The brain's default network is that part of the brain that takes over when we are not fully engaged in any activity focused on the external environment. It’s when we synthesize past observations - including autobiographical memory retrieval, envisioning the future, and conceiving a perspective of others.
It has been seen that people normally suppress this default system when they perform challenging tasks which involves the pre frontal cortex and also that the default network system takes over especially when one has a repetitive task at hand and. In patients with schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s is it hard for them to move back from the default system – and they often continue “day dreaming”.
One of the aspects of Leadership Development that I work on is the ability of a leader to reflect on his learning’s. It is clear from research that 70% of our learning’s come from on the job. These experiences could be either good or hard experiences. But the key is to decipher what one may have learnt from this and apply it to oneself as a leader takes on more challenging assignments.
It would be great if one could delve into the workings of the default system and train leaders to help the default system in this process of reflection, instead of a situation where the default system just throws out random thoughts from the past/future.
For one, how do we catch ourselves as we see the default system take over? Does that mean we increase the power of observation? How do we then seed a certain thought that relates to an experience we have had and are looking at patterns of learning? How do we record those patterns? Does constantly thinking of these experiences lead us somewhere? Can we then connect all of this “working” of the default system to some learning at the workplace?
Kalpana Sinha is a Leadership and Organisation Professional. Her blog has reflections from her work experiences of over 20 years.