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Leadership and Teamdevelopment 4.0 in the phase of digitization. An interview with Dr. Karolien Notebaert, Topexpert in Neuroeconomics

April 18, 2017


Leadership and Teamdevelopment are fundamental successfactors to face digitization. Leading experts take position and give an interview to Andreas Prause.





Dr. Karolien Notebaert is a neuroscientist at the faculty of Economics and Business from the University of Leuven (Belgium) and a lecturer at the Goethe Business School in Frankfurt am Main (Germany) and Vlerick Business School (Belgium). Her area of expertise is neuroeconomics, with a main focus on self-control, of which she is investigating the neural correlates and how self-control can be improved. 

With her trainings institute One step ahead she brings science to business - 

more infos at www.notebaert-consulting.com


1. Andreas Prause: What are the deciding components of Leadership and Teamdevelopment in the phase of digitization?


Dr. Karolien Notebaert: Regardless of the many advantages of digitalization, it has transformed business in all areas. It requires our leaders to lead in a so-called V(olatility) U(uncertaintly) C(omplexity) A(mbiguity) world. To be successful as a leader in this VUCA world, leaders need to be able to flexibly adapt to this rapidly changing environment, have trust, live and decide in the moment and being able to let go of old habits.


2. Andreas Prause: What are the greatest challenges of a Leader in the current time and how do you master them?


Dr. Karolien Notebaert: This VUCA world automatically leads to a fear reaction in our brain, which is caused by amygdala activation. This fear or stress reaction in the brain seriously reduces our mental flexibility, cognitive capacities, innovative thinking and general performance. Therefore, the greatest challenge that leaders have to overcome is to regulate themselves, more concretely, to regulate the spontaneous resistance our brain shows to this rapidly changing environment. This self-regulation is a crucial factor to successful leadership, more important than for example intelligence. Understanding this fact is a start, but in the end, leaders need to practice their self-regulation capacity in order to create a mental flexibility and to increase their mental performance and innovative thinking.


3. Andreas Prause: How do you manage to involve employees emotionally for the company and the product? Please give an example.


Dr. Karolien Notebaert: I have ran a project in a department (100+ employees) that was undergoing the xth change due to further penetration of digitalization in the company. People were tired, unmotivated and performing very poorly. Explaining these people why change is important does not help anymore. With our team, we intensely guided the entire department over the course of five weeks, where we trained and anchored the main techniques that are scientifically supported to reduce amygdala (and thus stress) activation in order to reduce the spontaneous resistance to change and increase general mental fitness and performance. Besides the powerful techniques we use, we also scientifically explain our participants how their brain operates and how it can bring it’s best performance. This scientific background leads to initial motivation to change and practice self-regulation techniques. After that? Practice and anchoring these techniques is the key, hence the more intense and longer support.


4. Andreas Prause: Which are the most relevant factors to master digitization longterm?


Dr. Karolien Notebaert: A mindset change needs to take place. We can’t plan for next year, we need to re-focus in order to react quickly to digital changes. As our brain does not like that and reacts in most of us with a great resistance, we need to teach our leaders self-regulation to create this (biologically spoken) mindset. In short, we need to reduce amygdala activation in order to free-up space in our prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain which is extremely important for our executive functions. The self-regulation techniques we train reduce amygdala activation and increases one’s executive functioning.


5. Andreas Prause: What will be the deciding challenges of Leadership in between the next ten years?


Dr. Karolien Notebaert: Where there is change, there is lack of trust. Due to an increased digitalization, change is even more present and trust is reducing even more. Therefore, I believe it will become more difficult to gain trust from a team. To create good, trustful relationships will become an even greater challenge in the future. But nothing we can not handle.


5+1 Andreas Prause: What is the most important advice you would give to young managers today?


Dr. Karolien Notebaert: Be mindful of what is driving you. Or are you in charge? Check again.


Thank you very much!






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