unfocused mind

 I just finished reading a great book called “Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try” by Dr. Srini Pillay. In full disclosure, Dr. Pillay and his NeuroBusiness Group are a Cerebyte partner. Srini is a Harvard professor of psychology though much of his work with us is in neuroscience and this book is mostly neuroscience. I wanted to share some highlights since this book is full of great information.

The book is very well written, — I personally loved reading it — but sometimes a little challenging to read because it is so packed with great content The key premise of the book is that our minds have two fundamental modes – the focused mind and the unfocused mind.

According to Dr. Pillay, focused mind is tactical and transactional – it is our consistent goal focused to-do lists. The unfocused mind is the more open, broader, unconstrained processing portions of our mind. One of Dr. Pillay’s most interesting findings is that the focused mind processes information at 6 bits per second and the unfocused mind processes information at 11 million bits per second, which is a huge difference.

If you think about it in terms of operational excellence versus transformational leaders, operations is the focused mind at work. Transformational leadership is using more of the unfocused mind. Obviously, the focused and unfocused minds are doing different things – one is directly trying to achieve a specific outcome and the other is roaming the world.

Dr. Pillay contends that focused and unfocused mind are related concepts that work together to produce a great result. Too much focus causes linear thinking and ultimate frustration. Too much unfocused is too fuzzy and doesn’t result in useful actions. Working together, focus gets things done while unfocused mind ensures that you are doing the right things in a big picture sense.

He contends, supported by many references and great examples, that most people tend to under-utilize the unfocused mind. The benefits of better utilizing the unfocused mind in conjunction with the focused mind are considerable:

  • Focusing on greatness of purpose releases the unfocused mind leading to greater motivation
  • The unfocused mind leads to more innovation (a sort of checking the edge and synthesis)
  • The unfocused mind reduces stress (very similar to the last module of our Neuroscience of Transformation Workshop)
  • The unfocused mind increases personal satisfaction (you release from a constant drive for tangible success)
  • The unfocused mind increases collaboration (you are more open to others).

The best ways to activate the unfocused mind look a lot like a Cerebyte program including:

  • Focusing on the compelling purpose
  • Understanding the Big Steps to achieve a goal, which frees people from tactical focus
  • Discussions of Tips and Recorded Learnings – which is a form of “self-talk” (self-talk is a reflective technique for activating the unfocused mind)
  • Lots of collaborative exploratory discussions
  • Actions that look like the focused mind but actually guide people to better utilizing the unfocused mind

One of the most important great things about this research is it shows that building the capabilities of the unfocused mind help performance of the focused mind. In our terms, focusing on transformational leadership improves transactional performance.

Are you using your unfocused mind?

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