Values Investing

Last week, Benedict Carey wrote in the New York Times about a study on the performance of inner-city middle school children.  Researchers found that students who wrote a fifteen minute essay on the values that were important to them significantly improved their academic performance.  While the study was quite limited in scope, I wonder if there isn’t an application to business.

Our values are embedded in high level neural networks in the brain.  It’s been found that such networks can key the firing of ones at lower levels responsible for our decision-making and behavior.  When attention is drawn to our values by a writing exercise, perhaps it stimulates parts of the brain that make us a little smarter or work a little harder.

If so, it might make sense for managers and employees to spend a little bit of time every so often on remembering the values that are most important to them, and on clarifying the link between their work and those values. It just might help them perform at a higher level.  Even the smallest improvement would be a huge return on the investment of time required.

I realize my proposal might sound a little bit too soft for hard-nosed business people.  But the more we learn about how the mind works, the more we’re able to realize its fullest potential, and profit from it  This research demonstrates a link that even the most results-oriented of us should exploit.


  1. Robyn McMaster  |  April 22nd, 2009

    Charles, I appreciated your visit to Brain Based Biz and now that I visit here, I can see you share information about the brain as it affects management. We have very similar interests.
    I’m with you on values and ethics as it affects managment. Values impact all a manager encounters during a day at work.
    Very thoughtful post.

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