event coverage

Character is fate (but formed by repetition): training for response and resilience.

Dr. Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Founder and Co-Director of Methodology, the Strozzi Institute, delivered a spotlight session, "In Search of the Warrior Spirit." It was an interesting presentation in which neuroscience met Aristotle by way of aikido (a yin style for a yang world). Strozzi offered thoughts on coming back to the center, and explained why training was indispensable to developing the ability to do so.

The neuroscience of grace under pressure.

Strozzi, who has experience not only in psychology, but also with special operations forces, opened with the story of a US Marine Corps patrol in Fallujah, Iraq. The unit encountered a large, angry funeral procession, a dangerous situation for all concerned. The patrol leader defused the situation by ordering his troops to take a knee and remove their helmets. This sort of mindfulness in crisis is not achieved by accident.

Neuroscience teaches, according to Strozzi, that under pressure we don't rise to our level of hope, expectation, or desire. Instead, "we precipitate to our level of training." We undergo what Strozzi called an "amygdala hijack." This induces us to default to one of four reactions: fight, freeze, run, or dissociate. It's inevitable that we'll start down one of those tracks, and if you don't see that range of responses in yourself, you'll continue down that track. "Without training, you won't recognize where you're going."

Strozzi recommended training yourself to come back to center. "It's a way of being you can train yourself into. If you can come back to the present, you're open to possibilities." Training involves repetition. As we've known since Aristotle (and Strozzi argues that neuroscience confirms this) we are the product of our practices. And we don't transform ourselves until we see this, and undertake the necessary practice. This holds true for members of teams and especially their leaders; cyber incident response planning must be exercised if it's to have any realistic prospect of succeeding when it's needed.

An excursus on culture.

To a question from the audience about culture, Strozzi offered some pointed thoughts for Silicon Valley and its leaders. Tech leaders were recently heroes in the general culture. There were hagiographic biographies of Steve Jobs, a movie in which Mark Zuckerberg was the hero. There's been a shift, Strozzi thinks. "The tech community is now about about as popular as hedge fund managers." That community has for too long thought of itself as good-by-definition, and it's cocooned itself within its own management buzzwords. Being disruptive used to get you sent to the principal. Now disruption in business is automatically and unthinkingly praised. Silicon Valley might think a bit about the jobs and lives of the people it's disrupting.