Unravelling the mystery

The Guide spoke with Paul Brown, a renowned figure in the UK in his field of neuroscience about neuroscience, coaching, and his experience in Vietnam as he has just started a new phase of his life in Southeast Asia.

By Duong Nguyen on October 05,2015 03:38 PM

Unravelling the mystery

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

For the last eight years I have been focusing on developing this new field of neuroscience.

The brain has been a great mystery and only fairly recently has it become possible to get more information on how the brain works. Those of us who have a passion to understand human behaviours are being fed an amazing amount of high-level research on the brain that we can use in the field of applied neuroscience.

I’m fascinated by human potential and by how you can understand the brain from the results coming out of neuroscience labs around the world.

I believe it is important for coaching to develop a shared body of knowledge, based on neuroscience, to underpin the practice. How you can use that information, particularly in organisational development and executive coaching, how you help to lead people to grow, how people bring their energy to their organisation, how they direct themselves, how they turn energy into profit, what is the nature of good working relationships, how are we going to make sustainable organisations, how can we stop people being so stressed that it wrecks their life. These are interesting questions that we can begin to tackle. That is, in short, my field.

So if I understand correctly you would like to apply neuroscience into understanding people’s relations either in the corporate environment, in the organisation, or in the family?

Yes, especially in the organisation

There’s a self-help book that can be found in every bookshop here: Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. Are you trying to do the same thing but based on scientific evidence?

I don’t think so (laughs). In my opinion Carnegie’s assumption is really about how to sell yourself.

I think the real shift that is going on is for leaders to understand how to create an environment that people are willing to follow. Because what a good leader needs to have is to become a person who can be trusted. While managers are people who use resources to deal with what they know, leaders have to take people in a direction that they really don’t know. Leaders have to lead people to see their way into the future. So how can you develop a style of leadership that deals with the unknowns all the time?

What you want to do is not just convince people. That’s just PR. What you want to do is to show interest in people. In the last 40 years we have had an old organisation model that is increasingly driven on performance indicators, and we also know that measuring performance can be a waste of time. The new model is based on the quality of relationships that require leaders to create and maintain relationships in the direction of the organisation’s strategic development. And for me, that is very exciting.

It is indeed very interesting but for a lot of people in Vietnam it is a new concept …

There are some people and organisations that are really interested in coaching in Vietnam. For example, Doan Huu Duc from the Vietnam Consulting Group and Hoang Ngoc Bich from Global Leaders. At the end of 2017 I’m planning to bring a reputable MSc in Executive Coaching here.

That would be wonderful! Talking about Vietnam, what made you move here? You once quoted Elliot ‘We shall not cease from exploration’. Is this your new exploration?

It’s a long story. Twenty years ago my second son went to work for an NGO in Laos and the first day he went to the office he fell in love with a local girl behind the desk and has never come home. I have been visiting Laos since then and I have been a consultant for the Prime Minister’s office there. But I have come to the conclusion that there is not enough infrastructure in terms of human resources in Laos, whereas there is a generation of very educated people in Vietnam. Nearly four years ago I started coming to Vietnam to work as an advisor to the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and I recently moved to HCMC but frequently visit Hanoi. Still, to keep a connection with Laos, I have married a Lao woman!

What do you love about life here in Hanoi?

One of the great joys here in Hanoi is Cinematheque, a private cinema club at 22A Hai Ba Trung. There is only one big room but they show wonderful films. That is one of my reference places.

I’m also enormously impressed with the Viet Palace by artist Thanh Chuong, one of the most magical creations I have ever seen. I think they have done something remarkable to give you an insight into Vietnamese culture.

I love the feel of the Red River. I would like to have a home on the other side of the river to get to know it better.

I love the café scene here and I love the local breakfasts.

Paul Brown is an accredited coach and coaching supervisor with the Association for Professional and Executive Coaching and Supervision (APECS), of which he has also been Chairman. He has published a good number of books and articles on the applications of the emerging neurosciences, including ‘Neuropsychology for Coaches: Understanding the Basics’, on which you can find out more at www.neuropsychologyforcoaches.com.


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