My 10 Favorite Science Trends for a High Performance 2011

With all the noise and competition in the marketplace today, it makes sense to look outside conventional areas for a competitive advantage. I’ve always said the biggest competitive advantage is right under your own hat: developing your mind. Here are ten proven areas of science that can give businesses and high performance individuals a huge edge for 2011.

  1. Resilience. Do you ever wonder why some individuals can breeze through hardships and come out stronger on the other side while others languish, move into a depression, and take years to recover? Science has been studying this field of resilience, and now it can be taught just like math. If you’re one of the ones who takes a while to recover from setbacks, you will greatly benefit from learning resilience. Best applications: sales people dealing with rejection, negotiators, real estate professionals, emergency scene workers.
  2. Deliberate Practice. To get from good to great, high performers apply deliberate practice, a form of expert performance that refines and perfects their craft. Best applications: surgeons, actors, entertainers, pilots, speakers, and trainers.
  3. Neuroplasticity. The discovery of the decade is that our brains are constantly learning and growing new brain cells every day of our lives until the moment we die. Best applications: teachers, tax accountants, medical professionals, and IT engineers.
  4. Mindfulness. Thanks to Ellen Langer’s research, we have a partial glimpse into how incredibly powerful mindfulness is. Her research has shown the exact steps it takes to reverse the effects of aging, including reversing eyesight losses and physical strength. Hollywood is so impressed they are making a movie about her life and Jennifer Aniston will star as Dr. Langer. Best applications: health care professionals especially those in long term care facilities such as nursing homes, home health care workers, and retirement communities.
  5. Positive Psychology. Thanks to books such as Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, CEOs are finally getting an understanding of how happiness can significantly improve the workplace. Even my nonprofit, the American Happiness Association, has made the PBS and Fox news this year. The key is not just staying happy, but being able to manage your positive and negative emotions for high performance results. Best applications: dealing with difficult employees, bullying, large corporations where employee satisfaction and customer service are the focal points and the senior management wants to reap the benefits of a positive workplace.
  6. Nature vs. Nurture. Science is crystal clear about how nurture can override nature much more than we previously realized. With all the talk about cracking the DNA genetic code, we are now finding out that RNA can express almost any old way it wants with a little help from the environment. Best applications: architects, landscape designers, interior decorators, furniture designers, relationship therapists, life coaches, nutritionists, and fitness coaches.
  7. Multi-tasking. A very cool new study found that only 3 percent of the population can multi-task well. The rest of us are actually costing ourselves time and accuracy every single day when we multi-task. Interestingly, some corporations are pushing multi-tasking. One that hired me recently had me tone down my chapter showing how bad multi-tasking really is for performance because their top management promoted it. We need to get real about what multi-tasking is costing us. Best applications: Any worker who is frequently distracted can benefit from this science.
  8. Insight. We now know how to create the ideal conditions to help employees generate more “aha moments.” Best applications: R&D, marketing, artists, writers, anyone who needs to be creative and innovative.
  9. Focused Attention. Science has made significant breakthroughs in helping us understand exactly how we can focus our minds so that our attention spans can be lengthened. A nice side effect is that when we strengthen this part of our brain, we expand our consciousness, allowing us to tap more into the wisdom of our subconscious. Best applications: surgeon, pilot, IT engineer, gamer, police.
  10. Decision-making. There continues to be new insights into how we make decisions, not to mention Daniel Kahnemann and Amos Tversky’s Nobel prize-winning research in the area of heuristics. Here we can learn where our decision-making blind spots reside and train ourselves to see them. Best applications: negotiators, deal makers, stock brokers, merger and acquisitions consultants, and senior management.

Although the decade of the brain is long gone (1990s), breakthroughs in research discoveries continue every day. It’s a very cool time to be alive, especially if you learn how to harness the power of these scientific discoveries. It’s never too late to get a fresh start for the new year of 2011.