Most people associate strategy with rational thinking and other high-level functions of the prefrontal cortex.
Yet the best strategic thinkers show more activity in parts of the brain linked with emotion and intuition. Who would have thought?
In a study with Diana Robertson and Andrew Bate of the Wharton School, managers in an executive MBA program were asked to react to fictional strategic and tactical management dilemmas while their brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The best strategic performers had significantly less neural activity in the prefrontal cortex than in the areas associated with gut responses, empathy, and emotional intelligence.
In fact, their nervous system repressed rational thought to free up the regions associated with unconscious emotion processing.