid distractions, obstacles or people you end up attracting them instead? Intentional focus is enhanced by knowing how attention works and, just like learning to ride a bike on an uneven track, comes about by putting in the practice to minimise the cognitive impact of our social and technological distractions.
Making change the norm
Faster problem solving and consistency in good decision making comes from the ability to anticipate what might be coming, observing trends and adjusting workplace practices and procedures accordingly.
When change is expected and normal, it reduces our bias to risk aversion. When failure is expected and respected it promotes what Carol Dweck calls a growth-oriented mindset that sees a challenge as something to look forward to, opening up the mind to alternatives and new ideas.
Providing the time to think
This is about critical thinking. Moving from surface skimming to the quieter depths of thought helps us to make better sense of the increasing complexities being faced at work and leads to more considered decisions. Applying logic and reasoning enhances cognition while reducing the risk of groupthink and poor judgement.
This builds emotional resilience; keeping matters in perspective, reducing stress and maintains clear access to the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain used for the executive functions of planning, organising and decision making.
While a high level of emotional intelligence at work is of huge benefit, it is greatly supplemented by adding social intelligence. As humans, we are hardwired to connect with others. Enjoying a sense of belonging promotes security and confidence, and influences the level of energy and discretionary effort contributed.
Social cohesion leads to effective teamwork and the development of a happier, healthier workforce that boosts the bottom line. Research has shown how workplaces that have evolved a more caring culture enjoy a 12 % increase in profitability and performance compared with their less healthy and happy counterparts.
In the era of information overload, rapidly advancing technologies and the incorporation of artificial intelligence into everyday activities in life and work, adopting those strategies revealed by brain science and positive psychology to elevate high-performance thinking makes the difference.
That’s why cognitive health is the key to smarter thinking by design and the driver to future business growth.