A NEUROSCIENCE PERSPECTIVE ON MENTAL FLEXIBILITY

Stress and fatigue caused by continued disruptive change, forces people to generally function more in their natural default modes of thinking, learning and processing information. This, and the fact that people in general have a natural predisposition to start with a preferred mode when thinking, learning or processing information, has led to a very strong dualistic approach where it is assumed that they are either analytical or creative, expressive or receptive, rational or emotional. When people function in such stereotype ways, it suggests that we are not, and cannot really be that flexible in our thinking and learning.

This approach is contradictory to the construct of Neuro Agility and what cognitive and neuroscience research proves. Although people’s natural preferences may cause them to function more in their natural default modes, especially during stress and fatigue, the brain can learn any competence related to any mode of thinking and learning, as learning is one of the primary purposes of the brain. Fact of the matter is that our brain can learn to be analytical and creative, expressive and receptive, rational and emotional, depending on what our circumstances require of us in that moment. Neuro Agility reflects the brain’s developed ability to function as one integrated whole brain system, being able to learn, think and process information fast, easy and be flexible to access and utilize any desired mode of thinking and learning required to execute the task at hand.

Developing agile people for the workplace of today and the future, who have the mental flexibility to access any desired modes of thinking and learning necessary to deal effectively with any change or new situations, should be a major focus area for any progressive person or organization who wants to be employable, successful, effective and prosper in a disruptive world. Agile people and organizations have the mental flexibility to adapt to disruptive change fast and easy, being able to move across various ideas or new understandings swiftly, and alternate between opposite modes of thinking and learning, depending on what mode of thinking is required to deal effectively with a new situation or change.

There are various brain-mind elements and mechanisms that influence the flexibility with which we think, learn and process information. Developing mental flexibility starts with optimizing the flexibility of people’s neurological design – the brain-mind elements that impact how people learn, thinking and process information. Neuro-flexibility implies a person has the lateral hemispheric integration to be analytical and creative, encoding and decoding information simultaneously, having an equally verbal and non-verbal approach during communication.

Flexibility also requires balance between the expressive brain regions in the frontal lobes and the receptive brain regions in the sensory cortex, enabling people to express their thoughts, words and emotions or be receptive (quiet), managing their thoughts, emotions and words depending on what mode is required in a specific situation. Subsequently, balance in all lobes and hemispheres of the neo-cortex will provide people with the flexibility to fluctuate between the various quadrants of their figurative learning, thinking and communication languages.

Integration and balance between the rational areas, mostly in the neo-cortex and the emotional processing centers in the limbic system of the brain, is equally as important, as it will enable people with the flexibility to follow the desired approach necessary to solve complex problems efficiently, make smart decisions and access the desired approach to resolve conflict.

Furthermore, integrated balance between the various brain regions and all the senses will significantly increase the ease and speed with which electrical impulses are processed through the senses to various brain regions, minimizing the impact of possible neurological hindrances that may occur when people experience stress or fatigue, reducing their risk for error and mistakes. Balance between people’s visual, auditory and kinaesthetic preferences will further their sensory neuro-flexibility.

Finally, flexibility between the various types of intelligence’s will enable people to be smart, but in any way life requires of them.

People who are neuro agile have a strong level of overall brain fitness and will engage easy and fast into the cognitive processes of their neurological design that facilitate flexible learning, thinking and optimum processing of information. 

Neuro Agility however, is a developed competence. One can’t improve what one can’t measure. Becoming neuro agile starts with accurately assessing the drivers that optimize brain performance and the interplay of these drivers with the neuro-design elements of thinking, learning and information processing, as measured in the Neuro Agility Profile® (NAP™). Accurate awareness about the factors that influence Neuro Agility will indicate which drivers and neuro-design elements of learning and thinking should be optimized and offers suggestions how to optimize them. Subsequently these elements should then be developed and optimized by practicing the skills, activities and actions suggested in the NAP™ and demonstrated in our Brain Agility Booster Program.

Dr André Vermeulen

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