The NeuroBiology of Change
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The NeuroBiology of Change






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  • Kush balls here

The NeuroBiology of Change The NeuroBiology of Change Presentation Transcript

  • The NeuroBiology of ChangeWorking with the brain instead of against it Change and Performance Management Conference New Orleans, November 13, 2012 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Applying insights from NeuroscienceGood news and badnews for those of uslooking to drive changeSneak preview:You can’t do anythingnew while muti-tasking 2 © The BestWork People 2012
  • At its best, the human brain is capable of extraordinary feats To question To learn To invent To create To interpret To communicate To choose3 © The BestWork People 2012
  • © Kevin Ochsner, Columbia University, 2008 4
  • Our task today What puts people in shape for ongoing learning and change? To thrive in a shifting environment? To minimize the suffering around change, and seize the opportunity to contribute more? 5 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Good news and bad news Humans retain  The adult brain is Neuroplasticity as adults – programmed to conserve we can learn energy by minimizing ‘new’ Neuroplasticity feels good  Stress of any kind makes The brain gets a shot of learning impossible pleasure from new ways to  We are highly vulnerable to contribute ambiguity and social stress We can actively promote  Working memory is small: brain fitness in corporate can only absorb small culture amounts of new info  Nothing new can happen while multi-tasking 6 © The BestWork People 2012
  • A BIT OF BACKGROUND7 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Commerce is as old as the first human community Developed over more than 200,000 generations The brains of early ancestors are about 1/3 the size of modern humans The brain reached it current size about 1300 generations ago 8 © The BestWork People 2012
  • It all started with a change in the weather… Pressure from climatic change made increased cooperation a great adaptive advantage: giving rise to language, driving brain development Humberto Maturana,John Medina, Professor of Biology,Professor of Bioengineering, University of ChileUniversity of WashingtonSchool of Medicine 9 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Commerce and the brain co-evolved  Brain Body BusinessLucy 500 cc Male 5’ 100# Cooperating and Coordinating Female 4’ 50# Primitive tools3,200,000 yrs Walking upright, arched Language?160,000 gens foot Communities in Africa Sloped forehead1,000,000 years 1000 cc Heavy brow ridges Good cutting edges50,000 gens Less sloping forehead Communities throughout Asia, Africa, maybe Europe25,000 years 1500 cc Male 6’ 150# Trading over thousands of miles1,250  gens Modern Female 5’5” 120# Art PFC Fully modern Elegant tools Herding Communities in Asia, Africa, Australia, and maybe the Americas10,000 years X X Horticulture, towns500 gens5,000 years X X Cities, warfare, taxes, writing250 gens600 years X X Italian Renaissance, banking30 gens Can exchange without seeing each others’ eyes230 years X X Industrial revolution, modern cities11 gens People become ‘pairs of hands’ 10 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Commerce is based in vulnerabilityThe roots go back morethan 3 million years:walking upright madebirthing increasinglydifficult; babies were bornincreasingly immatureCooperation was essential 11 © The BestWork People 2012
  • We humans make our living in exchangesExchanging with othersis in our biology – it’s anessential part ofbeing humanWe’re highly sensitiveabout it – a matter ofsurvival12 © The BestWork People 2012
  • How is a Broken Heart Like a Broken Leg? =© Matthew Lieberman, Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, UCLA, 2008 13
  • An fMRI Study of Social ExclusionEisenberger, Lieberman, & Williams, 2003, Science© Matthew Lieberman, Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, UCLA, 2008 14
  • We’re easily triggered in any kind of interactions with others© Matthew Lieberman, Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, UCLA, 2008 15
  • Social animals thrive together – not separately16 © The BestWork People 2012
  • We become ingenious when others appear to be vulnerable People mobilized instantly in 18 degree weather The mood of the country changed17 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Interactions with others is the basis of business and the stuff of human lifeCasual or formal,monetized or not,tangible or intangibleThe brain is hard-wiredto keep us focused onthem, and on our roleand statusWhen we’re not engagedin some kind ofexchange, we’re oftenthinking about them 18 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Mirroring Emotions Mirror Limbic Insula Neurons System Stimulate the Feel the facial expression emotion Carr et al PNAS 2003 I live in the facial expression of the other, as I feel him living in mine. Maurice Merleau-Ponty© Marco Iacoboni, Neuropsychiatric Institute, UCLA School of Medicine, 2009 19
  • THE CHALLENGE20 © The BestWork People 2012
  • The vulnerability we face in modern life is not what the brain is built for Wild predators present short intense moments of stress For most of human history, people faced little ambiguity – rules and roles were clear They were accepted members of a cooperative group, knew their trading partners all their lives - social stress was minimal The pace of change was very slow21 © The BestWork People 2012
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  • The brain is bilateralThe corpus callosum is a largebundle of nerves - a very importantstructure that connects the twosides of the brainIt’s exceptionally sensitive to stress.When stressed, the two halvesdon’t communicate – we losemental dexterity 28 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Ingenuity, innovation, learning and dexterity require both sides of the brainUsing a tool we know, likea hammer, lights up an areajust above and behind theleft ear: Wernicke’s areaDevising a new way to useit lights up just above andbehind the right ear 29 © The BestWork People 2012
  • The PFC ‘thinks’ well under optimal conditions Not when we feel rejected, unappreciated or unloved Not when we assess risk or experience ambiguity Not unless the arousal chemicals and neuro- modulators are “just right” 30 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Many aspects of modern life conflict with brain ‘wiring’ Naturally inclined to avoid uncertainty, unless it’s in the form of play Highly sensitive to social stress, disadvantaged working in a world bigger than our childhood ‘tribe’ Working memory is small and easily tired Stress reduces executive function intelligence Multi-tasking dumbs us downEvery day, modern business demands new exchanges, new people, new information31 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Peoples’ concerns are continually shifting Invariably requiring new exchangesWhat does it take to sustain curiosity? Courage - To question - To take in ‘unwelcome’ news Fitness - To be nimble and responsive 33 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Curiosity is the silver bullet32 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Whatever business you may be in…You’re in the business of generating rich exchangesWhat would your world be like if exchanging with yourteam and your business was the richest experience ofpeoples’ day…week…?When the PFC is not stressed, people can design andfully partner in any challenge. In fact, they love it34 © The BestWork People 2012
  • APPLYING THE INSIGHTS35 © The BestWork People 2012
  • In our era, delivering value often requires design Change is an integral part of modern work A modern productive worker is someone who does a great job infiguring out what to do next. Seth Godin 10/15/1213 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Designing new value is a natural pleasure for an unstressed PFC Interpreting vulnerability Identifying opportunity Devising ingenious ways to use resources Driving innovation37 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Orient your culture to brain fitness Start meetings by sparking neuroplasticity - a kush ball, a brain teaser, energizing music… Rotate the job of sparking meetings… Celebrate methods of stress reduction Keep stakeholder vulnerability top of mind: refresh stories about customers, users, suppliers… Make multi-tasking and emails between 7 pm and 7 am uncool Neutralize status with inclusive, collaborative inquiry Include many styles of learning as part of the pleasure of working together 38 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Minimize stress Articulate new questions and challenges, with open invitations to address them Decrease ambiguity with simple terms to describe challenges and clear metrics to track them Role model pauses and breaks, integrating fun and physical activity Reduce information overload; when you share info, use patterns, visuals Not only will it make people smarter and ready to learn, it will reduce your health care costs39 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Cultivating a low-stress environment involves some departures from tradition Rest – 3 naps a week optimizes brain function and overall health – create a nap room? Social inclusion – play and questions - create a play room! Bring in juggling and clown classes? New forms of exercise – make stairwells interesting – bring in Zumba, Irish dancing…? Pauses for guided breathing?40 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Generate the experience of belongingCreate inclusion with Create inclusion withplay sincere questions41 © The BestWork People 2012
  • What makes a question powerful?Provokes curiosity: Introduces a new interpretation, label, or distinction Focuses on others’ vulnerability Opens possibilities for contributing Potential for a shot of dopamine42 © The BestWork People 2012
  • A culture of inquiry powers brain fitness, and supports learning and change Promotes inclusion Neutralizes status Provokes curiosity Encourages neuroplasticity43 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Summary: promoting brain fitnessEnable with: Impair with: New forms of fun, exercise and moving  Concerns for status Sincere questions,  Multi-tasking genuine vulnerability  Fatigue Labels and patterns,  Stress repetition  Danger/risk/rejection Breaks and rest  Ambiguity/change Multiple senses:  Information overload pictures, sound… Experience of belonging44 © The BestWork People 2012
  • What will you do differently tomorrow?How will you makepeople smarter - moreresponsive to changeand open to learning?45 © The BestWork People 2012
  • What is possible in commerce is determined by what the brain can do Understanding how it all works may enable us to navigate through another big change in the weather49 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Remember what the brain likes Pictures  Opportunity to Patterns contribute to others The feeling of  Fairness belonging  Novelty Labels  Feeling in control Questions:  Faces invitation to invent/play47 © The BestWork People 2012
  • Remember what shuts down PFC function Fatigue Multi-tasking Perception of danger/ ambiguity/ being out of control Concern for status48 © The BestWork People 2012
  • What might be possible if you could leverage the brain’s powerful wiring?50 © The BestWork People 2012
  • With gratitude for the thinkers, teachers, and researchers who illuminated the path Marsha Shenk is one of the pioneers of Business Anthropology.  Her models have empowered business leaders for more than three decades. Synthesizing insights from Neuroscience, Linguistics, Somatics, social sciences and business, her work simplifies the complex cultural, biological, and historical forces that determine the success of modern enterprises. © The BestWork® People 201251