The Brain Science – Business Application Gap

Because I love and am fascinated by the human brain, I often wonder why much of the recent findings in cognitive science (like all the cognitive biases we have) have not been incorporated into business. They have yet to impact organizational structures, management styles, or strategic thinking the way I think they someday will. Tonight at dinner, Mrs. Businesspundit and I were discussing some of this, and I think I've come to realize at least part of the answer. We never believe this stuff applies to us.

For example, you have probably heard at some point about a survey that asked college students to rank themselves on how well they get along with others. Twenty-five percent ranked themselves in the top 1%, and everyone ranked themselves in the top 50% (must have been in Lake Wobegon). Now, I don't know if this was done, but what do you think happened once the results were explained to the students? They probably realized the significance of it, but most of them thought I still think I rated myself pretty accurately, but these other people are way off. So if the test was given again, my guess is that the numbers might get slightly more accurate, but would still be way off a normal distribution.

That's that status of brain science today. It isn't applied because each of us thinks these cognitive biases apply more to other people than to ourselves. And of course, we are unlikely to put much time into something we don't think that we need. That is a shame, because I think it could end up translating to the bottom line. There may be some competitive advantage to be had by making better decisions at all levels of an organization. Embracing cognitive science could be a start.