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Estanislao Bachrach: Creativity and Our Brains
Oct, 30,2012

A professor of biotechnology, innovation and business at the Universidad Torcuato di Tella in Buenos Aires, Estanislao Bachrach is no amateur in terms of extensive study for his young age: a PhD recipient, he participated in postdoctoral work at the Boston Children’s Hospital, as well as a earned from Harvard University the Certificate of Distinction in Teaching Biological Sciences four years in a row.  However, after spending ten years in Europe publishing scientific papers in international journals, and collaborating with several academic books, he moved back to Buenos Aires to finish an Executive MBA. What made for this change? The topic of his speech today at the World Business Forum Buenos Aires: that through stress, work, and intense schedules we are living lives that are unfulfilling and less happy than they should be. In the following, learn a little about neurology and a lot of methods on how we can better use our brains to be more efficient, less tired, and, as a result, more happy.

Of the three areas of the brain: reason, instinct, and emotion, Bachrach focused his presentation on the part of the brain that we use most at work: reason.  Where exactly does reasoning take place? The prefrontal cortex, where five brain functions happen: understand, memorize, remember, inhibit (because we have to stop processes from happening in order to pay attention to just one), and decide. The prefrontal cortex uses serial processes, which means it can only process one item at a time, confuting the myth of multi-tasking.

So, why is this important for the way we work? Although we are permanently alert and constantly connected, we are always stressing one part of the brain and consuming a lot of energy for each of the aforementioned functions. That is why so many of us go home after a hard day of work and feel physically tired. According to Bachrach, there are three levels of thought that he showed with an example from work:

1.     Level one: Erasing e-mails

2.     Level two: Organizing meetings

3.     Level three: Writing a speech

Since at the beginning of the day we are fully charged with energy, we should organize so that we do these activities in reverse. You can do so by following these three easy steps each day:

1.     Diagram your day according to the type of activities you must do

2.     Write down your biggest challenges or projects of the day

3.     Utilize the visualize, such as metaphors or telling stories, which actually require less energy than being straight forward

However, this only breaks the surface of the way we use our brain at work, because the emotional part, the one where our greatest insights are realized, functions in a completely different way than prefrontal cortex functions. In fact, the activities that go on in the prefrontal cortex (the majority that we do each day) can actually inhibit and block our insights and creativity.

How can you unleash the power of creativity in your company? By creating space to just think and for mental breaks, because in reality the majority of great ideas happen when we aren’t working. Bachrach ended his speech assuring the audience that we are much more creative than we are rational, and by allowing ourselves to be more creative we can in fact have a much happier life.