THE ROLE OF PROCESSING SPEED IN LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT
Keiron Sparrowhawk, author of Executive Function: Cognitive Fitness For Business says your processing speed is your ability to energize and enable sequences of tasks with fluidity, accuracy, and pace. He says in his book, as a leader, your processing speed helps you be the judge- thinking quickly on your feet, responding to situations, initiating new tasks, and communicating decisions.
Here is an extract from the book explaining this:
Processing speed allows you to respond with speed and accuracy, with smoothness and coordination. With this cognitive skill, you know when to put more emphasis on the speed of the task in hand versus the accuracy of it. When time is precious, you can make the most of a “quick and dirty” solution. You are out in front and frequently the first to make a comment, have a plan, and are able to assess the circumstances for a quick resolution or direction. You are decisive and you are the Judge within your company.
You are the live wire in team meetings, keeping the agenda going and ensuring all points are covered. You are great for adapting processes, especially when there are a lot of moving parts. You are also very good at proactive problem solving, when a quick answer is required.
Some roles require more weight on speed, and others more weight on accuracy. You can excel in both and switch when required. Brain Chesky of Airbnb, John Martin of Gilead Sciences, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook all of have amazing processing speed. They can rapidly scan information when a quick decision is required, when they know you have to be roughly right because sometimes speed is more important than accuracy. However, they also appreciate the need for accuracy and will find the extra time (and extra people and resources) to achieve precision when it is required.
Phases and Characteristics of Processing Speed
Processing speed may be divided into three phases:
1) Cognitive phase: learning about “what” to do, but not necessarily “how” to do it. The learner makes awkward, slow movements that need to be thought about and require conscious control. Performance is generally poor.
2) Associative phase: learning the skill. Although not yet automatic, less time is spent thinking about every detail of the movement, which is associated with movements already known. Performance is smoother.
3) Autonomous phase: the skill is perfected and performed automatically, rather than with thought. Learning is near completion, although the skill may be continually refined through practice. Movements becomes spontaneous and do not require thought.
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