A journey inside the human brain that will make you brighter

The mental health of you and your leaders is a powerful determinant of business success. This book helps you decode your most powerful – and most dangerous – tool, writes Ben Walker

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Imagine human beings were computers. Every time someone set us a task, we’d begin it from scratch – that’s what most computers do. Keiron Sparrowhawk introduces his book with the example of asking a computer to find the highest prime number. Every time a machine is told to beat the record, it starts out from the bottom: 2, 3, 5, 7… until it reaches the mindboggling levels where records are broken.

Sparrowhawk argues that it’s safer that most computers fail to develop themselves – because were the computer to learn, it could learn something bad, something wrong, and be at risk of a major malfunction.

For good or ill, however, humans cannot help but learn. And sometimes the unpleasant bits we take on board – the bad code in computer terms – cause major malfunctions in us too.

Executive Function is a deep, accessible exploration of self-deployed elevation, namely the learning process that allows the human brain to develop over our lives.
It contains practical self-assessments that enable one to quantify one’s own executive function. Meanwhile, illuminating case studies from the worlds of management and leadership demonstrate how the powerful and successful command high executive function – making them able to analyse situations, identify opportunities and develop strategies to exploit them.

Those fascinated by the science of management psychology will be compelled, too, by Sparrowhawk’s exploration of the working memory – the key cognitive tool in calculating and making decisions. The tale of how a once good manager became a poor, bullying one after stress and overwork eroded her working memory, will resonate with anyone who has directly or indirectly experienced the sudden decline of a leader.

At the heart of Sparrowhawk’s book is the clear truth that mental health, just like its physical counterpart, is non-binary. Sanity is not an on-off switch, but a sliding scale. This thoughtful, important work brings the realization that we have to care for our brains as we would our limbs.