Event Recap: WIN LDN x Fjord, Using Neuroscience to Lead with Emotional Intelligence

As innovators, we are trained to be empathetic, open to the world around us and alert to patterns, implications, and opportunities. Yet rarely are we encouraged to train that same level of scrutiny on our own minds. On November 8th, WIN London partnered with Fjord to create such an opportunity. Titled Using Neuroscience to Lead with Emotional Intelligence, the event brought together over 50 members of the WIN community to explore how the brain perceives threats and rewards in social situations, and how we can understand and leverage those triggers to motivate teams and promote a collaborative work environment.


Fjord Evolution Senior Principal Malin Mäki led the group through a series of collaborative exercises that introduced the SCARF model — a brain-based framework Fjord uses across its teams, designed to enhance self and social awareness and improve the quality of daily interactions. Coined by David Rock in 2008, the SCARF model is based on neuroscience research that has shown how the brain seeks to minimize threats and maximize rewards across five key social "domains," handily summarized as:

  • Status — the perception of importance as it relates to other people

  • Certainty — the ability to experience familiar patterns that lead to predictable outcomes

  • Autonomy — the perception of control of one's environment

  • Relatedness — the perception of being related or connected to other people

  • Fairness — the perceived fairness of exchanges between people


To understand how these dimensions are present in every social interaction, the WIN participants discussed difficult personal or professional situations in pairs, and ranked their experience across each of the five domains. Next up? Some collaborative brainstorming on how to minimize threat and maximise rewards within and across each of the domains. For example, struggling with feedback because it brings the threat of a change in status? Perhaps you can increase certainty by asking proactively for feedback in a way that provides certainty and autonomy.

The exercise brought some surprising insights. As one participant pointed out, "if I understand my experience across these dimensions, I have more agency; I can't choose the situation, but I can choose how to deal with it." Indeed, by paying attention to the neurological triggers prompting our emotional reactions, we can even start creating new neural pathways and training new responses. "DJ-ing" the mind, if you will.


As the event wound down, the WIN community identified opportunities to put the SCARF model to work improving collaboration and communication: whether when personally experiencing an emotional response, dealing with conflict in the workplace, or as a cheat sheet to step into a team member's shoes to prevent misunderstandings and miscommunication.

As Malin Maki told the gathered community, learning about the brain truly does change everything.


Credits and special thanks to —

Fjord Facilitators: Orla Hennessy, Hollie Lubbock, Lucia Ciranova, Payal Wadhwa, Celia Romaniuk, Heather Martin, Mandy Bouchedid, Sangeeta Saxena

 Event Support: Elisabeth Edvardsen, Rosie Milton, Olivia Skarin-Smith, Savannah Parkinson

 Food & Drinks: Simona Greco, Claudiu Bulaiasa

Photos: Malina Keutel

WIN WomenWIN London, Fjord