The Science Behind the SQUIRCLE™ Framework


SQUIRCLE is an adaptation of the globally proven science-based model The Intuitive Compass®. Developed to advise CEOs and their executive committees to improve business performance, the Intuitive Compass helps to seamlessly bring reason and instinct into synergy for optimal decision making in disruptive environments. It sheds new light on what might be the biggest cognitive bias of modern times: our overreliance on binary logic when navigating through life. This limits deeper human learning, mistakes heuristic and deprives us from our natural ability for complex problem solving and decision making in uncertainty.

The fundamentals of our framework are inspired by the work of three researchers:  

  • The work of Nobel Prize and psychology researcher Daniel Kahneman to address cognitive biases in human decisions,
  • The contribution of neuroscientist USC Professor Antonio Damasio, head of USC Brain and Creativity Institute, to better understand the role of emotions in sharpening creative cognitive processes,
  • The decisive body of work of former Director of Plank Institute for psychological research, Professor Gerd Gigerenzer, to cast a new light on how people live in uncertainty and make decisions with limited time and knowledge, using a heuristic method as an adaptive tool (and not a tradeoff of time for accuracy as conventional wisdom would have it) that can deliver better answers than an exhaustive cumulative process of data computation; cumulative process which in real life is actually rarely possible.

As a result, our framework equips leaders and their teams to deal more quickly and efficiently with new situations where there are no clear solutions, alternatives or outcomes, and the unexpected is bound to occur.

This enhances executives’ mindsets to experiment, evaluate and iterate in a more efficient, committed, creative and adaptive way; an essential competitive advantage in today’s marketplace.

For further information on this topic, please read:

  • Antonio Damasio, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (Penguin, 2005)
  • Antonio Damasio, The Stranger order of Things, Life Feeling and the Making of Cultures (Deckle Edge, 2018)
  • Daniel Kahneman, Think Fast and Slow (Penguin, 2011)
  • Francis P. Cholle, The Intuitive CompassWhy the Best Decisions Balance Reason and Instinct (Jossey Bass, 2011)
  • Gerd Gigerenzer, Gut Feelings, The intelligence of the Unconscious (Penguin, 2007)
  • Gerd Gigerenzer, Risk Savvy, How to make Good Decisions (Penguin, 2014)

SQUIRCLE is designed to scale the impact of The Intuitive Compass® model throughout organizations, in a user-friendly way, accessible without any special competence or knowledge. People learn this new way of thinking through experience. They’re given the opportunity to tap into natural aptitudes in order to harness and apply its benefits in four areas: adaptation, collaboration, communication, and innovation.

SQUIRCLE’s design and effectiveness is supported by the latest scientific research in three areas:

  • Importance of breathing in cognitive performance
  • Impact of deep listening in communication and collaboration
  • Essential role of play in adaptation and innovation


“The scholar who nourishes his life refines the form and nourishes his breath.” Chinese Tao text, 400 BCE

Why Breathing ?

As stated by awarded science writer James Nestor in his book Breath, the New Science of a Lost Art, breathing is powerful medicine and directly affects the quality of our lives, at home and in the office.

Breathing allows us to hack into our own nervous system, control our immune response, and restore our health. Breathing in different patterns can really influence overall health up to affecting our body weight. Changing how we breathe will help us live longer.

Scientific research showed that a list of long modern maladies could be either reduced or even reversed simply by changing the way we inhale and exhale. Two decade-long scientific research programs (one in the 80’s and one in the 2000’s) evidenced the correlation between lung size and longevity.

Yet our capacity to breathe has changed through the long process of human evolution, and the way we breathe had gotten markedly worse since the dawn of Industrial Age. Scientists found that 90 percent of us is breathing incorrectly and that this failure is either causing or aggravating a long list of chronic diseases, including mental states.

But Western science knows that lungs like other internal organs are malleable and we can change them at nearly any time. Free divers know this better than anyone. A multiple world record holder, free diver Herbert Nitsch, reportedly has a lung capacity of 14 liters, more than double that of the average male. Yet he didn’t start out like this. Like other free divers, he taught himself how to breathe in ways that dramatically changed the internal organs of his body.

Fortunately, extreme freediving training is not required to improve our breathing. Any regular practice that stretched the lungs and keeps them flexible can retain or increase lung capacity. Moderate exercise like walking or cycling has been shown to boost lung size by up to 15%. 

This enhances concentration, optimism, and creativity. Therein lies a huge opportunity for you, your teams and your organization.

What breathing will do for you at work?

Different breathing patterns can serve as a quick and often easy way to influence your emotional and physiological state in ways that allow you to be calmer, less stressed, and more productive.

This is how it works. Our lungs are filled with receptors that tell our brains whether we are inhaling or exhaling, explained Dr. Patricia Gerbarg, an assistant clinical professor in psychiatry at New York Medical College and co-author of The Healing Power of the Breath (Shambala, 2012). As we inhale, we activate the sympathetic state (the fight-or-flight system). As we exhale, we activate the parasympathetic state (the calm and collected system).

“For maximum productivity, you want to breathe in a way that will keep you in the parasympathetic zone,” said Dr. Gerbarg. Becoming more aware of your breathing process will help you lessen stress, balance emotions, and/or enhance concentration, all key factors of success in a world where uncertainty can be hard to tolerate for some, burn out and distractions are increasingly present in the workplace.

Gallup recently surveyed more than 7,500 full-time employees about burnout: nearly two-thirds of full-time workers are dealing with burnout at some point while at work) (July 2019 study showed 11% of US workforce checks their personal emails constantly, 14% multiple times per hour, 15% every hour, 52% every few hours, 8% never.

 For more information, please read:

  • Richard P. Brown, MD, Patricia L. Gerbarg, MD, The Healing Power of the Breath (Shambhala, 2012)
  • James Nestor, Breath, The New Science of a Lost Art (Riverhead Books, 2020)


In an article in Stanford Science, dated Spring 2018 and called “Listening is Fundamental, The Mystery of Sound and How it Affects Us”, Pr. Lloyd Minor, Dean of the Carl and Elizabeth Naumann School of Medicine, Stanford University writes:

“A heartbeat. This most fundamental of sounds carries great meaning and deep-seated emotion. From it comes the most basic sign of life. Through its rhythm, sound assumes a foundational role in our development. (…) Listening, whether literally with our ears or metaphorically with understanding, is at the heart of every relationship. (…) Why? Because while you can share a passing glance and experience a brief touch, listening requires us to slow down, maybe even to stop. To do it well, what we call active listening, requires giving someone our full attention. Listening is intrinsic to human relationships. Done well, it’s a powerful talent, and when freely given, a momentous gift. (…) Listening is fundamental to so much of who we are, yet exactly how we process sound and how it affects us emotionally and physically remain unknown.”

On page 65 of SQUIRCLE book, we mention the research of two Spanish neuroscientists which evidenced neuronal synchronization between the brains of two people engaged in a dialog, even in the case of strangers talking for the first time. Simply put they showed that unconsciously our brains tend to seek harmony with the person we’re in dialog with. This is a natural tendency we can trust. But we’re often so busy getting our Square thoughts across, that unfortunately we pay little attention to this natural occurrence in our brains.

This is why Active Listening mentioned by Professor Lloyd Minor, is a proven technique used in  counseling, training, and solving disputes or conflicts. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. This comes in parallel to other renowned listening techniques like reflective listening and empathic listening. Reflective listening is where the listener repeats back to the speaker what they have just heard to confirm understanding of both parties. Another well know technique is Empathic Listening. It is about giving people an outlet for their emotions before being able to be more open, sharing experiences and being able to accept new perspectives on troubled topics that cause emotional suffering like stress, anger or frustration. Listening skills may establish flow rather than closed mindedness.

More specialized yet exceptionally powerful is the work of Dr. Alfred Tomatis, who was a French otolaryngologist (ear nose and throat) doctor who researched the relationship between the voice, ear and psyche. His scientific research and world-renowned body of work, called the Tomatis method, found applications in helping children with autism spectrum disorder, dramatically accelerating the process of learning foreign languages (by 30 to 50%), and improving speaking and communication skills for public speakers, actors and singers. Among many others, Pr. Tomatis worked with performing artist Maria Callas, considered as one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century, British singer, lyricist and bassist Sting and French actor Gérard Depardieu, who wrote a book to express his gratitude to Pr. Tomatis and how his method profoundly changed his life.

Dr. Tomatis explains that we hear in two ways: through air conduction and bone conduction. To make this distinction clear think of how differently your voice sounds to you when you talk from the voice you hear when you listen to a recording of your own voice, like a voice mail. The voice you hear when you talk is a sound brought to you through bone conduction: your vocal cords emit sound waves that travel to your inner ear through your bones. In this case hearing happens largely in a closed circuit, inside of you; hearing involves your external and middle ear much less. Whereas when you hear a recording of your voice you hear it through air conduction. To get to you inner ear sound travels from the external electronic device to you through air. Your external ear picks up this sound which is filtered by your middle ear tympanic membrane before it reaches your inner ear. Think of this filtering process as a physiological protection from invasive sounds (too sharp or too loud for the sensitivity of your listening apparatus). This filtering does not happen with bone conduction; think of it as “raw” hearing. When we hear “through our bones” we take in unfiltered information that reaches us subconsciously. It can be emotionally taxing but also rich of subtle information.

In interpersonal communication, this innate capacity for unconscious hearing is all the more so important that hearing through air conduction doesn’t mean that we listen. We may put up a psychological shield that filters information we may have a hard time to accept or simply welcome. Hearing through bone conduction doesn’t mean that we listen either. However, no matter what, information reaches us and is stored in us. It’s up to us to make this information conscious or not. They are techniques to do just this. Therein lies an opportunity for natural deep listening.

University of Pennsylvania Psychologist Martin Seligman speaks of deep listening, as a process in which it is not so much what is spoken that matters but how it is heard that makes a noticeable difference. Deep listening requires the space of silence. We cannot truly hear if we cannot quiet both our voices and our minds. Susan Cain makes a similar point about the power of listening in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking(Broadway Books, 2012).

What will deep listening do for you at work ?

You will gain creative insights, deeper thinking, better interpersonal communication, and improved team collaboration. This is what SQUIRCLE Game helps develop. Like playing the SQUIRCLE Game, deep listening requires no specific belief, yet is inclusive of all. This is why deep listening is so powerful to enable positive team dynamic, accelerate complex problem solving and enhance decision making in uncertainty. In the e-learning course section, you can find an audio recording called Deep Listening. It is designed to help you practice deep listening to boost your imagination, creativity and deep thinking.

For more information, please read:

  • Pr. Alfred Tomatis, MD, The Conscious Ear (Station Hill Press,1992)
  • Susan Cain, Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Broadway Books, 2012.)
  • Pr. Lloyd Minor, MD, The mystery of sound and how it affects us (Stanford Medicine, 2018)


Play is essential to our growth and development

Play is essential to our growth and development when we are children and a source of joy throughout our lives, but it is still a largely untapped channel for innovative ideas in the workplace. Play is crucial for full neurological and personality development. People whose childhoods were play-deprived experience lasting deficits across a range of intellectual, emotional and interpersonal measures.

Play is crucial for full neurological and personality development

Play has deep evolutionary roots, is present across all cultures and many species and is deeper than gender. Play precedes human culture. Animals played before humans showed them how. Scientists believe that even dinosaurs played with bones. Play connects us with the deep functioning of the rest of the universe and other living beings. And in species such as crows, dolphins and chimpanzees, among others, playfulness correlates with higher forms of cognitive intelligence and problem-solving ability.

What is play?

Play is a behavior which is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. The National Institute for Play defines play as a state of being that is intensely pleasurable, and energizes and enlivens us. It eases our burdens, and renews a natural sense of optimism.

Play unleashes creativity and imagination.

Play shifts us out of the linear processes that characterize our conscious analytical minds, and carries us into the realm of both conscious and unconscious imagination. Recent research has established that play unleashes and strengthens our problem-solving abilities as nothing else can. Brain imaging scans show that immersive play maximizes the firing of right brain neurons, which are involved in lateral thinking, innovation, and artistic and scientific creativity.

Play reduces mistakes, improves mental agility, attention span and information processing skills.

A 2010 study published in Scientific Mind showed that surgeons who play video games make actually three times fewer errors than those who don’t and that video games can improve mental agility. Those who play video games a few hours a week have better attention span and information processing skills than non-gamers.

Play improves focus and sleep.

One study found that 150 minutes of playtime per week—about 20 minutes a day—improved adults’ sleep performance by 65 percent. Research has also established that play keeps you functional when under stress and refreshes your mind and body.

Play is implemented in progressive schools and universities, scientific research centers and innovative companies.

After scientists at the University of Washington Department of Biochemistry repeatedly failed over 10 years to piece together the structure of a protein-cutting enzyme from an AIDS-like virus, they called in online social game Foldit players. The scientists challenged the gamers (who had no scientific background or special interest) to produce an accurate model of the enzyme. They did it in only three weeks.

After years of research, Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play,  concluded that play is no less important than oxygen; it’s a powerful force in nature that helps determine the likelihood of the very survival of the human race. If we choose to leave our childlike play behind, science now tells us that we not only deny our essential humanity, but we also cut ourselves off from a tremendous reservoir of creativity that has the potential to make us happier and make us more effective contributors at work.