Thursday, September 26, 2019

Thought and Analysis are too slow to use in a crisis, but isn’t that when intelligence is needed the most?

Reactions are lightning-fast, they help us dodge bullets and escape a burning building. That is how the architecture of the brain has evolved through eons of trials and tribulations. Save life first, think later. Thought, language and problem-solving are relatively new abilities added atop the reactionary brain and these have grown too. In a crisis, the survival mechanisms trigger first. This necessarily disengages the bulky thinking new brain. Professionals learn to ‘Think on their feet’ to remain effective in a crisis. How is that done?

Present-day technical innovations have empowered neuroscientists and behavioral scientists to peep inside the working brain and to measure the speed of nerve signals. They tell us that a pause of just half a second allows us to engage the intelligent circuit. It sounds so simple! Knowing and understanding this fact is however not enough. We need the practice to train the inner action of flipping signal traffic flow to the slow lane, while instinct has already slammed the accelerator. Practice till it becomes a skill.



Learning to ride a bicycle is a classic example of training the brain to pick up a new skill. There is no substitute for the real experience and there are no short courses. Manuals and Youtube videos may inform but cannot shorten the time dedicated to practice. Presence of a coach helps with motivation and perseverance, but the pain of scraped knees has to be borne by the learner.


A novice trying to learn to retain the ability to think in a crisis begins with the use of perceptive ability known as Emotional Self Awareness, which informs ‘this is how I feel in a crisis’. There are other perceptive powers that humans are equipped with like Optimism, Intuitiveness, Accurate Self-Assessment and Humor, that can be polished and practiced to make a superior professional resilient and confident.

Article credits: Anjana Sen, author of What's Your Superpower


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