Drops from the Fire Hose – September 22, 2012

Leading in the 21st century — McKinsey & Company

In today’s volatile environment, leaders of global organizations must master a slate of challenges unseen in business history. In this feature, McKinsey talks with seven leaders and Wharton professor Michael Useem about the new fundamentals of leading in the 21st century.

Why Power Corrupts — Smithsonian

But new scholarship is bringing fresh subtlety to psychologists’ understanding of when power leads people to take ethical shortcuts—and when it doesn’t. Indeed, for some people, power seems to bring out their best. After all, good people do win elective office, says Katherine A. DeCelles, a professor of management at the University of Toronto, and no few business executives want to do good while doing well. “When you give good people power,” DeCelles says she wondered, are they more able than others “to enact that moral identity, to do what’s right?”

Neuroscience: Idle minds — Nature

Some researchers now think that resting-state networks may prime the brain to respond to stimuli. “The system is not sitting there doing nothing and waiting,” says Kleinschmidt. Cycling activity in these networks may be helping the brain to use past experiences to inform its decisions. “It’s incredibly computationally demanding to calculate everything on the fly,” says Maurizio Corbetta at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He has been studying resting state using magnetoencephalography, a technique that measures magnetic fields associated with the electrical activity of neurons. “If I have ongoing patterns that are guessing what’s going to happen next in my life, then I don’t have to compute everything.” He likens the activity to the idling of a vehicle. “If your car is ready to go, you can leave faster than if you have to turn on the engine.”

Your Body Language Speaks for You in Meetings — Harvard Business Review

Besides our choice of words and the volume and tone of a voice, gestures, posture and facial expressions all convey powerful messages to the people we are talking to, which is precisely why everyone pays close attention to other people’s body language. What’s more, some research suggests that your body language can even affect your hormones, which affects your decisions and attitudes to risk. In other words, how we say what we say to people is at least as important as what we say to them.

Misinformation: Why It Sticks and How to Fix It — ScienceDaily

The main reason that misinformation is sticky, according to the researchers, is that rejecting information actually requires cognitive effort. Weighing the plausibility and the source of a message is cognitively more difficult than simply accepting that the message is true — it requires additional motivational and cognitive resources. If the topic isn’t very important to you or you have other things on your mind, misinformation is more likely to take hold.

And when we do take the time to thoughtfully evaluate incoming information, there are only a few features that we are likely to pay attention to: Does the information fit with other things I believe in? Does it make a coherent story with what I already know? Does it come from a credible source? Do others believe it?

Misinformation is especially sticky when it conforms to our preexisting political, religious, or social point of view. Because of this, ideology and personal worldviews can be especially difficult obstacles to overcome.

Even worse, efforts to retract misinformation often backfire, paradoxically amplifying the effect of the erroneous belief.

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