The anatomy of memory is complex, but not too difficult to remember. Most researchers divide memory into two categories: explicit memory-consisting of the know details of your life-and implicit memory-involving, for example, physical movements such as skill in writing on the keyboard. Yet there are two types of explicit memory: autobiographical memory-recording the experiences themselves (what we commonly refer to as memory)-and semantic memory-learned patterns of behavior that come with experience.

So what does this mean for us business folk? For one thing, it reveals to us the beginnings of the complexity of a good business mind. Why do some individuals succeed so brilliantly and make a lot of money while others struggle through long hours and dedicate themselves, yet remain mired in menial jobs? For example, how do we understand that CEOs of large corporations demand and receive millions of dollars for putting in roughly the same week’s worth of time that the rest of do for mere thousands? This new perspective of memory begins to shed light on this long-standing issue.

The leaders whom we both admire and envy, in most cases, possess an elegant combination of drive, confidence, intellect, and memory, highlighted most often with at least a dash of good luck. All of these factors play their part, but the focus on memory is new. Autobiographical memory we understand quite clearly; it’s semantic memory that fascinates. Making the right decisions for multi-million-dollar corporation requires a memory for complex financial and business patterns that have a place in the experience of the decision maker. So what works is the right combination of all the factors mentioned with a superior semantic memory based on having faced challenges similar to the ones that might be forthcoming.

To learn more, read the revised and updated Relationship Economics paperback edition with 40 percent new content, including an all-new chapter 10 on social media and business relationships (Wiley, Feb. 2011).

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