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The business of evolution: We’re not as clever as we think we are

By Bob Bailly

When I was first asked to contribute to this blog, my stated interest was writing a piece that “is really all about you and how evolution has contrived you to be who you are, acting and feeling the way you do. It’s also about how to improve your business performance.”

Since then, I’ve tried to explore how evolutionary sciences can be used for predictive modeling for our business stragegies.

I’m more convinced than ever that if you are looking to build better brands, increase your marketing effectiveness, shorten sales cycle times, improve communication at all levels of the organization, and foster loyalty with customers, stakeholders and employees, you can benefit by understanding how we came to be the kind of animal that we are.

The first thing to remember is we’re not as clever as we think we are.

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The imperatives of leaders, leadership and leading

By Bob Bailly

“Men make history, and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”

Harry S Truman, 33rd president of United States (1884 – 1972)

Over the last several months Canadians have watched the eldest son of Pierre Trudeau move from the fringes of the Liberal Party to become its newly elected leader. After he garnered 80 per cent of the first ballot votes at the party convention last weekend, Justin Trudeau has finally been able to overcome the disdain of his opponents and the media. But as journalist Michael Den Tandt observes, “the latter will not last – unless Trudeau proves to be as effective a leader as he is a campaigner.”

But what constitutes an effective leader?

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Oracles, shamans and storytellers

By Bob Bailly

Artists, poets, writers, revolutionaries, magicians, explorers, musicians and creative innovators of all kinds are among us today. Their muses, oracles and inspiration are available to us all if we want to understand their secrets.

And one of those secrets is that they are all great storytellers.

Why are stories so powerful for humans? Why are the best orators also great storytellers? What can we learn from our desire to tell, listen and interpret stories that can be applied to what we do in our business lives?

To the best of our knowledge, humans are the only animals that have the ability to remember the past beyond their own lifetimes. This feature likely arose and continued as an essential aspect of human evolution for two reasons: the advent of language, and the need and requirement to seek a narrative for the events and interactions that shape our lives.

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Music and the brain

By Bob Bailly

Over the holidays, I was looking for a present for my wife and found myself checking out a pre-Christmas sale at a local department store. During my time at the mall I was bombarded with generic Christmas music everywhere I went. Despite my urge to gag at the arrangements, when I was absorbed in the purer business of shopping, I actually caught myself singing along to several of the tunes.

At a cerebral level, listening to the musical pap made me feel like just another cranky holiday shopper, but deep down it was making me happy. Recognizing that I was being manipulated by these businesses in a subtle way got me once again thinking about the impact music has, or can have, on our behaviour. I’ve also been intrigued by my 21-month-old grandson’s fascination with music and rhythm. These things led me to revisit some research I did a couple of years ago on the affects that music can have on education.

Bottom line, music does help wire the brain, and the potential use in our lives is beyond measure.

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The neuroscience behind elections

By Bob Bailly

Over a year ago I wrote a blog entitled Election emotion, where I looked at an article from Margaret Wente in the Globe and Mail. In it, she examined how decisions are made during elections. I’ve always been intrigued by electioneering, and must admit in my career to have managed five different communications campaigns for winning mayoral, Liberal and Conservative candidates in Alberta. As a “hired gun,” I’ve always looked at the challenge the same as I did for all my clients; it’s all about how customers — in this case the voting public — make decisions.

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