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Leverage Differences

28 Aug

Another good day in Chicago, which feel more like Wellington every day – today it’s windy and raining.

This morning’s first session was Diana Larson and Sharon Buckmaster dealing with brain science, gender differences and working together effectively in teams. 

They presented an overview of current thinking in three areas:

  • Social Neuroscience
  • Positive Psychology
  • Imagine Science (and what it tells us about brain structures)

They started with a discussion of Social Intelligence (building on Daniel Gorman’s work on Emotional Intelligence) which focuses on intra-personal behaviour and group dynamics.  They then spoke about the importance of Mirror Neurons which are important in team motivation – we are more inclined to follow positive, happy leaders and why a cheerful disposition is contagious.  Positive Psychology or the “Science of Wellbeing” shows the importance of happiness and a sense of purpose to individual and team morale and measurable productivity improvements.

They pointed out the physiological and psychological differences between male and female brains and minds,  with a lengthy discussion of where the differences lie and the resultant behavioural patterns.

The discussions stressed that while there are very real differences in the workings of the male and female brain, there is no difference between the sexes in cognitive intelligence as measured by IQ.  Neither sex is “cleverer” than the other.

The results they presented were accompanied by the disclaimer that these are broad generalisations, and individual measures will vary immensely.

Some of the differences they identified include:

  • Male brains take regular breaks – men do sometimes really think about nothing; female brains are constantly working and don’t take these breaks.   When he responds to “what are you thinking about” with “nothing” he’s probably being truthful!
  • Men have 6 ½ times more grey matter than women, which is devoted to intense, focused thinking
  • Women have 10 times more white matter than men which provides connectivity between brain elements and enables multi-tasking.
  •  Women have two language processing centres, one on each side of the brain, whereas men have only one.
  • Men have a far less active hippocampus which results in less relationship between memory and emotions, women remember emotive content linked to events more effectively whereas men remember the facts of the event
  • Men have 20 times the testosterone which results in a worldview that can be described as “landscapes of challenge”
  • Women’s brains are flooded with oestrogen from birth which supports their multitasking ability
  • Women have 20% more blood flow in the brain, which results in the ability to more fully perceive context (emotion, body language, eye contact, tone of voice etc)
  • Men are more focused on content – facts, figures, diagrams and spatial experiences

The key message of the session was to understand the differences and be able to leverage an understanding of them to improve interpersonal and team communications.

Tomorrow I’ll post more about the other sessions.

Posted by Shane Hastie

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 28, 2009 in Agile 2009

 

One response to “Leverage Differences

  1. Sharon Robson

    September 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    Wow – this is cool…just goes to show how different we are. I wonder if this translates/relates to the distribution of gender related roles within a project….Might have to think more about that.

     

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