A neuroscientist, a strategist and an executive coach walk into a conference. By the time they walk out, the next cutting-edge thinking in strategic leadership – the practice of the Wise Advocate – is taking root in their minds.
Our story begins in 2005. Two like-minded individuals – UCLA research psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, MD (the neuroscientist) and editor and management writer Art Kleiner (the strategist) collaborate on an article called “The Neuroscience of Leadership.” Published in strategy + business, the award-winning management magazine that Kleiner edits, this is one of the very first articles to explain great leadership in terms of breakthrough mind and brain research.
Shortly after the article is published, they attend an inaugural Neuroleadership Institute Summit at the CIMBA business school in Asolo, Italy. (The summit is coorganized by the article’s coauthor, David Rock.)
Enter Josie Thomson, the executive coach and our third great mind in the mix. Drawn to Schwartz and Kleiner’s pioneering thinking around leadership, she travels to Asolo to meet them. The three have been friends ever since. Three leading thinkers partnering to create something new. Something to last.
This is the heyday of neuroscience and leadership. Within two years, the idea of neuroplasticity – that focused attention can affect brain activity and thus change behavior — is fully in the spotlight of business innovation. While attending another Neuroleadership Summit in Sydney in 2008, the three authors begin talking about self-directed neuroplasticity, a concept that Schwartz had pioneered and named. What if they could help business leaders rewire their brains, to make consistently better decisions in the face of increasingly turbulent challenges?
Returning to research, Dr. Schwartz takes a deeper dive into the implications of neuroplasticity for leadership development. The three colleagues adapt the four-step self-treatment method that he had applied successfully to personal habit change (for example, to obsessive-compulsive disorder). Together, Jeff, Josie and Art refine the concept of the “Wise Advocate:” the inner voice within all of us that can transform our leadership capability.
The dynamic trio write a book: The Wise Advocate: The Inner Voice of Strategic Leadership. They set up an organization, Wise Advocate Enterprises, to help apply these new ideas in a business context. They write about the High Ground of the mind: a pattern of mental activity which helps us call on the Wise Advocate and equips us to make ever-more strategic decisions in the future – for ourselves, our teams, our organizations and, ultimately, society.
This breakthrough idea fits with many key ideas from economics and business management. It builds, for instance, on Adam Smith’s concept of the ‘impartial spectator:’ an approach to conducting ethical business in a capitalist system by taking a third person perspective on first-person experience. They draw in key insights from organizational development and leadership theory, and they focus on building in the warmth, interactive quality and pragmatism that is needed to help people get things done.
JMReid Group and Wise Advocate Enterprises: A leading-edge partnership
All of this research and development comes together in 2019, when The Wise Advocate is published. John Reid is immediately intrigued. Reid, president and CEO of JMReid Group (JMRG), had partnered two years earlier with Jeffrey Schwartz on programs for executives who needed to overcome self-defeating thoughts. For instance, top partners in a professional services firm had used Schwartz’ ideas on reframing deceptive messages to improve their skill at building and sustaining relationships. This training, which leveraged Schwartz’s earlier best seller You are Not Your Brain, turned out to be a popular offering.
John Reid’s passion for great leadership insights – and their application to real business solutions – has led JMReid Group into an ongoing partnership with Wise Advocate Enterprises, LLC. Together, they are at the forefront of industry trends and neuroscience breakthroughs. In his consultations and training initiatives for businesses at the cusp of change, Reid is showing how the concepts in The Wise Advocate have deep relevance for all leaders.
For example: Suppose you’re a project manager trying to use the classic Simple, Complex, Simple model to do something you’ve never quite done before. As the model suggests, you start by looking at your business problem in Simple terms: How do I accomplish this as cheaply and expediently as possible?
But when you look into the challenge more closely, you move into a more Complex, analytical frame of mind. Your decision could affect the firm’s long-term reputation or profitability; it involves a lot of different stakeholders whom you dare not ignore. So you and your team slow down and face up to questions like these: What parts of this decision can be transactional, to make a fast deal – and what parts of it must be more strategic, aiming at longer-term results? Whose perspectives are important? What are they thinking, and what are they likely to do next? How clear is our own thinking, and what aspects of it might be deceptive?
That’s a lot to consider! Eventually, it becomes too much. But you have a clear path back to Simple: Because you have built up the mental habit of consulting your inner voice, and rewired your brain accordingly, the Wise Advocate is there when you need it. You find a path that’s in line with your intentions and the ultimate well-being of your enterprise.
Reid, Thomson, Kleiner and Schwartz share a passion for transforming organizations by providing a better learning experience. They know how to help us achieve the best version of ourselves as organizational leaders. The Wise Advocate, validated by science and taught by dynamic visionaries, is a powerful way of creating lasting behavioral change.