Interview with Kim Baden

Date: 28.05.2019 Reading time: 1 min. By: Louise Orbesen

Kim Baden has been working for years with qualified neurologists to create bestselling apps that challenge your brain to stay young and alive (Brain+). On top of this, Kim has a deep business knowledge from his background as a consultant with The Boston Consulting Group. When Kim speaks, the room becomes silent as you cannot not listen to what he says. You cannot deny how the brain works. Kim is also part of Leading Humans’ brain trust.

What role does meaning play in today’s work culture?

 – We are living in a comfort culture. There is no gratitude about just having a job. We have an expectation that our job should be meaningful, which is great and beautiful as long as we are aware that it also takes hard work.

– Below the need for meaning, the ‘old’ needs are still hiding. If a leader can’t provide safety and fulfil the employees’ materialistic needs, it doesn’t matter if he or she provides meaning.

How has technology impacted how we work?

 – The instant gratification we get from devices, social media etc. changes our expectations to what we get and how fast. The constant stimuli make it difficult for people to focus on their work. The brain wants its dopamine kicks.

– The technology has enabled us to become more and more comfort-seeking. Technology is taking over both physical and mental tasks from us constantly allowing us to not spend energy or put ourselves in demanding situations.

– On the physical level, taking the escalator is a great example, we just have to step on and off, and do nothing to get to the top. This can be great if it frees up resources to do something else, but if we instead stand still and do nothing, we’ve wasted both the time and the opportunity to move our bodies. Instead, we avoid physical exertion and allow our bodies to suffer the consequences of deteriorating physical strength and long term health.

– An example of psychological comfort seeking via technology is when we mistakenly avoid conflict by sending an email, rather than taking a face to face meeting on a difficult topic, or when we choose to use a dating app rather than chatting up a real flesh and blood person standing next to us. It’s all comfort-seeking behaviour enabled by technology. The mental comfort zone of the younger generation is thus very small and they will come under stress more easily. They have not been exposed to much mental pressure through their upbringing.

What do future leaders need the most?

– Trust is vital. The knowledge products and technology we create these days are starting to get so complex that they can only be created through large networks of competencies where there is a high level of trust.

– If you cannot create trust as a leader, there will be no place for you among the innovative people who are driving the world forward. You can still be in the old industrial firms that do not require the same huge networks of diverse competencies. Hierarchy and discipline still work and are still necessary, but are only relevant in some contexts, and will never be the driving leadership traits that allow the creation of the cutting edge complex innovative products.

– Leaders need to learn how technology, complexity, social relations and trust influence themselves and their employees and what they can do to help solve potential problems that might come along.

– From the brain’s perspective, good work culture is about understanding how attention and focus are rewarded.

– Incentive schemes work in some regards. But not if you simply pour money down people’s throats. Then they’ll act just like going to the casino, to get their dopamine kicks.

How can we impact our patterns of behaviour and – thought?

– Everything we experience emotionally is wired in our brains. Next time you have an experience similar to the one you have had before, your brain will reactivate the brain circuits of the previous experience and reenact similar behaviours. When you know how the brain works, it becomes clear that everything we believe and do is a product of things we have experienced throughout our lives. None of our beliefs or values is final unquestionable truths.

– You can train yourself into becoming more self-reflective, which is key for leaders. The parts of our brain we use the most will be easier and easier for us to activate. It takes work to change yourself because you need to restructure your brain. But it is possible. There are big leadership gains to be had simply by expanding our mental models of leadership.

– If you want to change your behaviour to creating trustful relationships, you need to put yourself in situations in which you will experience the benefits of these. At the end of the day, it’s about consciousness and knowledge.